A couple of months back the husband and I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. (meh.) Before the movie we saw a trailer for a crazy looking comic-book-based movie featuring what appeared to be an Ent, a sexy Wicked Witch of the West, that guy from Parks and Rec, and a wise-cracking racoon. And I was like, umm . . . no thanks.
But then, all of a sudden this weekend, the internet exploded into love for this movie. And I didn't want to be left out. I didn't want YOU GUYS to be left out. So I dragged my dad and my twelve year old son out to a rather late showing Sunday night. Because I wanted to be able to give you guys the heads up. That's the kind of dedication you're going to get here.
So, here's the scoop: it's a really good movie.
So good that I was willing to overlook the handful of swear words (not THE swear word, but most of the other ones, probably 6 or 8 in total), multiple references to our hero's love 'em and leave 'em habits, including a very tacky reference to a black light that I was very sorry to understand. And there was a middle finger joke, which WAS pretty funny, but I certainly wasn't in a hurry to introduce that to my kid.
Even so, I'm glad I saw it and I'm glad I brought my son. (But if I ever catch him cranking up his middle finger . . . )
Here's what I loved about it:
1. The characters felt real and believable. Yes, even the talking raccoon. They were charming, each in their own way. One of my favorite female characters in all of film is Tigerlily from Peter Pan. She has such a beautiful dignity in the face of the crassness around her. Gamora has that same quality. Drax is a big muscle-y, tattooed Amelia Bedelia, who can't understand metaphors. Hilarious. Rocket, the genetically modified genius raccoon, Groot, the big tree-thing, and Peter, the closest thing we've got to a human, all of them are flawed but lovable.
2. It touches on serious issues, but mostly it's just a fun movie. All of the subtle hints at real topics like the consequences of tampering with nature and creating sentient beings, and the fleeting mention of an afterlife, seemed to have the right idea on those subjects. There was self-sacrifice and friendship and hints at a real love story somewhere down the road. But this wasn't a movie with a big secret underlying message. It was just an entertaining movie about some entertaining characters.
3. They got the humor right. It seems like most comedies these days are from the Mel Brooks/Shrek Wink Wink Hey Look I'm Telling a Joke School of filmmaking. I'm not against that, it can be funny. But it certainly takes me out of the movie. It was really, really great to watch a movie with consistently laugh out loud funny moments that were completely character driven. Even the pop culture references were seamlessly integrated. Seamlessly. Integrated. No winking.
4. They got the music right. The soundtrack is a hits of the seventies mix tape Peter's mother gave him before she died. He listens to it on a vintage Walkman or a sweet built-in cassette player in his rocket ship. There is also dancing. It's perfect.
5. It had plot and character development and action beyond mindless kick punching. Seriously, someone needs to take the kick punching sound effect away from the comic book movie people. Movie after movie it's just nothing but thugh-WHUH, kuh-PUH, kwah-POW, sickening crack. Repeat, repeat, repeat in various locations. End credits. This movie had very little of that.
6. The portrayal of women was not bad, especially for a comic book movie. There's a girl in a t-shirt and not much else, that Peter has picked up, then forgotten about. But nothing untoward happens on screen. Gamora and her sister Nebula are dressed pretty tamely, for comic book gals. And they have roles and motivation beyond just being Powerful Guy's Sexy Sidekick, which seems to be the most common role for women in comic book movies.
7. The writing was so, so good. My name is Kendra Tierney, and I have a problem with bad writing. There, I said it. This movie is absolutely textbook well-written. Everything comes back around. What seem like throwaway lines and filler plot points at the beginning all end up coming back into play. Even characters that appear to be just extras in a battle scene come back around. It's clever and funny and unique and creative and it's WELL WRITTEN.
So, you might not like the language (which isn't immoral, after all, it's just bad manners), or its boys-will-be-boys take on the love life of our hero. You might be troubled by the loss of life (thousands of people die in this movie, albeit pretty bloodlessly). But you're probably still going to really, really like it. Because good writing always wins out.
It's rated PG-13 and I think that's just about right. I liked it. My dad, who is an action movie fan, but not a comic book guy, also liked it. I think it was fine for my twelve year old, who really loved it. Because of all the issues above, it felt to me like a movie for grownups, and I won't be taking any of my other kids to see it . . . yet. I'm sure TONS of younger kids will see and like this movie and not become terrible people. I just like holding out on more sophisticated things for my kids until they are old enough to properly appreciate them. But, if you want to be a hero, find a teenager and take him to see this movie. Or your dad. Or your husband. I think you'll be happy you did.
Update: The husband and I went to see it aaaaaannnnddddd . . . he thought, "meh." I think his exact words were, "I just thought the story was really weird. And it had that same space-rainbow-bridge stuff that you hated in Thor." And I was like, "But it was okay in THIS movie, because I LIKED this movie." And then we just didn't talk about it anymore. So, what do I know? I still liked it. Both times.
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