Review: Guardians of the Galaxy – This ragtag team rocks
I have to admit that when Marvel Studios first announced that they were making Guardians of the Galaxy one of their next films, my befuddled reaction was, “Huh?” I don’t think this secondary comic book title was on anyone’s radar, and I would have been less surprised to hear they were going to remake Howard the Duck (which is actually not a bad idea – especially given today’s motion-capture technology and the right script.) But somehow they have made this relatively unknown and offbeat team of losers into some of the coolest movie heroes ever.
In 1969, a long, long time before George Lucas told his tales about a galaxy far, far away, Marvel Comics already had a band of heroes (albeit in the 31st Century and in our galaxy) that were gallivanting between worlds and saving the universe from evil-doers. So when the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie is inevitably compared to Star Wars, note that Marvel had a huge jump on the space opera genre; and they, in turn, borrowed heavily from Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, which were heavily influenced by John Carter of Mars. (You’re welcome!)
I mention all of this because Guardians represents the culmination of a hundred years of space adventures and advances film technology, but still manages to be a rebellious original. It’s a loveable pop culture mutt with dozens of fathers.
This is not a perfect film, but it’s utterly unique in many special ways and it’s a ton of fun to watch. I’m going to attempt to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, but if you are temperamental to such things, then go watch the movie first – it’s highly recommended – then come back to visit us.
For even the most avid comic book fan, it would be easy to get lost in this movie’s somewhat complicated story, but my advice is to not sweat the details. If you know the difference between a Sakaaran and a Kree warrior, then good for you and you’ll appreciate all the minute particulars (like a cameo by Cosmo the telepathic dog), but don’t get hung up on it. This film is endlessly entertaining, even if you’ve never read a comic book in your life.
The basic story has the self-centered and smart-aleky Earth-orphan, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who has nicknamed himself “Star-Lord,” locating a lost orb for which he hopes to retrieve a handsome bounty. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one searching for the artifact.
After tussling with a green-skinned alien-amazon woman, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a genetically mutated Raccoon, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) who happens to be a weapons-tech wizard, and Rocket’s bodyguard, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a walking, talking tree (with a limited vocabulary), all of the mercenaries wind up in a space-prison, where they meet the fifth member of their ragtag team, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista.)
All of the heroes have interesting backgrounds that have brought them all together, and for various reasons they are all determined to escape the jail and retrieve the mysterious orb; but Drax only cares about getting to the person paying for the treasure, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who previously killed Drax’s wife and child and has nefarious plans for the rest of the universe.
The five misfits join together to escape the prison and sell the orb, but when they realize that the it contains a powerful “Infinity Gem” that Ronan will use to destroy the world of Xandar, home of the Nova Corps (with actors John C. Reilly and Glenn Close in its ranks), it’s up to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” to save the day – together with the group of thieves called, The Ravagers, led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), who is also the person who abducted Peter as a boy from Earth after his mother died.
Again, it all seems pretty convoluted on the surface, and I haven’t even mentioned Nebula, Korath, Thanos , Bereet, or The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), but that’s part of the magic of this movie. You can know (or Knowhere) everything about all of these characters, and enjoy seeing them all come to life, or know nothing and just enjoy the amazing adventure of it all. Either way you are going to be blown away by this movie’s thrilling ride.
I often rag on the use of pop music in movies, songs plugged in to evoke emotion and (more importantly to the studio) sell soundtrack CDs; but the tunes in GOTG are ingeniously used as an important part of the narrative and they fit perfectly into the fast and loose story, making this wonderfully amusing movie even more enjoyable.
The heroes here are all well-developed, but strangely enough the stand-outs are the computer animated characters, Rocket and Groot. This is the best oddball buddy team-up since Riggs & Murtaugh, but 10 times more lethal. I mean, a talking raccoon with an affection for BFGs, and a talking tree sidekick who only says, “I am Groot!” What could be more fun than that? And I hate to say it, but for Vin Diesel, a star known for his “wooden” acting ability, this might be his best performance to date.
As mentioned earlier, the first Marvel Guardians were from far in the future, but there have been a couple of other iterations of the heroes since then, with the 2008 version (by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning — set in present-day Marvel cannon) as the basis for this film, which was gloriously directed by James Gunn, who obviously has great affection for the material and the Marvel Universe in general.
The movie has a couple of minor stinky moments, like a five-story, high-speed leap by Gamora that seemed completely out of place, and some narrative gaps that might bother the uninitiated more than knowledgeable fans, but in the end this is an immensely gratifying space-fantasy action film that I can’t wait to see again. Marvel has hit another home run (and they know it, as GOTG 2 has already been announced.) Grade: 8.5/10