Now that the Marvel cinematic universe is fully entrenched with its individual heroes and numerous sequels, it would seem that adapting a comic of rag tag underdogs set in outer space would be doomed for failure. Despite Marvels perfect record of box office hits, this is by far their most daring and bizarre film yet. Introducing a slew of new characters into an expanded universe and expecting them to hit it out of the park isn’t always the best strategy. But it has worked perfectly in defiance of cinematic norms to be the most original, hilarious and heartfelt movie released all year.
It starts off with Peter Quill/Starlord being abducted by space ravagers as a young boy to be a full-fledged scoundrel 26 years later. Here he steals a mysterious orb that is wanted by many dangerous men, including Ronan, a fanatic from his planet of Kree who wishes to eradicate the peaceful planet of Xandar. Starlord later becomes involved with various criminals from around the galaxy to form an unlikely alliance before Ronan destroys the universe. The cast assembled here is beyond amazing and is everything an all-star cast should be. There was such great chemistry between the entire cast that it could have been 3 hours and I would have loved every minute of it. It crackled with great banter and an excellent amount of give and take. For every amount of pull, there was an equal amount of push. Everyone had such great camaraderie and went off impeccably well off of each other.
The casting of Starlord (Chris Pratt) could not have been any more perfect. He has the right amount of swagger, confidence, bravado and all around likability that is infectious. With such applicable comedic timing, I couldn’t see anyone else in the role. He was equal parts funny, charming and sweet with his stuck in the 80’s comical references that goes over everyone’s heads. Starlord is the closest thing to Han Solo we will ever get. If there ever is a Han Solo prequel film down the pipeline, I would not envy that casting decision since it’s done so well here. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was an interesting character because there was so much intrigue to her backstory that wasn’t revealed. She is an orphan who was trained by titan overlord Thanos to be an assassin who now strives to redeem herself for her past crimes. She is also a sister to Nebula (Karen Gillan), also adopted by Thanos who is more cold and calculating with her intentions, who works with Ronan. Reluctant to let people into her world, she is strong, righteous and always on the defensive. Never made to be seen as just a female, she hangs with the boys like no one else. Gamora kicks some serious ass throughout but I could have wished to see her back story fleshed out more. Thanos is such an intriguing character that I would have loved to see that dynamic played out. But her relationship with Starlord makes for sweet viewing. It’s comforting to not see her as a forced love interest for him, but more so as enemies that become good friends. Seeing her rebuke his dastardly, charming ways was one of the most hilarious parts in the movie. She played a good straight man to Starlord's quips.
Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) was played surprisingly well, showing more comedic chops than I ever expected. Hell bent on revenge for the murder of his family, he violently seeks out Ronan. Most wrestlers don’t transition well to films, but Dave was the right choice physically as well as character wise. You could really see how into the character he was. The way he is ignorant of Starlord’s quips make for hilarious storytelling. His delivery was solid and believable as well as unsuspectingly funny. Groot (Vin Diesel) is by far one of the most bizarre creatures I’ve seen in a long while. A tree like humanoid that can only say the phrase “I am Groot” did not sound or look at all that it would work. But the way it was spaced out and how he chimes in at the right moments with his only phrase made moments funnier and more heartfelt. He was the most endearing, sweet and cute character I’ve ever seen in any Marvel movie. His innocence among a group of criminals makes the dichotomy of their relationship all the more interesting. Groot aids his friend and accomplice Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon who is a bounty hunter with a strong penchant for big firearms. Every group needs a smartass and that’s where Rocket comes in. Never one to be a rude, hilarious jerk when the situation calls for it, he always makes a dire situation funny. When not firing guns, he is firing jokes at anyone he sees fit. But it’s the pathos that he shows that makes him such a strong character overall. They never work if there isn’t something there under the surface, and when it comes up you can’t help but feel for him and give him a big hug. The superhero team up has been done so many times, but works best I think when everyone is a loser with a huge chip on their shoulder. They all had a reason to hate each other and not trust one another, but come together in the end despite their gross differences. For an original movie with no set up of characters, they gave each character a good introduction, enough room for the spotlight and a moment where each of them could have easily stolen the movie.
The rest of the cast was great too as bizarre as it was to see such high quality acting talent in a crazy outer space comic book movie. Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close) is the leader of the Nova Corps who is in charge of protecting the planet of Xandar, Taneleer Tivan / The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) is a mysterious collector of various oddities all over the galaxy, Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly) is a corpsman in the Nova corps, Xandars military force, Korath (Djimon Hounsou) is an ally and feared hunter to Ronan, and Yondu Udonta ( Michael Rooker) is a leader of ravagers who took Starlord in after he was abducted. Rooker is great in nearly everything he’s done as I could see glimpses of Merle Dixon in Yondu, a bad guy who’s more or less a good guy. Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) is a good villain but not necessarily the best like Loki or The Winter Soldier. He was very menacing, evil and had believable intentions within his character. But felt more like a placeholder until the bigger baddies show up later down the line like Thanos.
This was by far the most consistently funny superhero movie I’ve ever seen. It just comes out of so many different directions and sources that it is nearly impossible to see where it’s going to come from next. The 80’s references only added to its throwback aesthetic. It felt like a better homage to 80’s adventures than J.J. Abrams Super 8. It should be of no surprise how well it’s written since Peter Gunn wrote the screenplay along with Nicole Perlman. Gunn has quickly become the master of comic action mixed with zany humor like the remake of Dawn of the Dead, horror comedy Slither and would be superhero tale Super. The script was incredibly brisk and easy to follow while packing in so many laughs, jokes and references it makes it hard to hear the next one. It handles a surprisingly high amount of content in 2 hours; at times it felt like 2 hours 10-15 minutes.
It has the same type of humor in The Avengers but different all the same. At this moment I would say it’s funnier than The Avengers but think otherwise another time. But I would have to definitely say that it has more heart than The Avengers. The emotional climax hit there when (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Agent Phil Coulson got killed by Loki. But they are far more frequent here with everyone going through their own emotional problems. It also helps when it feels realistic as there is no indiscriminately added cheesy schmaltz here. You genuinely feel sad when something bad happens to someone. It really gets you where you do not really expect it to. The character development here made those emotions that much more powerful here. Everyone has their issues, allowing all of them to get resolved more or less by the end. It is by far the sweetest comic book movie I have ever seen.
Director Peter Gunn has shown flashes of brilliance in pervious works like Slither and Super, never getting the chance for a big budget feature. Slither is a highly underrated horror comedy and Super is a largely unseen dark superhero film which is weirdly endearing. But all that has shown is that he knows how to concoct an original story based around crazy characters in a bizarre world. His work has shown that he has great casts, style and humor in whatever he works on. Even his sketch Beezel in Movie 43 was funny.
The special effects as well as the action sequences were top notch and the special effects were the best I’ve seen in any movie this year; even surpassing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The colors, scenery, and wide palette really gave the space setting an entirely new light. It really went out of its way to look incredible. I kind of feel bad for not paying extra for the 3-D ticket. The only thing cooler than a monkey shooting M-16 while riding on a horse is a raccoon firing a big badass machine gun while atop a humanoid tree.
I kind of wish Peter Gunn would direct Episode VII or a solo film since this is so Star Wars it’s insane. It’s clear that Starlord, Gamora, Rocket and Groot all share a Han Solo/Chewbacca/Leia type relationship. Rocket is the only one who understands Groot, not to mention being partners and best friends. Rocket is a smartass with a penchant for shooting first and Groot is a sweet, adorable 8 foot tall creature who is loyal to his friends, showing anger whenever they are threatened. Starlord is a womanizing rogue with his own ship who tries to romance a strong, independent woman who is for now impervious to his charms. Not to mention he is out for himself and can’t initially be trusted. Ronan, clad in black answers to a higher power through a screen and in person that controls much of the universe.
The soundtrack was beyond incredible with a mix of classics spanning all genres from the 70s and 80s. The use of the music in certain scenes made it much more fun than it initially was before. The use of Starlord’s Walkman made for some great scenes throughout the movie. One of the best moments included a classic song from his Walkman but The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back holds the finest musical moment in the movie for me. By now EVERYONE knows to stay to the very end whenever watching a Marvel movie. It’s basically standard but to those who stay will witness the most insane, ridiculous, random, and unlikely cameo ever done in any movie. It’s just too bad that all the kids in attendance won’t get the joke.
Marvel and Disney seemingly have the Midas touch when it comes to movies now. Nothing at all has shown that anything will slow them down, DC be damned. But even audiences have to have had their doubts about Guardians Of The Galaxy. It doesn’t fit the mold of recent dark and gloomy entries in the comic book cinematic cannon or even the as down to earth as you can get Avengers entries. But it went its own path, clearing way for a new type of superhero film on the block. It is nothing like anyone expected with more genuine surprises than anyone would dare to count. Given how big comic book films have become, this was the last one anyone ever thought they would see. As Starlord so eloquently said "You said it yourself, bitch. We're the Guardians of the Galaxy." There goes the neighborhood. Five I Am Groots out of five.