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Face Off: The Avengers vs. Guardians of the Galaxy

Back for more, chaos enthusiasts? I see many of you have regained a proper mental state after witnessing the blood bath that was the last Face Off, which pitted FAST AND FURIOUS and TRANSFORMERS. The carnage was real there, but that was child's play compared to this week's bout. CHILD'S PLAY I SAY!

This week will push you to your core, and force you to question everything you believe in. Not only are we comparing to of the most beloved movies in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but of the comic book movie genre: THE AVENGERS vs. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Both movies had a lot riding on them prior to their release. AVENGERS would be responsible for validating the years worth of work the MCU had been working on, while at the same time acting as the gateway for everything they would in the future. As for GUARDIANS, people were worried at first that Marvel was being too risky making a movie about such obscure characters, all of whom happen to be a bunch of a-holes. It was a risky move that paid off big, and now a whole new world in the universe has been made available. Both had to overcome doubt, fear and internet trolls to achieve success, and now they face their greatest test...each other!

CAST
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Scarlett Johnasson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star Lord
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Dave Bautista as Drax
Vin Diesel as Groot
Bradley Cooper as Rocket
Lee Pace as Ronan
Michael Rooker as Yondu
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Josh Brolin as Thanos
Djimon Hounsou as Korath
John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey
Glenn Close as Nova Prime
Benicio Del Toro as The Collector
DIRECTOR
Joss Whedon took on probably the most massive task in all of moviedom: unite some of the biggest heroes in all of comic book lore into one movie, and in the process make not only a great film, but also validate four years-worth of work establishing these characters and building up expectations with hungry comic book nerds. No pressure. But the semi-bald bastard did it in aces, weaving larger-than-life characters into one summer spectacular that also managed to acknowledge the character’s complexities. The latter is what really sets AVENGERS up from normal smash-em-up fare, making character interactions and dialogue work seem like an eloquent stage play. Of course, shizz needs to get blown up with a budget of $200+ million, and blown up shizz gets. Whedon used NYC as his playground for the ultimate superhero smackdown which remains unmatched today, and will remain so, possibly until INFINITY WAR arrives next year.
I have to admit when Marvel hired James Gunn to direct GUARDIANS I didn’t recognize the name. After looking up his credits, I began to feel that weird panic you get when turbulence starts rocking the plane back and forth. Things could be fine, or the plane could crash into the mountains and you're the last remaining survivor who must now fight off wolves. But, like a lot of folks I’m sure, I ended up eating those fears when Gunn unveiled his movie to the world, meeting praise normally reserved for pharaohs and pop idols. His movie was a far cry from what we’d seen before in the MCU, taking us to unseen worlds and giving us five new characters to fall in love with. Gunn brought a strangeness and sense of humor that’s as infectious as the movie is visually stupendous. Like Whedon, Gunn had the seemingly impossible task of taking what could’ve been Marvel’s biggest blunder and turned it into the world’s most unexpected surprise.
STORY

While experimenting with the mysterious and powerful Tesseract, S.H.I.E.L.D. is attacked by a godly being, Loki (Hiddleston), who then steals the object. He plans to use the power of the Tesseract to take over the Earth, before handing over said gem a malevolent, unknown (*wink wink*) galactic being, forcing Nick Fury (Jackson) to roll-out his Avengers Initiative. This involves assembling earth’s mightiest heroes – featuring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk – so that they may protect the planet from increasingly dangerous foes. Of course, egos clash and motivations are challenged which leads to more conflict than cooperation. In the end, the team realizes they must put aside their differences (for now) for the good of the world, and they untie to form a super team of attractive badasses.

Basically, a group of super people must put aside their selfishness for the greater good, becoming a super team of friends in the process.

After the death of his mother, a young and scared Peter Quill is taken from Earth and thrust into the land of spaceships, lasers, alien babes, alien killers, killer aliens and pawn shop aliens. We fast forward to see him as an adult (Pratt), as he makes his way into ancient ruins to steal a mysterious orb. After being accosted by some thugs, Quill’s actions get the attention of Kree warlord Ronan (Pace), who sends one of his henchmen (henchwomen, rather) and Thanos’ daughter, Gamora (Saldana) out to retrieve said orb. This kicks off a series of events that in the end sees Quill teaming-up with Gamora, Rocket (Cooper), Groot (Diesel) and Drax (Bautista) to stop Ronan from using the content of the orb (a purple Infinity Stone, the Space Gem)to take over the galaxy – a maneuver that also involves the figure from THE AVENGERS – Thanos (Brolin).

Basically, a rag-tag group of space a-holes must put their selfishness aside for the greater good, becoming a super team of friends in the process.

MOMENTS/LINES

Loki arrives/Destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. base.


Black Widow kicks some ass in a cocktail dress.

Captain America hates punching bags.

Meet the new Bruce Banner

The lighting of Stark Tower

"I watched you while you slept" - Phil Coulson to Cap

Loki plucks an eye.

Loki: "There are no men like me." Old German Man: "There are always men like you."

Cap vs. Loki/Enter Iron Man

Thor brings the thunder

Stark to Thor: "Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"

Shakespeare Fight in the Park

Stark: "That man is playing Galaga!"

Rogers: "I understood that reference."

Loki and Widow have a chat.

The Avengers have issues.

Banner: "We're a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We're a timebomb."

Rogers: "...take that off what are you?" Stark: "Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist."

The Hulk unleashed

Thor v. Hulk

Cap and Tony's Turbine Trouble

Hulk v. Plane

Black Widow v. Hawkeye

Coulson gets the last laugh: "So that's what it does."

Coulson dies (or does he?!)

Security Guard to Banner: "You've got a condition."

The Avengers get their s**t together.

Loki and Stark have a chat.

Loki: "I have an army!" Stark: "We have a Hulk."

Performance issues.

The Chitauri invade.

The Battle of New York: Stage 1

Banner: "I'm always angry"

Avengers Assemble

Cap to Hulk: "Hulk...smash."

The One Shot

Hulk sucker punch

Hulk smashes Loki: "Puny god."

The Tale of Jonah

Avengers overrun

Into the wormhole...into the last great fight I'll ever know.

Stark: "...and then shawarma after."

Loki faces the team.

Until next time.

The death of Quill's mother


Boogie in the Ruins.

Quill: "There's another name you might know me by -- Star-Lord." Korath: "...Who?"

Escape from Morag

Quill to Bereet: "I'm gonna be fully honest with you, I forgot you were here."

Quill v. Gamora v. Groot and Rocket.

Meet the gang

Saal: "What a bunch of a-holes."

Arrival at the Kyln.

Kyln inmate: "That was my favorite knife."

Thanos finally arrives

Escape from the Kyln

Drax to Quill: "Do not ever call me a thesaurus."

Arriving at Knowehere

The Collector's Warehouse

History of the Infinity Stones.

Rock 'em sock 'em space ships.

Round table discussion.

Guardians get their s**t together.

Dog fight over Xandar

Drax, Quill and Groot v. Space turtles.

"We are Groot."

Dance off, bro.

"A bit of both."
SCORE
Marvel gets a bad rap for skimping on the music side of things. Most of their scores just seem to blend into each other, none ever really standing out from the pack. But the shining, grand exception comes in the form on Alan Silvestri’s marvelous AVENGERS score. Few people can score energetic action sequences and give them a real breadth and scope like Silvestri, and he’s been doing it as far back as BACK TO THE FUTURE. His score pops during action sequences and appropriately underscores the danger and ferocity when Loki is on-screen, especially when he’s having his convo with Black Widow. The score hits its absolute peak when – and it’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about it – the big, Avengers theme thunders onto the scene. Silverstri nails the moment the camera circles the team, bringing every nerd's wet dream to both full reality and climax. The track is the perfect superhero anthem, and would work perfectly in any comic book movie, and during any superhero entrance, landing or assemblage. Marvel may not have the best music across their whole series, but with Silvestri’s work here they don’t need to. Silvestri will return for INFINITY WAR, so we thank our stars for that.
GUARDIANS certainly uses pop hits to its advantage, both as a way of adding some style and flair to the movie while also acting as an emotional element for Quill. But on the score front, Tyler Bates’ work can’t help but play as a second fiddle. It’s a good score, don’t get me wrong, and it even has its own AVENGERS-esque assembly theme that’s suitably invigorating. Though the overall score is solid it can’t really stand next to Silvestri’s work on the whole, and in the movie itself it will always have to compete with “Hooked on a Feeling”. Don’t worry, Bates. No one could win that fight.
VILLAIN
Moreso than with the music, Marvel’s biggest complaint has to deal with it’s infamous “villain problem.” With a few exceptions Marvel has had a surprising lack of fleshed-out, menacing villains, with many simply acting as a background conflict. But not with THE AVENGERS, or the THOR movies for which Loki calls home. Cunning, devilishly charming, layered and the epitome of “love to hate”, Hiddleston’s Loki is one of the greatest contributions to the MCU. His vengeful rage is ever-so-slightly underscored by a genuine pain. The revelation that he was adopted by Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and constantly being overshadowed by Thor drives is anger and lust for power. He was the perfect villain for THE AVENGERS, not only to give personal conflict to Thor but for his ability to get inside the heroes’ heads. It doesn’t get much better than Loki, and boy do we know it.
Sadly, one of GUARDIANS’ weakest aspects is the villain. Ronan (Pace) is a power hungry Kree fanatic, who dreams of bending the galaxy – and the universe – to his will. Pace is solid actor, but Ronan is just too blunt and stoic a villain to really engage with. He's angry, strong, and that’s about it. He doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but luckily the movie finds that in other places. He was an introductory villain who is obliterated at the end, so he served his purpose. A great villain is what stopped this film from being perfect, which is a shame considering Ronan would've earned some brownie points if he just embraced the dance off.
VFX
The budget for AVENGERS was north of $200 million, but it still retains a simple look in terms of visual effects. Whedon seemed to stage the movie in more practical locations, and most of the budget went to the final NYC battle and the S.H.I.E.L.D. hovercraft scenes...oh, and a realistic looking Hulk. Now that so many other Marvel movies have come and improved on the VFX of the series (namely this movie's competitor) AVENGERS can’t help but look old-school. Even the costumes look downgraded compared to how the characters are dressed now. But the magic is it all sells beautifully, even still. Though it has its share of ageless, massive CG set pieces, THE AVENGERS retains a traditional feel to it that allows it find a place among some of the best blockbusters of the past. Nothing feels overblown and this movie about superheroes fighting off aliens couldn’t feel more real.
What more is there to be said about the visuals of GUARDIANS that hasn’t already been said? The poster alone is bright and colorful and pulpy and brilliant. The alien planets, far-off locales and characters are bursting with vibrancy and originality, and the effects team really helped elevate the movie to something untouchable in the MCU. So much rich detail and imaginative scope transport viewers to places that seems both familiar and new, while reminding the world why bright, clear, colorful visuals will always trump dark and drab.
CHARACTER DYNAMICS
Marvel did the job right by giving the primary players of THE AVENGERS proper solo movies, and in the case of Nick Fury, Widow and Hawkeye roles in said solo movies. Fans already had some info in their back pocket when they went into AVENGERS, which allowed Whedon to work his magic and focus the characters’ time on developing relationships with one another. Sure, the banter is great, but the best moments involve one hero confronting another, or when they’re speaking candidly with one another. It’s like ripping the comics straight from the pages. Whedon did an excellent job of setting up the rivalry of Rogers and Stark, something that continues in the movies to this day. In fact, the character dynamics are probably this movie’s greatest asset, aside from the smashing. Each character gets their moment in the sun, and for the most part they all get some time with one another. This is a remarkable feat given the enormity of these icons, and how logically fitting them all in was the biggest concern going in. This movie belongs to no one hero, and is truly a team effort…unless you’re going off the size of the check, which in that case it is definitely Downey’s movie.
Like AVENGERS, GUARDIANS features an unlikely team of complex characters having to come together to save the day. Each one of these characters is are distinguishable from the next, with unique traits, pasts, etc. Gunn loves and understands these characters and it comes through in the presentation. Where this falters slightly, though, is that aside from Quill, none of the characters are given a rich emotional background. Sure they have their struggles, and in Rocket’s case that comes through during an drunken brawl, but the characters spend more time bantering and yelling at each other than having meaningful conversations. Not to mention that unlike AVENGERS being about all the characters this story can't help but favor Quill more than the others. Not that this needs to be DOWNTON ABBEY, but when compared to Avengers the character relationships are just slightly less complex and therefore less interesting…but only just so.
HUMOR
Whedon has a knack for humorous quips and linguistic flourishes, and though Downey gave the IRON MAN movies their welcome laughs we should remember that THE AVENGERS really kicked everything up a notch in terms of making the Marvel movies just as funny as they are exciting. There are more laughs in AVENGERS than there are in most modern comedies, and Marvel has kept that trend going by making humor – which makes the characters more relatable – a priority. The movie has plenty of zings and one-liners, giving normally serious characters like Cap and Thor a chance to earn some yucks. Come THOR: RAGNAROK the character will be in full funny-man territory, and the world will be brighter for it.
If you pissed yourself in AVENGERS chances are you had a full-on organ rupture in GUARDIANS. I’m talking laughing so hard your organs literally burst and blood starting coming out of your mouth while you laughed uncontrollably on the ground. From the moment Quill started boogieing through the ruins of Morag the movie had audiences laughing. Whether it be from the silly, charming antics of Quill, the blunt craziness of Drax, the straight-up insanity of Rocket or the undeniable sweet simplicity of Groot, Gunn was able to blend his humor and utter strangeness into action-comedy gold. Not to mention, the world itself is appropriately goofy too, with Rooker’s Yondu earning tons of laughs, as well as John C. Reilly’s Corpsman Dey. The humor went a long way in solidifying this movies success, and thank the supreme leader there’s enough of it.
NERD HEAVEN
We may have the whole of the MCU coming at us in waves now, but years ago all we had were a few heroes who we waited to eagerly see look each other in the eye. It all started when Nick Fury introduced himself to Tony Stark in the first Marvel after-credit scene, and in 2012 we finally got this behemoth of blockbuster filmmaking. Some of the most famous superheroes finally got to be on-screen together as they bickered, fought and kicked some ass. The movie is chalk full of easter eggs and references, but everything a geek needs to feel like they've died and gone to heaven is front and center. We got Hulk and Thor going at it, Cap and Stark staring each other down, Loki invading New York and the team assembling to a tremendous score. This was the comic book movie to end all comic book movies, and Whedon and Co. nailed it. Seeing this movie come to fruition was to nerds what peaking Everest is to adventurers. Both are worthy goals.
Until the movie blew them into the stratosphere, the Guardians were, to put it lightly, a bit obscure. Ardent comic book fans sure knew of them, and they were no doubt pumped when the movie was announced. Like THE AVENGERS I'm sure many fans never thought they'd see a movie about these loveable ruffians, and needless to say they walked out of the theater with reasonably wet pants (from spilling soda in excitement, you pervs). Not to mention, the movie showed off Thanos to the world, inching us closer to the big battle we've been waiting for since 2012. There's a lot to geek out for in GUARDIANS, but let's face it, we were still recovering from the nerd-gasims AVENGERS gave us two years before.
BOX OFFICE/ACCOLADES/RECEPTION
Oscars:
    Best Visual Effects (Nom.)
Golden Schmoes
    Best Special Effects (Won)
    Best Action Sequence: "Final NYC Battle" (Won)
    Best DVD of the Year (Won)
    Most Memorable Scene: "Hulk Smashes Loki" (Won)
    Best T&A of the Year: Scarlett Johansson (Won)
    Best Movie of the Year (2nd Place)
    Best Sci-Fi Movie of the Year (2nd Place)
    Best Line: "We have a Hulk" (2nd. Place)
    Best Director: Joss Whedon (Nom.)
    Most Overrated Movie of the Year (Nom.)
    Coolest Character of the Year: The Hulk (Nom.)
    Best Trailer of the Year (Nom.)
Box Office
    $623 million ($1.518 billion global)
Reviews:
Oscars:
    Best Make-Up (Nom.)
    Best Visual Effects (Nom.)
Writer's Guild of America:
    Best Adapted Screenplay: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (Nom.)
Golden Schmoes
    Favorite Movie of the Year (Won)
    Best Sci-Fi Movie of the Year (Won)
    Breakthrough Performance of the Year: Chris Pratt (Won)
    Coolest Character of the Year: Rocket Raccoon (Won)
    Best Music in a Movie (Won)
    Favorite Movie Poster of the Year (Won)
    Best Trailer of the Year (Won)
    Best DVD of the Year (Won)
    Best Line of the Year: "I am Groot." (Won)
    Biggest Surprise of the Year (2nd Place)
    Most Overrated Movie of the Year (Nom.)
    Trippiest Movie of the Year (Nom.)
    Best Special Effects of the Year (Nom.)
    Coolest Character of the Year: Star-Lord (Nom.)
    Best Action Sequence of the Year: "Prison Break" (Nom.)
Box Office
    $333 million ($773 million global)
Reviews:
The Avengers

Gunn really brought us something unique with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Gloriously strange, hilarious and filled with style and heart, the film proved there's more than enough room in the MCU for a group of rag-tag heroes no one really knew much about. It is an undeniably great film. Howvever, it loses by that much to the ultimate superhero film, THE AVENGERS. Though expensive and grand in scale Whedon gave us a blockbuster that retains a sense of practicality that mingles with the spectacle, all of which is fueled by complex characters that never came second to the visuals. This was a movie we never thought we'd see, and the end result is the perfect comic book movie. Most important it proved -- before GUARDIANS did the same -- that with passion and vision the impossible can look effortless. It truly is a marvel of blockbuster filmmaking. GUARDIANS may get points for originality, but nothing else in the MCU feels like THE AVENGERS. Focused, simple yet marvelous, visually impressive but practical and a score that can make the weakest man feel like a god. It all came so perfectly together when it could've fallen apart at the seams. Anyone who loves the Marvel movies owes a lot to THE AVENGERS, which to this day remains the granddaddy of them all. GUARDIANS is...whatever comes after granddaddy.

Which team-up is your favorite? Let me guess...it's neither. You're all Fantastic Four fans.

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