From Herakles to Rocket Raccoon— Summer Flicks that Leave a Mark



In a summer which has only been memorable for offering up no classic films of any genre whatever, one has to settle for the best of the rest. So, with some trepidation, we went to see the IMAX presentation of Hercules (Greek form of the name Herakles), starring Dwayne Rock Johnson (Mr. wrestler/body builder/fast and furious). This of course was bound to be an action flick, not famous for its wit, dialogue, or wisdom. Still, the sheer number of loud fighting scenes not merely threatened to overwhelm what little plot and character development there was, but in fact succeeded in doing so in various parts of the movie. A novice going to a movie about Hercules might have expected to see the tale of his famous labors (at least some of the twelve).

Instead, we got none of that, and in exchange we got Herakles and his buddies (including Ian McShane who was the one real bright spot in this film as the oracle) as mercenaries out for the gold, and willing to help one Thrace ruler beat the devil out of another. Disappointing to say the least. This was not an attempt to present us with a classic representation of the classics.

And then there was the CG itself. Not very impressive even in IMAX format. There was one scene which was supposed to represent a large Greek city, and while the foreground seem like it was actually there, the backdrop looked like a paint by numbers canvas—- pathetic. On the positive side there were a few good lines from Hercules and his pals, and mercifully the movie only lasted one hour and thirty nine minutes, which of course was wise since they had no good or fresh ideas about how to play this classic hero. Better to cut to the chase, or in this case chase to the cut and hack away. I’m hoping there will not be a sequel to this video game on steroids. It left a mark like a bad tattoo.

On the other hand, Guardians of the Galaxy, is a horse of a different color. It has a better cast of comrades, a better script, more fun, and various Star Wars-esque scenes and attitude throughout (not surprising since it was helped along by Lucasfilms and their studios). It’s hard not to like a film where Bradley Cooper plays a raccoon with an attitude, and Vin Diesel, never famous for his ability to emit passionate lines, is limited to exactly one line— ‘I am Groot’. Awesome. This must be type-casting. It was definitely not a case of barking up the wrong tree :)

And then there is Chris Pratt as Mr. Starlord stuck in the 80s in his musical tastes, with two mix tapes left him by his dear old Mom. The music was a joy and added to the comic relief between battle scenes (of which there were still too many in this movie as well. This is what happens when you allow video game heads develop movies). This movie rolls along for just over two hours nicely from whimsy to fights, to witty dialogue, to daring do.

If you are vintage Marvel comics dudes like me, you may remember that Guardians first showed up in 1969 but was lost in the shadows of the likes of Spidey or the Fantastic Four or the Avengers, or, or, or. The Guardians team you are seeing in the film comes from the reboot of this comic book about two decades after it first appeared in print.

The basic story line is simply enough…. the bad guys have found a weapon of doom, and they want to have it. The Guardians however want it as well, not least because there is a big reward. So they are bounty hunters (much like Hercules in the aforementioned film). There is much that is reminiscent of the first Star Wars film here, though I have to say I like Chris Pratt with attitude as a bounty hunter better than Harrison Ford, and Harrison never had a Rocket raccoon or a Tree to back him up, just some bots. Nor is there anything like Drax, who has an inabilty (no doubt due to head injuries from his wrestling days:) to understand anything that is not absolutely literally meant. This leads to some hilarious dialogue and scenarios. O.K. he does try to shape one metaphor later in the film….. semi-successfully. The most moving and beautiful scenes in the film involve Groot. He may have limited vocabulary, but he is way cool anyway.

In fact, I look forward to the second installment of this particular Marvel Franchise. Hopefully Zoe Saldana will have more of a part in the next go around, but in the meantime, there is a reason this is the best reviewed blockbuster of the summer….. the rest are just busts, and while this is not an instant classic, it is fun as popcorn entertainment. It puts the comic back in comic book movies, thankfully.

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