TITLE: Guardians of the Galaxy
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper (voice), Dave Bautista, Lee Pace
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
STUDIOS: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
RUN TIME: 122 min
RELEASED: August 1, 2014
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie, and a great accomplishment for Marvel Studios. Strictly at face value, the film features none of the A-list Marvel superheroes (Iron Man, Captain America, etc.) to gain the quick attention of mainstream audiences. Yet it has still managed to be a big draw because it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. And much like moviegoers have come to associate clean and innocent merriment with Disney, or gorgeous animation with Pixar, audiences have put their money down for Guardians because they know they’ll get a fun and epic thrill ride from Marvel.
And Guardians of the Galaxy delivers.
Twenty-six years ago, young Peter Quill was abducted by a group of space smugglers called the Ravagers. Fast forward to present day, and he’s become the space pirate codenamed Star-Lord. But when a mysterious orb comes into Star-Lord’s possession, he finds himself swept up the business of Ronan the Accuser, who seeks to use the orb in a twisted bargain with galactic warlord Thanos (who moviegoers will remember from the post-credits scene in The Avengers). Ronan sends the assassin Gamora to retrieve it. Along with a humanoid raccoon named Rocket, a giant tree-like creature called Groot, and the musclebound Drax the Destroyer, they soon become swept up in a conflict that will decide the fate of billions.
Despite the incredibly high stakes and all the dizzying dangers our heroes find themselves in, Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s that sense of humor that sets the film apart from anything else in the Marvel has ever brought to screen. Movies like Captain America, Thor, and of course, The Avengers, have been mostly action and drama with a touch of humor thrown in. Guardians ups the humor quotient to the point that it’s what you’ll walk away from the movie thinking about. As I’ve discussed before, Marvel smartly carves out cinematic niches and territories for its characters. With Iron Man its technological wonder mixed with wit, with Thor it’s mysticism from other realms, with Hulk it’s monster movie drama, etc. Clearly, with Guardians of the Galaxy it’s a blend of high octane sci-fi action and comedy. It makes for an awesome mix.
Guardians also makes excellent use of music to not only help incorporate the humor, but make itself more accessible. The Peter Quill character stays in touch with his Earth roots via an old mix tape his mother made for him before she died. As such, the film is filled with songs from the ’70s and ’80s like “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Cherry Bomb,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The soundtrack injects the movie with a certain energy that better connects us to our hero, and the proceedings at large. And again, it sets Guardians apart from anything Marvel has done before.
Chris Pratt is the heart of our movie, and delivers the goods both sentimentally and comedically. At one point, Pratt described the Star-Lord character as a mix of Han Solo and Marty McFly, which is pretty spot-on. But Bradley Cooper also deserves immense credit for making Rocket Raccoon exactly what he needed to be. He had the snark we were all looking for. But the character also gets very emotional at times, which isn’t necessarily something you expect from a gun-toting raccoon. As for Dave Batista in his Drax role, he’s not a master thespian by any means. I’ve seen most of what he turns in here from watching him on WWE TV over the years. That being said, he does fine. He’s obviously very convincing as a big bruiser type, and he also gets some of the best one-liners in the movie. He may not have come out on top at Wrestlemania, but he got a nice victory here.
The most notable criticism I can hurl at Guardians is that all the details of who is aligned with who, and who came from where can be a bit much to take in at first. For instance, we’ve got Gamora, who is working alongside another assassin named Nebula. They both work for Ronan, who is aligned with Thanos. Gamora and Nebula are both Thanos’ adopted daughters (sort of…). But Gamora secretly hates Thanos because he murdered her family, and wants to keep the mysterious orb out of his hands. It’s also a bit awkward keeping track of where Peter comes from, and how he got to be what he is. The movie hammers it in enough times that you eventually get it. But still, it’s a rockier start than one would like.
As ever, Marvel is planting seeds for future films. Guardians has some fairly obvious implications as far as the Infinity Gauntlet story is concerned. Thanos is in this movie, but nothing is really done with him. Thus, in addition to being a pretty awesome movie in its own right, Guardians also serves as the next step on the road to Thanos’ showdown with The Avengers, which I can only assume will be in the third Avengers film. Foresight. It’s by God amazing when you use it correctly.
Incidentally, hey Warner Bros? This is what Green Lantern should have been like. Just saying.
At the end of the day, Guardians of the Galaxy surpassed virtually all my expectations. What we have here resembles a blend between The Avengers and Star Wars, with a bit of Men in Black thrown in. Marvel continues to expand its boundaries, and with luck, change a few opinions about what a comic book movie can be.
Front page image from majorspoilers.com. Interior images from rottentomatoes.com.
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