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Non-Review Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy hits a few bumps along the way, but it works very well.

The key to this would seem to be James Gunn. Like the best of the Marvel comic adaptations, Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that manages to find its own unique authorial voice amid the cross-pollination of Marvel’s vast cinematic universe. Like Shane Black on Iron Man 3, Kenneth Branagh on Thor or Jon Favreau on Iron Man, James Gunn manages to put his own unique stamp on Guardians of the Galaxy – a film that remains compellingly personal amid the apocalyptic 9/11 imagery.

Lighting the way...

Lighting the way…

While the film suffers from some of the structural weaknesses that are typical of Marvel’s blockbusters, its strengths come from the director and co-writer. Although set in a vast universe with epic stakes and impossible odds, Guardians of the Galaxy works best when it focuses on its characters, whether the human Peter Quill (with his “outlaw name” Star Lord), the killing machine Drax, the sentient and sensitive tree Groot, the racoon named Rocket or the prodigal daughter named Gamora.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that introduces itself to the image of Peter Quill dancing beneath the logo, to the tune of Fooled Around and Fell In Love by Elvin Bishop, playing from a cassette labelled “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1.” That is all you need to know.

Gotta dance...

Gotta dance…

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The Thanos Imperative (Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” This doesn’t exactly feature the Avengers, but a similarly all-star cast of cosmic Marvel superheroes…

Read our review of The Avengers here.

I have to admit, I have really enjoyed the “cosmic” Marvel crossovers in the past few years, perhaps more than I’ve enjoyed the big Avengers-themed events that they’ve been churning out consistently. Being honest, I think part of the reason that the cosmic line balanced these events so well was because it was smaller, and thus easier to handle. You didn’t have to worry about splitting character beats between the main miniseries and the supporting titles, nor did you have to worry about a dozen other comics feeding into (and flowing out of) your miniseries. At its peak, the line – as helmed by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – consisted of two titles (Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy), and nobody else was playing in the sandbox. Maybe I’m just a little bit selfish, but it’s always fun to watch a writer play with toys that he’s not being asked to share.

Five cosmic powerhouses walk into a bar...

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War of Kings (Review/Retrospective)

This is the twelfth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

War of Kings is perhaps the best thing to come out of Secret Invasion. In fact, the miniseries went out of its way to highlight its links to the Marvel comics mega-event, with the story even kicking off in a Secret Invasion: War of Kings special (note the order there, it isn’t War of Kings: Secret Invasion). However, not withstanding the attempts to tie the series back to the high-selling mainstream events that Marvel was consistently churning out, War of Kings is essentially an epic space opera, the story of an interstellar war and alien politics, told with the wit and charm that writer Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have made the cosmic line famous for. Tying it into Secret Invasion only serves to highlight the deficiencies with that event, as the writers here attempt the same sort of story with the same sort of themes, but with more skill and grace than the bigger event could off.

Now is the time...

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Annihilation – Vol. 1-3 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

This is the fifth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s mainstream shared universe over the past five or so years – primarily with a focus on The Avengers as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity. This is more of a tangential entry, though, as we’re going into space with marvel’s “cosmic” titles. But still, sometimes you need to go away to come back.

When people think of the Marvel crossover events of the past decade, they’ll name ones like Civil War or Secret Invasion or House of M. Very few will mention Annihilation, Marvel’s first big cosmic crossover event of the past ten years, but those few will generally speak quite highly of it.

The Silver Surfer goes for gold...

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