Unlike the previous entries and heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have a giant built-in fanbase and ease of recognition, so it was seen as a gambit to be making such a film. As an all-star cast and crew grew around the film, and trailers showed the type of irreverent fun, mischief-laden, and space-opera action tone Guardians was going for, fears began to ease. And rightfully so, as I can say GotG is the best of the Marvel films to date, going toe-to-toe with The Avengers.
Functioning not as an origin story for any one specific character, Guardians instead is an origin story not only for the team that assembles, but also the bigger cosmic picture in the MCU. In both regards, this film exceeds extraordinarily well. Audiences will learn a lot about the cosmic side of things, including big-bad Thanos, the Infinity Gauntlets, and some of the crazy parts of the universe and the denizens who inhabit it no matter their species. As fast-paced as the film tends to get, throwing all types of new information at viewers, it’s never overwhelming and strikes a perfect balance between visual and audible info. At times it’s reminiscent of A New Hope, which built the lived in and plausible feeling of its galaxy with moments like the cantina scene. And while Guardians doesn’t have one stand-out scene like that, it’s chock full of places and moments with huge sets and tons of living, breathing actors whose combined function is about same as the cantina scene.
As for the team itself, it all starts with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord, being abducted from Earth. Some 20 odd years later, we find him enjoying his adventures out amongst the cosmos, but his largely care-free life changes when he acquires a rare and mysterious orb from the clutches of Ronan’s goons and betrays his Ravager buddies. Ronan (Lee Pace), doing some odd-jobs for Thanos with the help of his “daughters” Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), isn’t happy one bit about Quill’s success and sends out Gamora to recapture the orb. It’s on Xandar, a planet whose people are under a tense peace with the Kree Empire, where Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) spot a bounty too good to pass up on Quill and attempt to get him as well. The high-octane fun of the following scene leads our main characters to prison, where they meet Drax (Dave Bautista) and the beginnings of the group take place.
Played as awesomely funny as Chris Pratt knows how to, Quill is our focus character of the group, but the flick turns from following one character to our entire team in a series of quick, fun, and seamless moments. Whether it’s the prison break, an adventure on a mining colony, or an encounter with Quill’s old boss Yondu, Guardians has a top-notch pace, sacrificing it for some great character building that adds to the film, not detracts from it. Zoe Saldana continues her streak of chewing up scenery for more than just her looks with the menacing warrior Gamora. If you didn’t think Bradley Cooper could lend the voice necessary for a tactical, but wise-cracking raccoon, you’ll be quickly proven wrong. Vin Diesel might only have one line, and while it’s no Shyriiwook (Wookiee speech), it’s delivered just right and played off of by Rocket wonderfully that it gives Han and Chewie a run for their money. Dave Bautista, the one I was most worried about, plays Drax with threatening menace and comedic timing like I’d never would’ve imagined from him. Each character gets their spotlight, even if for Groot it’s his nearly only line, “I am Groot,” or Drax’s inability to comprehend metaphors.
In fact, I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw an action, blockbuster, space-opera and could say any character with a speaking line had at least one memorable moment, but I can finally say it with Guardians. When I say everyone, I don’t just mean the Guardians or the villains, I even mean small secondary characters like members of the Nova Corps, or a random prisoner, or a few Ravagers. For example, when Drax decides to commandeer a fellow prisoner’s knife, the previous owner gets a final line, “But that was my favorite one.” It’s these little moments that help build the universe, leaving nearly every person on screen in your memory after the film’s over, and continues Guardians‘ sense of fun. Obviously our main heroes get the majority of the standout moments, but it’s nice to see the sense of humor and lightheartedness allows everyone to have a shot at being memorable.
The villain Ronan, played by a vehemence-spewing Lee Pace, however falls a little flat. He’s definitely got threat written all over him, but he doesn’t get a chance to use it till the end, and lets just say the ending leaves him feeling a little less threatening (in a hilarious way, I might add). Nebula, played by a nearly unrecognizable Karen Gillen, gets a few more chances to show off her threat level than Ronan with some bone-popping fight scenes. However, you’ll be caught too much up in the fun of the film to really notice the villains’ lack of strengths, though some of their actions or lines are what you’ll really think about after watching the movie anyways.
But really the most important thing about Guardians is just how original, funny, and unique it really feels. There’s constant laughs throughout, but touching moments aren’t hard to find either, giving this superhero films tons of heart in all the right places.
Here are a few other things:
- Yondu’s whistle arrow has to be one of my favorite new weapons of all time, right up there with lightsabers. You’ll feel the same way after one particular scene.
- I saw the film in IMAX 3D and the conversion was handled well. There’s a few scenes where they clearly went out of their way to make it “pop out of the screen” 3D, but it contributes best to the chaos of space chases and battles.
- The visual and special effects were stunning, and those who appreciate tons of visual with their special effects will go home happy.
- As for that post-credits scene…unless something comes from it, it might just go down in memory as a crazy, odd, and ultimately strange decision by Marvel.
- There’s already a sequel scheduled for 2017, along with an animated series to premier on Disney XD.
- The soundtrack is superb and should bring a lot of younger viewers an appreciation of the classics. Who’d thought “Cherry Bomb” would work for a film with a talking raccoon and tree?
- It’s refreshing to hear things like, “What he said, bitch,” in a comic-book film and I don’t really know why. Oh and dance-offs, definitely missed those.
Directed by James Gunn, known for his dark, quirky humor, and written between Gunn and the new and upcoming Nicole Perlman (being notable for the first woman to write for the MCU), Guardians of the Galaxy really pops on all the right sci-fi cylinders. Between giving the large ensemble cast a fare share of the spotlight, and even giving some to the little players, Guardians is easily one of the most fun experiences in the MCU (and recent comic films) to date, and a great blockbuster that can be appreciated on it’s own. While it’s not this generation’s Star Wars, because only Star Wars can be a generation’s Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy is this generation’s breakout sci-fi film and easily destined to be a classic. Plus, it’s just nice to have a film that has fun and never shies away that tone even in the end, thus leaving behind all the gritty superheroes in it’s colorfully fun wake.
+ Ensemble shares spotlight
+ Stunning visual and special effects
+ Fast-paced, fresh, and fun
– Villains feel flat