Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel
Directed by James Gunn
Warning! This review is filled with spoilery goodness. First, go watch the film and then come back for my thoughts. You’ve seen it? Yes? Good! Onward then.
Like many moviegoers, I hadn’t heard of Guardians of the Galaxy until Marvel announced the project in 2012. The Guardians made their home in the dark corners of the Marvel comic book world that wasn’t occupied by the likes of Spider-Man, Captain Marvel or Luke Cage, but will Marvel make them a household name like they did with Iron Man in spite of that? I wasn’t initially sold on the Guardians after the first trailer debuted and, by the time I got my tickets to see the 17 minute preview, I had every intention of seeing the film because it was part of Marvel Studios brand and they have yet to let me down. After the preview however, I sang a different tune and gained genuine anticipation for its August 1st release started to grow. Now that I’ve seen the film in its entirety on Friday night, I can say that it’s a fun, hilarious ride.
One of the film’s defining qualities is the ensemble’s chemistry. The interactions and budding relationships between the main five – Groot, Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax – are the heart and soul of the film, and I’d say that they are the film. It’s when these five are together that magic happens. Although the actual storyline was a bit shaky, it didn’t matter because it was the conversational moments that were the most entertaining. I never thought in a million years that a talking raccoon and a mobile tree that only uttered three words (“I Am Groot”) would be so engaging and pull at my emotions the way they did. I personally found Gamora and Drax to be the weakest of the five in that more could’ve been done with them emotionally. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is fun but there were vulnerable moments – like reflecting on his deceased mother – that I thought didn’t take enough time to truly grab hold of me.
Rocket, a creature who was experimented on, was the one that I got the most out of emotionally and is perhaps the biggest misfit of the Guardians. The quick glimpse of his back when being admitted into the prison that showed surgical scars, or later when he made a sad, drunken declaration of the hurtfulness of being called vermin when he had no say in what was done to him, were the powerful character moments that juxtaposed the tough, hilarious exterior of the small, explosives wielding raccoon.
Groot. I said that the dynamic was the heart and soul of the whole film but Groot was the heart and soul of the group itself. So sweet, innocent yet wise, and ferocious when necessary. It feels obvious why he and Rocket are the best of friends and Vin Diesel problem gives the most complex, emotional performance of his entire career through the various inflections in “I. Am. Groot.”
Marvel films are known for their humor but it can go really right (The Avengers) or so very wrong (Thor: The Dark World). Guardians had me laughing from deep down in my gut from beginning to end with subtle jabs and just plain odd, silly moments. Visually, it looked stunning. We don’t often get colorful space stories on the big screen which is why this film stood out so much as a risk. Gamora’s green skin didn’t look fake or unpleasant. The costumes and gadgets were great. It was a visually appealing wonderland that mirrored the content we were getting as well. Of course, I should also mention Thanos and our first look at him talking that a collective shiver down the spines of comic book geeks. Also, the infinity stones as explained by The Collector were neat too.
I would have liked to have seen more Nova Corps and The Collector in the film but I’m sure we’ll see more of them in the newly announced sequel. Nebula fell really flat for me. She felt one-dimensional and served only as character development for Gamora which I think also fell flat. This attempt at a complex, sisterly relationship failed and the subsequent fight scene didn’t live to the hype both as an action sequence but also as the result of that lackluster relationship. Ronan the Accuser was the Kree villain that I honestly forgot was even there halfway through the film. Marvel is less consistent with their villains than they are with their heroes (*cough* Malekith in Thor: The Dark World *cough*). As I mentioned before, the story itself wasn’t really anything other than support to the characters which is fine given the great dynamics. I wasn’t a fan of where the songs were placed for a lot of the time. It became distracting, like when “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways played while the Guardians were explaining the plan in the third act of the film. Lastly, I was disappointed with the lack of end credit scene that would hint at Avengers: The Age of Ultron or the future of the Marvel Universe but that’s just me being picky.
Overall, this film is fun and, given the lack of family friendly movies this summer, I’m not surprised at its success. I’d definitely watch it again for the laughs and adorable Groot.