Overall Rating: 81/2 out of 10
Should I see this: YES! Go now. Like now now.
Should I see anything else before this: No need!
So you’ve probably heard by now that there’s this new Marvel movie called “Guardians of the Galaxy.” And unless you were at one of the three showings in that Virginia theater that showed Rise of the Guardians (which is a kids animated movie from 2012) and didn’t complain because you didn’t know any better, you probably have some vague idea of what this movie is about. Group of unlikely heroes get together, save lives, and all the while have time to make funny quips at each other. Sound familiar? Well don’t think you know this movie too well. Because while Guardians may use a formula very similar to Marvel’s earlier hit, Avengers, this movie’s balance of action and humor is executed almost flawlessly.
Let’s start with our main character. Peter Quill (aka Star Lord aka Chris Pratt) starts off as a little kid who gets abducted by aliens and eventually grows up to be a sort of space Indiana Jones. Including the whole womanizing personality trait. Peter, despite not being as infamous as he would like, proves right off the bat that he is a very skillful bounty hunter. What’s so enjoyable about his character is that he showcases his knowledge of Earth’s culture (music, movies, cultural sayings, Kevin Bacon, etc) to make him seem cool and mysterious to the aliens that surround him but loved by the viewers who get it. The addition of Peter’s trusty sidekick, 80’s Walkman, gives the movie multiple excuses to play great, sing along kind of classic 80s music. He’s the hero we’d all want to be if we were abducted by aliens.
Next we have Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who plays a green, badass chick. Unfortunately, she’s one of the reasons why this movie isn’t quite a 9 or a 10. Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Gamora except she doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Despite being touted as a “I have cool ninja fighting moves and can run with the boys,” she gets saved by Peter Quill at least three times. Her whole reasoning for wanting to fight the movie’s villain is also vague, yet she constantly brings up that she “lived her life among her enemies” and such. To be fair, the reasoning as to why any of the Guardians are fighting the movie’s villain is very quickly glossed over. But since Gamora brings up her past repeatedly, you’d think the movie would spend a bit more time fleshing the details a bit. The reason they don’t bother is because her whole purpose is to be Peter Quill’s romantic interest, and our first overt tie to the Marvel cinematic universe’s big bad – Thanos (Gamora’s father). Most of the humor in her scenes actually relies on Peter, since he is usually trying to flirt with her using his Earthling charms and the audience laughs as Gamora acts confused or misuses an Earth reference. Come on Marvel. You have women like Black Widow and Pepper Pots who are anything but typical movie girls. Gamora could have been a really fun character. Instead, she gets dwarfed by her more entertaining and unusual co-stars.
Which brings me to Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Now, these two have to be described together. They are the team within the team, the brains and the brawn, partners in crime, and…well…I think you get the picture. Rocket is reckless, an engineering genius, greedy, and sassy as hell. He’s like the raccoon version of Tony Stark. Maybe that’s partly why he’s so popular. And when these two meet (because you know it’s “when” and not “if”, knowing Marvel) Rocket and Tony will either become best friends or try to kill each other. Either way, it’ll be entertaining. Groot on the other hand is the gentle giant with not a lot going on upstairs. Because all Groot says throughout the entire movie is, “I am Groot.” He’s Marvel’s own version of Hodor. Unlike Hodor however, who (though lovable) sort of bumbles through the world, Groot is aware of the world and aware of other people. He manages to say a lot with very little. He’s the kind of guy where his actions always speak louder than his words, and it works very well. Also, when he gave this adorable doe-eyed look at the camera after essentially smashing something to bits, the entire audience gave him a rounding applause. Just to give you a sense with how enjoyable he can be.
The final member of the galaxy dream team is a guy called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). He’s that big guy with the red tattoos all over his body. His whole shtick is that he takes everything he hears literally. Metaphors and such go right over this guy’s head. And it’s downright hilarious. Unfortunately, he’s supposed to be this tough guy that can beat up anyone due to his enormous strength and…well… let’s just say I wish this movie tried a bit harder to back that up. Dax the Destroyer is supposed to be able to go “toe to toe” with the Hulk & Thanos (or so I’ve heard) and ends up having the same problem as Gamora: big buildup to their ability and not a lot of it shown. Regardless though, he had one of the most memorable scenes in the movie when he first talks with Peter Quill. Space prison murder threats have never been so funny.
As much a comedy as it is an action movie
Guardians of the Galaxy is primarily about these characters and their interactions with each other and the world. The plot on the other hand is very much secondary. I’m not saying it’s bad or weak. But it is clearly taking a backseat to its characters. I say this because the movie felt very eager to get its audience to the next, new place so it could showcase its character’s shenanigans. And to be clear, those shenanigans are amazing. But, the movie never really gives a clear reason as to why they go to each new place. First they were on a populated planet, than a prison, then this place, then this place, then a new place, etc. It came off as rushed. Because of this, I would be very interested to see the director’s cut just to see if those deleted or cropped scenes helped with the movie’s flow.
Over all, even though the plot may have felt a bit rushed, it almost didn’t matter. Guardians of the Galaxy is as much a comedy as it is an action movie. The dialogue is clever, the humor is always spot on, the action is well choreographed, it has a slew of one-liners that you are happy to remember, has a great soundtrack that is proudly showcased, and it has really thrilling (though subtle) shout outs to the universe it’s building upon. You don’t have to know what these shout outs mean in the large scheme of Marvel’s future plans to enjoy it. And for those who do know, the implications are exciting. I will say that the post-credit seen is only fully understood if you’re a comics fan or at least know about the Marvel comics industry and its history (and no, it’s not a hint at the next movie).
But Guardians of the Galaxy is a definite MUST see. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s a welcome addition to the new Marvel movie universe.