(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = ok, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
Pure fun and adrenaline in a beautiful Marvel package. James Gunn has crafted one of, if not the, best films to come out of Marvel Studios and, in my opinion, the most enjoyable film of 2014. The characters are endearing, the performances are incredible and hilarious and the action is breathtaking. Go see this film!
Guardians of the Galaxy opens up on a pretty dark note; a young Peter Quill sitting alone in the hall of a hospital listening to his Walkman when his grandfather comes and takes him into one of the rooms to see his dying mother. They have a small exchange in which she gives him a gift and tells him to open it when she is gone… only to die right in front of him. Quill can’t accept his loss and runs out of the hospital screaming for his mother. Through all of the pain and sadness Peter makes his way into the middle of a field and gets abducted by an alien space craft; quite a trying day for such a young kid. After our initial introduction to Star-Lord things get a bit more light hearted, Quill dances his way into some ruins, escapes some bad guys, gets into fights, meets his soon to be best pals, escapes prison, fights more dudes and eventually saves the galaxy. I don’t mean to be sparse on details (yes I do) but I want everyone to be able to enjoy this movie as fresh as possible. The interactions between the characters is the heart of the film more so than any other component and to ruin any one of them would tarnish the magic of experiencing Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time.
The story is less of the focus in favor of giving the Guardians as much time to shine as possible, leading to the most purely entertaining film they have put out. Long after I left the theater my mind kept racing back to memorable scenes involving this band of misfits (drunken brawls, prison escapes, general galaxy guarding) and I want to see it again. More so than Thor, Captain America or even Iron-man, Guardians of the Galaxy has found the essence of these characters and brought it out in spades. They aren’t heroes, let alone super, but they unite to do what is right in the end (and then take off to do whatever the heck they want). Marvel has hit gold with these former no-names and I can’t wait to see more. The CG is perfect (anything less and Rocket and Groot would be a laughing stock) and the action is non-stop. Whether it be a thrilling prison break sequence, a spontaneous street brawl or an epic dog fight for a planet, Guardians of the Galaxy has something that all action fans will adore.
When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, and Chris Pratt as it’s lead, many people were skeptical at its validity as a part of the overall MCU and how risky an endeavor the film would be, well its safe to say that the film is a hit and Pratt is on the rise. His opening dance number will go down as one of the most memorable introductions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth before him Pratt brings a bit of himself into the performance making the role of Star-Lord his own. For those who now him through Parks and Recreation, there’s a little bit of Andy Dwyer to be found here. Peter is a goofball thief, part time Ravager and ‘pelvic sorcerer’ that you just can’t help but root for as the film progresses. His last minute improv to save the galaxy will also go down as one of the gutsiest and satisfying ways to end a fight in the history of action films. Pratt belongs in the MCU and Star-Lord’s personality will have fans begging for an eventual encounter with the Avengers (just imagine how Black Widow would react to some of his advances, pure hilarity).
Gamora, played by the lovely Zoe Saldana, is probably the weakest link in our group of leads but there is still enough here to enjoy her presence. Adopted daughter of Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) and enforcer to Ronan the Accuser (played by Lee Pace), she is meant to be the “most dangerous woman in the galaxy”, a title given to her in the comic pages. Her history of violence is hinted at constantly throughout the film but we never actually see her do anything worthy of the title. She doesn’t kill a single person and is proved an inferior fighter on a couple of occasions. While this is only a slight problem it does leave audiences with less to hold onto in comparison to the other Guardians. Hopefully the planned sequel will remedy her situation, with so much story potential it would be a serious misstep to gloss over her history with Thanos and Nebula (Karen Gillan).
Another actor that brought some skepticism down upon the production was one Dave Bautista, former WWE star. When thrust into the role of “The Destroyer” fans were more than a little uneasy, luckily he blows it out of the water. James Gunn has made more than a few changes to Drax’s personality but in doing so he has created a more approachable and, more importantly, hilarious character. Drax has some of the funniest lines in the film and fans would never expect it, I certainly didn’t. Bautista’s dead pan delivery and massive stature fuse together to form a memorable character that wholly deserves a spot on the roster. He also hits the emotional beats pretty well. Drax’s loss is a huge one that is felt tremendously whenever he is on screen. The murder of his family and his inability to change it eats at him causing him to run rampant around the galaxy in an attempt to make up for his family’s murder by Ronan and Thanos. Bautista proved he has what it takes to hang with the rest of the stellar cast and will no be looked at as one of the highlights of the ensemble going into the future.
Finally the heart and soul of the film, Rocket and Groot. Many thought that a talking raccoon and a sentient tree would ruin any chances of credibility, boy were they wrong. Rocket and Groot combine to make an instant classic duo that audiences will immediately fall in love with. Whether it be Rockets fast talking, take no shit attitude or his surprisingly deep and painful past, there is something here for everyone to relate to. Groot also has his fair share of memorable moments, despite the fact that his vocabulary consists of “I and am an Groot, in that order”. You really get a sense of the love and care James Gunn poured into these characters, they come off as completely real as opposed to the blaring cartoons they could have easily ended up as. Bradley Cooper does a phenomenal job voicing the battered and beaten raccoon and Vin Diesel somehow manages to imbue every “I am Groot” with emotion. The finale will leave audiences with tears in their eyes as they see what these nobodies are willing to do in order to save the planet and their friends.
Leaving the Guardians for a moment, we have our villains. Unfortunately the villains (Ronan and Nebula) are by far the weakest links in terms of character development. We get a quick summary of Ronan’s motivations but it would have been much cooler to actually witness what was driving him to such fanaticism. His fight scenes are satisfying and his general demeanor is perfect for a villain attempting to destroy planets. Nebula is also poorly explained, suffering from an inferiority complex she always tries to one up her foster sister whenever she can. While her sibling rivalry with Gamora is hinted at often enough we never see any reasons for it. They are both acted well, especially Ronan who is truly fearsome, but it was just a missed opportunity to gloss over some of the more interesting bits of these individuals. Hopefully the sequel will further explore this rife territory.
Lastly on the list of our stellar characters comes one Yondu Udonta, leader of the Ravagers and brought to life by frequent James Gunn collaborator, Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead). Taking more than a few liberties from the source material, Yondu is a scum bag bounty hunter responsible for Quill’s abduction as a child. Acting as a father figure for our protagonist, Yondu chases him across the cosmos in an attempt to not only get Peter back but, more importantly, his money. Rooker does a phenomenal job as Udonta. He brings a certain experience to the table with a rough sense of humor and more than a dose of intimidation. One scene in particular does a fantastic job showcasing Yondu’s abilities, let’s just say it would be preferable to be on his side of any arguments.
Guardians of the Galaxy is an ode to classic films like Star Wars and a love letter to the popular culture of the 70’s and 80’s. References galore will please the older crowd while simultaneously introducing the newer generation to music, toys and films that their parents or older siblings grew up with. Its a splendid trip through time and a wonder that it all works in the context of a space epic/superhero flick. GotG hits all of the right notes and busts open the MCU wide open. bursting with humor, wit, emotion and energy; Guardians is a must see for any cinephile, MCU fanatic or individual (or family) looking for a fun time.
Here’s to James Gunn and Marvel bringing us something equally as special next time.
Overall I give this film 9/10