“And I now officially have a movie that is number 1 on my most want to see list of 2014!” That was what I wrote the moment after I watched the release of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy (GOTG) trailer. Immediately one of my friends asked me if I had it over Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’d be lying if I told you I was quick to answer with a “yes”. I understood why he, as well as others might be more excited by that title from the unstoppable force of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The characters of that film are already established from previous ones, and the trailer makes it another exciting addition to the arc of one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes. With Guardians, it is a title full of characters that are unknown. In fact, it looks like the island of misfit toys that couldn’t cut it onto The Avengers. It was a title marvel was taking a chance on because next to no one knew anything of the title, and it was the MCU’s voyage into the uncharted Marvel Cosmic Universe. It was a gamble with something different that could go wrong, and that’s what made me excited about it more than any other film this year.
MCU has been pumping out amazing film after amazing film to become the standard for comic book movies. But, at some point, people are going to get tired of the same old thing. As fun as they have been, there is still a lot more to the Marvel Universe beyond Earth, and this was either going to be the first hit or miss in seeing if fan were ready for it. I was one that was ready for the expanded universe, and as more of Guardians was revealed, I found myself getting more excited, and I mean in ways I hadn’t felt since the first time I saw the first Star Wars movie as a child. The anticipation was making me feel like I did when I was five years old, where I would sit each day in front of the TV and obsess over watching movies like Raiders Of The Lost Arc and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. And so, I wanted Guardians Of The Galaxy to succeed because it had been a long time since a movie made me react this way. Yet, I remember get excited about Superman last summer and it turned out to be anything but super. I was reminded of that as took the train theater last week to see Guardians and saw a person wearing a Superman shirt. I knew I had to be prepared that this film might let me down as well, but I was hoping more than anything it wouldn’t.
Not only did James Gunn’s film meet my expectations, he blew them away by creating a film I didn’t expect to grab me the way Guardians did. From the first minute to the last you will be hooked the whole time, finding yourself cheering for the space battles our band of outlaws are up against, and laughing at the smooth banter that is used to create the chemistry between each character of the group as the come together to defend the universe. Thanks to a perfect balance of action and comedy, along with catchy 70’s hits, Guardians is always flowing to the next scene and never feels bogged down for too long. Gunn not only had an impossible task of creating a film with characters no one had ever heard of, but he had to make you love them. Unlike Avengers, the five heroes are not given their own film, so the director can’t let any of the Guardians take a backseat. James Gunn came into this project a wild card, and has ended up making Guardians not just my favorite Marvel film, but also my favorite film so far this year. How can you not enjoy a sci-fi film that is able to make references of Footloose and John Stamos?
We are introduced to scavenger Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who performs a dance out of Gene Kelly’s book as he soft shoes over rocks to grab his booty that is in the form of a mysterious orb. But Quill, who goes by the self-given title Star-Lord (that is played with great humor by Pratt) finds himself to be the booty as he has stolen something others want. Unfortunately for him, the one that wants it is the galactic titan ruler Thanos (Bad guy we saw at the end of Avengers, this time played by Josh Brolin), who has tasked Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) to get him the orb. Ronan sends Thanos’ adopted daughter, Assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who has her own designs for the orb. But she is not the only one who is after Quill. Enter Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his tree/muscle Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) who can make a lot of money by capturing Quill. After a brief fight that is both clever and comedic, Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot are capture by the planet authorities and sent to a prison where they meet Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who is seeking vengeance against one of them. They need to decide if they can put issues aside, and decide if the money is worth what the result of this mysterious orbs powers might be.
The plot itself is pretty basic, but the characters are what you will remember most. The film feels light at times because much of it is depended on the comedic banter that isn’t there to just harness laughs, but is important in developing the chemistry between the Guardians. James Gunn offers plenty of great looking things in the form of CGI, but he is more concerned that you care for the characters that are on screen. Each one has their own story, and Gunn allows each just as much time on screen for you to be able to feel the Guardians’ pain, as this is just as much a serious movie as it is fun. Where Avengers lacked giving each character their own time, Guardians succeeds thanks top-notch performances by everyone.
Chris Pratt’s is already is gifted as a comedic actor, but his performance as Star-Lord is full of the kind of stardom that should push him up the ladder into those lead roles. He brings a perfect balance of heroism and goofiness. At times, it feels Quill is an idiot, but he is just playing dumb to those who underestimate how smart he is. I couldn’t help but see the Han Solo-esque as he shines in this role. He proves he is capable of carrying the movie when needed to and without his charisma and swagger in the lead central role; the rest of the group wouldn’t gel. I already loved Pratt for his work on Parks & Recreations, and now I’ll look forward to him gaining all those big roles on the larger screen. He has so much star power that you could sell it for a better profit than magic beans. He worked just as hard to act the part as he did working out to look it.
As Gomorra, Zoe Saldana brings both emotion and grit in keeping the character strong. Gamora has one of the more interesting backgrounds as she is the adopted daughter of Thanos, and because she has been forced to associate with villains all her life, she has been forced to lead the life of an emotionless Assassin. But we see her in each scene try to peel off that layer and show her true self as one who wants peace rather than war. There is a great scene between her and Quill when he shares the music his mother shared with him as a child. It’s that moment you get to see the true heart Gamora that she has been afraid to wear on her sleeve. Saldana makes the character compelling, and there is a bit of a Leia and Han Solo feel when she on screen with Pratt. Like Leia, she is a badass you do not want to piss off. Yet, I felt there was not enough time given to Gamora, and that is sad because I found her back-story to be one of the more intriguing ones. It’s a problem I have had with Marvel because they don’t do enough to make the female characters as interesting as they should be.
The most surprising performance has to be from wrestler Dave Bautista. As Drax the Destroyer, we have a character that will stop at nothing at achieving vengeance for his murdered family. Bautista looks the part of a monster you don’t want to get in the way of, but his acting is what deserves praise. He is able to bring both compassion and humor as he spouts off some the films funniest lines with his Shakespearian planet tongue. Bautista proves he’s just as good an actor as the Rock, and frankly, I like him in this role more than anything The Rock has done. I look forward to seeing what he can offer next.
It’s not hard to imagine that most people’s reason for seeing the film will be Rocket Raccoon and his talking tree friend Groot. They are both an example of the great visual CGI from Marvel. They look so cool and real, but the performance of each actor is what really stands out. Rocket is the foul mouth machine gun carrying animal you know you’re going to get, but Bradley Cooper brings another layer to the character. Where the character could have been made as a joke, Cooper gives him depth. Rocket isn’t just angry just because that is who he is. He knows he is an experiment and seeing where the anger he carries comes form makes him more genuine.
Groot is not just awesome to look at, but he is the heart of this movie. It’s hard to believe, but the three words Vin Diesel repeatedly says during the film are as emotional as any character with a million words. Each time “I am Groot” is spoken you get a sense of the anger or joy that is behind it. At one point I found myself placing my finger under my 3D glasses to wipe a tear away. The performance is that remarkable.
With each character, you can feel how much James Gunn loves the world he has created. Because of his passion, there are multiple elements of this film to love. The action is well done, with some of the best space battles I can remember of recent time. There is so much going on in each scene that you’ll have to go back a second time; just to look at a corner of the screen you missed the first time. The addition of 70’s cheesy music from Quill’s mixed tape will have you humming tunes as you walk down the street the next day. The only problem I found was the lack of an established villain. It’s a problem Marvel seems to always have, and it continues here. But I don’t mind as much because of Gunn’s ability to give our heroes each an interesting story, and the perfect chemistry created between them. Guardians Of The Galaxy is one of the most fun experiences I have had at a theater in a long time, and I still enjoy thinking about it so much I don’t think I have left Boner City. I am honestly looking forward to the sequel in 2017 than the upcoming Avengers movie next year. If anything, you should go see this film if you enjoy movies, and that is what part of the summer blockbusters are about.
Guardians Of The Galaxy: ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 ( 4.5/5)