Seriously, can anything stop Marvel at this point? Apparently Guardians of the Galaxy just broke some August box office record. Frankly, I find that kind of amazing. On paper, this film is a hard sell. I mean, can you imagine the pitch for this? Personally, I imagine it went something like this: “So they’re like The Avengers, but they’re in space. One human, two aliens, one tree, and—wait for it—one raccoon. Yep. That’s right. Oh, and the raccoon talks. And carries a huge gun. And the tree only says, ‘I am Groot.’ Guys, it’s gonna be great.” Sounds crazy, right? But somehow it just…works.
I trusted Marvel to make this film enjoyable, but I was massively curious about how they were going to pull it off. Yet they manage it with the same magical formula they’ve used for pretty much every one of their most successful films: amazing visuals, likeable characters, lots of humor, surprising heart, and undeniable style. It’s a fairly bold, in-your-face style, but it works. There’s a reason film reviewers have been drawing comparisons to Star Wars, my friends—because it really is that good.
Synopsis: “In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.” –Borrowed from my favorite movie site, IMDb.
The Good: The five Guardians are simply wonderful. Honestly, I could not name a weak character among them, and they have fantastic chemisty. Chris Pratt dazzles as charming troublemaker Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord, the group’s leader with a pretty interesting and bizarre past. Zoe Saldana continues her trend of playing badass space ladies (see: Star Trek and Avatar) via tough alien Gamora, the adopted daughter of one of the film’s villains. Dave Bautista has a surprisingly hilarious turn as vengeful and very literal alien Drax the Destroyer. Bradley Cooper provides the voice for one of the strangest comic book characters ever, Rocket, a gun-toting wise guy who just so happens to be a raccoon. And then there’s Groot—the sweetest and arguably most hilarious character in the bunch. Voiced by Vin Diesel, Groot is a huge tree whose dialogue can be summed up in three words: I am Groot. That’s pretty much all he ever says, but the various inflections he attaches to the words and his very expressive face do a superb job of letting us get to know him—that and the fact that Rocket occasional acts as his mouthpiece (he is somehow fluent in Groot). Speaking of Groot, the visuals in this film really are spectacular. Rocket and Groot are awesome CGI achievements, various spaceships look super cool soaring through the sky (especially Quill’s ride), the settings are very detailed and otherworldly, and, of course, there are all the explosions and lightshows and sci-fi goodness you’d expect of something like this. And can I just say that this very well may be the funniest Marvel film yet? There are a few serious and/or emotional moments scattered throughout, but for the most part it’s just good ol’ popcorn fun. After a solemn scene in the beginning, we immediately cut to Quill jamming to music and gleefully kicking space rats as he steals treasure from a ruin. This sets the tone for the whole film, and that tone is lighthearted and wacky and perfect. Also, the classic rock music in this film is epic. I already want the soundtrack.
Favorite Scene: I am torn between two moments—both involving Groot and both toward the end of the film. I’ll just say this: Groot dances and Groot has the cutest smile. If you’ve seen the film, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
The Bad: I am really quite satisfied with Guardians, but if I have to nitpick, I will say that it sometimes feels like there is too much going on. Ronan the Accuser is the main villain, played by an unrecognizable Lee Pace (all that blue makeup, man), and he’s got kickass baldy Nebula (Karen Gillan) at his side. However, we’ve also got big baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) lurking around, plus the vaguely villainous Yondu (Michael Rooker). Oh, and did I mention Benecio Del Toro’s Collector? He’s also around, though, sadly, he does not get to play as large a role as you might expect. With all those bad guys, the plot gets a little crazy sometimes. The film can also be accused of cheesiness—especially toward the end. And Bautista, though generally pretty funny, is obviously over-acting on more than a few occasions. I say that with a grain of salt because to a certain degree that’s just part of the character, but it might wear on you a little. Oh, and for those hoping for an Age of Ultron teaser…well, prepare to be disappointed. BUT I still strongly urge you to stick around for the post-credit scenes. Marvel diehards in particular will be glad they stayed until the very end. My only other qualm? I already want more!
Least Favorite Scene: I don’t really think I could name a least favorite scene, but I will say in general that Thanos’s moments weren’t quite as awesome as I’d hoped. Plus, as my buddy Tom points out in his review, his skin is looking very much like grape soda, and I don’t really dig it.
To Sum It Up: I thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was going to be the Marvel film of the year, but I think Guardians may have just ooga-chakaed its way into first place. This film is exciting, hilarious, and visually awesome. The Guardians themselves are a fascinating, quirky bunch, and their dynamic is pure gold. I can’t recommend this enough to Marvel fans. As for sci-fi fans…guys, seriously, I don’t wanna oversell it, but this could be the best crazy space adventure since Star Wars. But don’t take my word for it—go see for yourselves!
My Grade: A-