An excellent summer epic and a disappointing second season for a British television series are reviewed this week.
This big budget science fiction adaptation of a second tier Marvel comic book title is one of the most enjoyable popcorn movie experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Basing the film on characters that only hard-core Marvel fans would recognize was something a risk, but it certainly paid off. The film is not only a successful space opera, it is also a movie with a lot of heart and humor and a sly edge provided by writer and director James Gunn.
Gunn is a quirky guy who got his start at Troma, the ultra low-budget independent studio, and who went on to direct and write “Slither” and “Super.” He has shown that he is a director well worth watching.
Set during the present time, but in a part of the universe far from Earth, the plot revolves around a group of criminals and misfits being thrust together in an effort to stop a megalomaniac named Ronan from destroying the first of a series of worlds.
Chris Pratt is Peter Quill, an earthling who was abducted by a group of aliens when he was 8 years old. He is now a thief himself calling himself “Star Lord,” a name no on else will use. He finds himself teamed up with a genetically altered raccoon named Rocket – voiced by Bradley Cooper – and a sentient walking tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel
The team also includes Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana
), an assassin and the adopted daughter of a villain worse than Ronan named Thanos, and Drax, (David Bautista) a man determined to avenge his family who was murdered by Ronan.
This is a classic redemption story in which all of these characters show their willingness to do the right thing to defeat Ronan, regardless of their past.
Gunn makes sure the story, which has a lot of moving parts at times, is presented well. You don’t have to be familiar with the comic book series in order to understand the movie. The action sequences are well done and Rocket and Groot practically steal the show.
I didn’t see the film in 3-D, but I don’t believe the experience would have greatly benefitted from that presentation.
Gunn has managed to marry the subversive feel of his previous features with the demands of a big summer action film, which is quite the feat. Put this film on your list.
On DVD: Orphan Black, Season Two
This series seen on BBC America
tells the story of a secret medical experiment in which human clones are successfully bred and what happens when years later these clones become aware of who they are and find each other.
It is a star turn for actress Tatiana Maslany, who plays all of the clones and does it very well.
In this season, the fight between the evil Dyad Group, the corporation, which apparently developed the clone technology and the clones, intensify as it is revealed there is a genetic defeat that could kill them all. The Dyad Group also wants Sarah and her daughter, as Sarah is the only clone who has been able to reproduce.
While the core story is interesting, this season adds too many sub-plots and additional characters, which I found to be a distraction. The fact the story is not concluded – a third season is in the works – was disappointing to me and the narrative complications that are foreshadowed weren’t very interesting to me.
Ultimately, this is an example of a compelling science fiction story that is carried beyond where it should legitimately stop.