Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Cinema: Guardians of the Galaxy in 4DX

Marvel's latest cinematic offering, Guardians of the Galaxy, hit theaters on a wave of positive responses and a record shattering August weekend take of $94 million.  That puts it $25 million movie going dollars ahead of August's former record holder, 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum which brought in $69 million in it's first 3 days.  The story of a ragtag band of space outlaws human and extra terrestrial fighting a power and revenge mad alien terrorist, Guardians isn't exactly a household name like fellow Marvel properties Iron Man, Captain America or Thor.  That might have been a tough sell on paper but for a flick, it was great news as there's no decades deep backlog of characters and story arcs to consider to give the iconic solo hero their due.  Instead, Guardians looked like a big, fun and crazy space adventure full of flying ships, laser blasts, explosions, wise cracks, crazy looking creatures and a talking raccoon.  And for 2 hours, that's exactly what you got.

While Marvel was my brand as a kid and Captain America my favorite comic, the 1969 introduced Guardians just passed me by.  Aliens in the Marvel universe to me were the Roman-esque military clean Kree, the shape shifting Krulls then the shiny metal outfitted and feathers for hair Shi'ar.  So going in I had no preconceived notions from comic book appearances to go on and more or less trusted the casting, director and trailers.  On Earth in the 1980's, young Peter Quill has just suffered a terrible tragedy but before he can grieve is abducted by a space ship.  Cut to 26 years later (now played by Chris Pratt) and the self proclaimed "Star Lord" is Han Solo and Indiana Jones'ing his way across the galaxy stealing random stuff and working with a group of thieves known as Ravangers, led by blue skinned and color changing Mohawk equipped Yondu (Michael Rooker).  When a mysterious orb brings all kinds of bad luck on Quill, he ends up fighting with then teaming up with the motley crew of living weapon and assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (a walking, talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree creature buddy and muscle Groot (Vin Diesel) and the mountain of muscle Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).  Kree warmonger Ronan (Lee Pace) and his bald and blue sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillan) track the thrown together outfit in search of the orb which of course is revealed to be a powerful weapon that the Guardians can't let be unleashed on innocents.  70's mix-tape soundtrack, blue/red/green skinned aliens, fist fights, space chases, Judge Dredd style helmets, surprisingly not boring exposition, I Come In Peace/Mortal Kombat style projectiles, Infinity Gauntlet (although I disagree with calling him Thaa-nos instead of Thay-nos) build up and adopted family shenanigans ensues.

Directed and Co-Written by Slither's James Gunn with a screenplay assist from 1st time produced writer Nicole Perlman, Guardians is a fun ride with enough heart and character development to make it one of Marvel's most enjoyable efforts.  It doesn't try to get too deep and is satisfied with providing an overall crowd pleasing experience with lots of laughs and action.  While Marvel will never give us a film on par with Chris Nolan's dark, detailed and dramatic The Dark Knight due to it's obligation to connect the cinematic universe and provide Disney with family friendly fodder, Guardians stands as a polished and exciting entry into the canon.  Newly minted movie star Chris Pratt comes off likeable and capable without aping Harrison Ford but instead reminded me of Kurt Russell, a leading man of action who wasn't afraid to laugh at himself and have a good time.  Zoe Saldana follows Avatar, Star Trek, The Losers and Colombiana with another fierce and physical performance as Gamora while WWE superstar turned actor Dave Baustita gets to mix his formidable physique with comic timing as the literal speaking yet kind of dim Drax.  In a role you probably wouldn't have guessed if the credits didn't tell you, The Hangover and The A-Team's Bradley Cooper voices Rocket as irritable, angry and hilarious all at the same time with near overdone delivery.  Tree dude Groot only speaks 3 words and harkening back to The Iron Giant, Vin Diesel makes the most of the dialog as the only non-mammal of the team displays the most heart.

I actually ended up seeing this twice over the weekend, first in 2D then in 4DX.  2D at the former Rave now Cinemark at Howard Hughes was oddly lackluster as the colors didn't seem to pop and the sound seemed to be coming in all at one level.  I'm not one for super loud movies (McG, looking at you with your high treble, ear bleeding mixes) but when explosions have the same impact as dialog, you know something is wrong.  Today, it was time for something new, 4DX.  What the heck is that?  Another gimmick on top of the mostly BS 3D we've had shoved down our throat?  Yes and no.  The Regal Cinema at L.A. Live in downtown is home to the first 4DX theater in the states from Korean powerhouse CJ.  I believe Transformers 4 was the first flick to utilize 4DX where you're immersed in the movie with motion control seats and rain/mist/smoke/scent/wind effects synced up to the film.  Basically I figured it would be like the Star Tours ride at Disneyland but only for 2 hours.  With a premium upcharge in the $25 range, 4DX was pretty cool and worth the money.  I can't say I'd do it for every movie (Dawn of the Apes was the last title converted which seems like a waste because jack and shit happens) but for a big summer spectacle that includes flying space ships, fights and shootouts, Guardians seemed like the perfect film to try out the experience.  First off the picture was beautiful and the sound top notch.  It's a smaller theater with less seats which for some reason felt narrower to me.  Before the movie started, a quick chase trailer/demo played giving the audience a taste of what was to come as our seats shifted around as cars screeched around corners, etc.

Overall, 4DX was a fun time.  Your seat moves with the action so you're leaning left and right, up and down as numerous vessels fly around you.  It rumbles when those same ships crashed then vibrated when you're being shot at.  Fog filled the room momentarily after explosions.  Laser blasts "graze" your head in the form of puffs of air on the back of your seat while water sprays you from the front or ceiling depending on rainy or falling into a lake conditions.  You could actually turn the water feature off with a simple click on a button on your seat.  During one whimsical scene, bubbles dropped down from the ceiling to laughs and applause.  I felt like I was sitting up pretty straight but towards the end of the flick my lower back and tailbone started to get a little sore from either slouching or the constant rumbling.  With the added physical elements, you really paid more attention to the movie and it made you more invested in what you were watching so Guardians was much more enjoyable the 2nd time around than the 1st and that's in part to the 4DX experience and the fact that it's fun flick.

“I didn't have time to work out the minutiae of the plan!”

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got Guardians in 4DX there in the US. I got here searching for reasons why it wasn't released in 4DX here in the Philippines.

    BTW, Transformers 4 was not the first movie in 4DX, this technology has been in Korea for more than 4 or 5 years already. I think the very first movie in 4DX was The Avatar. Not sure about that one, but yeah, its been around for a long long time.

    Also you forgot to mention about the "Scent" machine they have. Or probably you didn't notice it. When I watched How to Train your Dragon 2 in 4DX, the scent changes, when its a beach scene, you smell the fresh sea breeze, and if the scene is in a lush green valley, you smell the grass and morning dew.

    Yes 4DX is definitely worth it, you just have to know the right movie to watch it with. :D