Guardians of the Galaxy (Review)

2014

121 min

United States

Director: James Gunn

Writer: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (Comic Book: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning)

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper

Release Date: August 1, 2014


Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie I couldn't wait to start and didn't ever want to end. These characters and their worlds are a cause of blockbuster jubilation!

Earlier last month with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes we saw our generation's closest new release to Jurassic Park. Now, with Guardians of the Galaxy, I feel like I know what it was like to see Star Wars on the big screen in 1977. As with George Lucas' brainchild, this film is largely dependent on its distinct cast of characters and what happens when you put them on a spaceship together with one ultimate goal but each with their own desires.

Roll Luke Walker and Han Solo into one being for Peter Quill (though he'd prefer it if you call him Star-Lord). He's an Earthling abducted at a young age by space pirates who is now living out his adulthood sleeping around with fine female alien specimens and treasure-hunting on abandoned planets. Chris Pratt plays Peter most humanly. He still feels like he could be the slacking loafer I first saw him as in Parks and Recreation, yet there's a selfless leader hiding somewhere in there... 

What if Princess Leia were a green-skinned warrior raised by the biggest threat in the universe (Thanos) and recruited by a peace-breaking and power-hungry ruler (Ronan)? You might wind up with someone like Gamora. We've seen Zoe Saldana in space a few times now, but it seems she has finally found her true calling. How could someone so fierce make your knees so wobbly with just a smile?

There's also a bit of Han Solo in an ill-mannered raccoon named Rocket, and in lieu of a wookie he has a 9-foot plant-like humanoid named Groot, whose name you will undoubtedly remember by the film's end. The trigger-happy furball is voiced by Bradley Cooper, the walking tree is the Iron Giant himself, Vin Diesel. 

Then there's Drax the Destroyer. He lost his wife and daughter and is bent on seeking his revenge on Ronan. He's a bit of The Hulk, a bit of The Thing, a bit of a WWE wrestler, essentially, "the heavy" of this outfit. Maybe that's because he's played by Dave Bautista, a current popular wrestler who proves to be a natural on the screen in this space odyssey.

There's your "bunch of A-holes," the "Guardians of the Galaxy" as it were, and they are precisely what make this film function as whatever it needs to be at any given scene. As we navigate through the galaxy we also charter past an action-packed adventures to a dysfunctional family sitcoms and beyond! The casting is nothing short of inspired. I was curious as each announcement rolled in during pre-production, but as with the best of performances, you will not even try to imagine anyone else in the role after you've seen it. 

The emotional weight is dropped on our heads at the very beginning of the film, but the burden is quickly lightened by a walk-and-dance number by Star-Lord set to Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" during the opening credits. If you've seen any of the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy then you know its reliance on the good vibrations flowin' from the '70s and '80s. Much of the film's soundtrack comes from a literal mixtape that Peter had on him when he was lifted from Earth. The film is riddled with pop-culture references, but these are wisely rooted in the same nostalgia as the music to ensure that when we watch this in five years or ten or twenty, it won't feel dated because it was already cemented at conception.

A large amount of deserved credit needs to be given to director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman. The team as we now know it was relaunched and formed in comic book format in 2008, but they've taken this groundwork and run with it in a direction all of their own. As with most superhero comic book adaptations, it helps to have some familiarity with the faces and places before diving in. The weakest parts of Guardians of the Galaxy are when a string of foreign pronouns are poured into an unknowing audiences' ears. It does not find a solid work around for exposition, but sometimes we simply have the chore to learn and remember. Major props for where they chose to drop us into this story. Had we received another narrated info-dump to kick things off (a weary trend these days) I would have been much more defeated.  

Equal credit goes to the forces required to craft the host of planets and the hosts that reside on them. A mix of practical effects (Gamora and Drax) with computer-generated (Rocket and Groot) make the very Guardians possible and each of the places they visit. Knowhere, a central location in the comics that is essentially a melting pot of cultures and economies residing in the floating severed head of Celestial (yeah, it's as radical as that sounds), is brought to life for the screen. Several sequences took my breath away with their austere and well-worn beauty. One sequence has Gamora drifting in space, but it's a green and orange fusion, rich with particles and cluttered with debris. The very fabric that makes up the galaxy contains the details requisite for us to be rooted into it.

This marks the 10th film in Disney Marvel's recently constructed cinematic universe. I've been quite a fan of nearly all of them up to this point, with the culminating and crowning achievement being The Avengers. I am left all the more impressed that Guardians of the Galaxy is able to surpass even The Avengers with characters who are introduced in a single film. I look forward (though bracing myself for superhero overload) when the likes of Thor and Iron Man start interacting with the likes of Gamora and Rocket Raccoon. 

If you're looking for a galactic quest with diverse life forms, cheer-inducing action, and a fair amount of crude humor, Guardians of the Galaxy is going to entertain the socks off of you and rise to instant classic status by the time "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" starts playing on the tape-player in Star-Lord's spaceship. For me, that realization came much sooner.

I am surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.
— Gamora