Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Movie Review

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★★


What a year for comic book movies this has shaped up to be. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been noted by some as being even better than The Avengers and X-Men: Days of Future Past is being regarded as the best of all the X-Men movies. Oh, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 happened (at least it was better than the first, right?) So what are we supposed to do with Guardians of the Galaxy? In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) we’ve seen the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Cap, and Hulk) in their own individual movies and then their climactic confrontation in The Avengers. Are we now supposed to make room in this crowded universe for not only other characters, but another galaxy? I vote yes, and so do my fellow comic book fans. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most enjoyable movie going experiences I’ve had all year.

I’m just going to assume that if you’re reading this you know your stuff when it comes to the MCU. You know the characters introduced from Iron Man to The Avengers. Now Marvel is changing things up. Instead of taking individual films to introduce individual characters, we’re getting them all up front. It’s like if The Avengers started the MCU, and the other films came after. But Guardians of the Galaxy is not your typical superhero movie. Instead, this isn’t a movie about superheroes at all. Nope, this is a very unique set of characters. Take Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) for instance. Well, Star-Lord is the alias he wants people to refer to him by. To his distaste, he is referred to as Peter Quill, his birth name. Peter is our main character, an 80s boy who was zapped up into space, having only his Walkman to remind him of Earth. We find Peter as an adult scavenging on a mysterious planet, looking for something called “The Orb.” This is one of the first scenes in the movie, and it sets the tone perfectly. It’s hilarious.

The plot thickens when he gets involved with his unavoidable future team. First there’s Gamora, “daughter” of Thanos (Josh Brolin.) Yes, the Thanos we got see in the credits of The Avengers. He doesn’t have a huge role in the movie, but he’s there, and it’s awesome. Gamora provides the voice of reason to Peter and serves as a potential love interest. Maybe? Who knows. What I do know is that Drax the Destroyer is the most surprising character in the movie. I didn’t think WWE star Dave Bautista would be much of anything, but he actually generated a lot of the best laughs. One of the best lines in the entire movie comes from him when another character mentions that “metaphors go over his head.” It had me rolling. Those are three of the five Guardians, and they each do pretty stellar jobs. Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie, Zero Dark Thirty) is fantastic as Star-Lord, nailing the comedy right on the head and also being an awesome new superhero (oh yeah, he prefers “outlaw.”) Zoe Saldana (Star Trek: Into Darkness) is very good in the movie also, providing the voice of reason to Pratt’s Quill and managing to be sexy even in that green skin. The big surprise for me was Bautista, though. He was hilarious as Drax and his character’s back-story did allow him to be a bit more emotional than you may expect from someone titled “The Destroyer.”

But I feel that Guardians of the Galaxy would be incomplete without the addition of Rocket and Groot. Believe the hype. These characters are destined to be the new thing. I’m almost ashamed I haven’t read the comics prior to the film and encountered these characters beforehand. They’re so great. Maybe it’s the characters themselves, a talking raccoon and a talking tree, working together like Batman and Robin. Or maybe it’s the performances. Vin Diesel voices Groot, whose only line in the entire movie is “I am Groot,” a line that is so simple but destined to become the new thing the kids say. I mean, even the adults will be quoting it. And then there’s Bradley Cooper, stealing the show as Rocket. His loud mouthed raccoon is a classic character, as is Groot, and the interplay between the two is so funny it’s gut busting. But it’s not just humor all the time. You can tell that even though Rocket has a great time ridiculing Groot, he actually cares for him, and vice-versa. It really is reminiscent of Han Solo and Chewbacca. And not just in essence, either. I’m talking in quality.

This is hands down the funniest movie in the MCU. The script is fast paced and hilarious, and I would even say it handles its characters as well as Joss Whedon handled his in The Avengers. It’s a completely different task for James Gunn and Nicole Perlman because this script introduces these characters all at once while Whedon brought previously established characters together for the first time. But both scripts involve having characters meet for the first time, and both are excellently done. And boy is this one excellently done. It’s filled with great one liners from its characters and really does a fine job at telling the audience that these people aren’t really superheroes in the sense that we know them. James Gunn, who directed the superhero parody aptly titled Super, does a fantastic job at directing this movie. This is Gunn’s playground and he shows the audience that he understands what a good comic book movie should look like, feel like, and flow like. The visuals are dazzling, bolstered by special effects that are wonderful in almost every regard. Also, Gunn really surprised me by taking very shocking turns along the way that hit serious emotional chords. You think it’s a straight up comedy and then drama hits, and it hits hard. Rocket gets drunk and starts spilling the truth about his insecurities and self esteem and it really, honestly moved me. There is a scene involving Groot toward the end that I won’t spoil but it had me in tears. It was beautiful, and really took the movie to new heights. Also, a scene in which Peter tries to save Gamora in the expanse of space and Rocket is trying to reason with him is a great one, largely due to the the stunning scenery. But these are just ones that come to mind. The movie is filled with them.

The movie is also filled with terrific music. While Tyler Bates’ score is nothing to brag out (it merely exists, like most of his scores), the soundtrack is incredible. As the trailer made clear, the movie has an enormous love for 70’s and 80’s music, and my god does it work. It fits the tone of the movie, and it actually may be the music that sets the movie’s tone in the first place.

What I liked about the Guardians of the Galaxy is that it’s a bit of a breath of fresh air. I love these Marvel movies, and I think they are continuing to satisfy, but it’s nice to get one that breaks away from the “dark and gritty” epidemic. It usually works, but this is a nice exception. It’s a bright and funny comic book movie that knows its audience. It’s a superhero movie that flips typical “superhero thingies” upside down. It’s a unique movie, as everyone expected. This isn’t your typical Marvel movie. This is Star Wars meets Star Trek meets Indiana Jones meets Cowboy Bebop. And you may as well throw in Firefly. It’s all kinds of things, and they all work. Sometimes it doesn’t hit, and the film is far from perfect. Some little things sucked me out, and the villain was a bit too dark for the film’s overall quirky tone, but you know what? No one cares. Theres’ no point nitpicking. No one expects a perfect Oscar worthy movie here. This is a movie for Marvel fans, and it delivers. Chris Pratt is fantastic as the hero that desperately wants to be more than he is and Gamora and Drax are awesome too. But it’s Rocket and Groot that left me wanting more. I would go back at this very instant just to see them interacting again. It’s the kind of character interplay that makes you say, “Wow, this something I can’t believe I’ve been missing.” Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent comic book movie. It’s big, it’s grand, it’s visually stunning, and most of all, it’s superbly hilarious. James Gunn has signed on to direct and write the sequel and you know what? I can’t wait.


 

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
122 mins
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel 
Writers: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Director: James Gunn
 
 
 

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