A sci-fi thrill ride that is exciting and fun, not to mention funny as well...
Guardians of the Galaxy is yet another science-fiction action movie based on characters in Marvel comics. Before seeing this movie, I wondered if it would stand out among movies like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. That's not to say that I refused to see it if it was a typical superhero action movie. I still ultimately watched it knowing that it might be good on that basic level. But I'm a sucker for movies that do at least one thing more unique than other movies of the same genre.
Thankfully, there is enough of that to help Guardians of the Galaxy avoid being an Avengers clone. Before I get to that, let me get this out of the way. Guardians of the Galaxy has what you expect in a movie based on a Marvel comic book: interesting characters, a nice good-versus-evil story, mesmerizing worlds and technology, explosive action, eye-popping special effects, and edge-of-your-seat thrills. If this is your definition of a good movie, or at least a movie that won't make you fall asleep, this one will work for you just fine. With that, onto the more unique aspects of the movie.
Unlike the Avengers, the protagonists in Guardians of the Galaxy do not have much in common from the start. If anything, they have reasons to dislike one another. Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt), is a human from Earth who, as part of his job assisting a junk dealer, recovers a special orb, an object that the green humanoid Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) is willing to fight Quill for. As that confrontation ensues, a raccoon bounty hunter named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his humanoid tree companion Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) try to capture Quill for reward money. Then, when those four characters wind up in the same prison, the buff humanoid Drax (played by Dave Bautista) considers killing Gamora because of her association with the ruthless power-hungry Ronan (played by Lee Pace), whom Drax vows to kill in revenge.
So what is it that brings the five together? Well, you know the old saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"? That's essentially what comes into play here. First, they all want to break out of prison, so they have to work together to pull that off. Next, they learn that the orb Quill has and Gamora seeks is something that Ronan badly wants, and if that evildoer possesses it, it could mean the end of life across the galaxy as we know it. Over time, the importance of stopping Ronan trumps any petty differences the five characters have.
The other main thing that makes Guardians of the Galaxy a bit different is its mild lightheartedness. While much of the movie is dramatic, there are moments of humor sprinkled here and there, not enough to ruin the movie but enough for us to not take the movie too seriously. A lot of the humor comes from Rocket, who is a real wisecracking character, as well as Quill, who also has some funny lines. Speaking of Quill, his prized possession is a portable cassette tape player playing his favorite music, so expect to hear a film soundtrack with songs dated before 1988, the year he was abducted from Earth. It's also interesting to see occasional pop culture references, given how Quill is practically the only Earthling in this strange new part of the universe.
As for the cast members, I must admit that they're not bad. Chris Pratt is a funny guy as well as a confident hero. Zoe Saldana, after starring as a beautiful and physically agile female alien in James Cameron's Avatar, plays that same kind of role again here. Bradley Cooper, as I've implied, is an amusing voice actor. Dave Bautista plays his part straight with good results. Vin Diesel has few lines (Groot pretty much has one line: "I am Groot."), but I still like him. Let's not forget the supporting cast, including Glenn Close as Nova Prime, Benicio Del Toro as the Collector, and John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey. (The presence of Reilly, whom I consider to be mainly a comic actor, is a sure sign that this movie doesn't take itself too seriously.)
When I look at sci-fi action movies, I tend to see two kinds: the serious and dark kind and the cheesy but fun kind. Guardians of the Galaxy straddles the fence by being mostly serious and a little bit cheesy. It's a movie that injects plenty of thrills and sprinkles a couple of quick laughs. (If you want a pretty good laugh, wait for the final scene before the credits start rolling.) Thankfully, the two elements coexist without clashing one bit. It's enough for me to anticipate Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Yes, there will be a sequel, not just because it's a typical Hollywood trend, but also because the end of the movie says so. Plus, when you have a movie that provides this much fun, how can you NOT have a sequel?
Anthony's Rating: 8/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/G/Guardians_of_the_Galaxy.htm)