GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Spoiler-Free Movie Review
On paper, Guardians of the Galaxy sounded too silly to be a Marvel blockbuster. A team of misfits flying around to prevent the destruction of the universe from a blue alien zealot? Wait, two of these so-called Guardians are a talking raccoon and a midget Ent reject from The Lord of the Rings? It’s a comedy??? And it’s in SPACE? No, I’m afraid you’ve lost me, sir. We saw this sort of story happen already, and it rhymes with “Schmreen Schmantern.” Space and high fantasy belong only to the “sinceriously” dramatic with ridiculous levels of action. A few funny one-liners are acceptable, but a space movie that’s a full-on action goofy comedy? Sorry, nope. Not gonna work. But oh wait…it totally does.
Firstly, I must admit I never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy before Marvel announced they were turning it into a movie. I was that one clueless doof among a room full of nerds who just stood there, not squeeing with excitement.The very first thought that entered my brain was that this was going to be Marvel’s rebut to DC’s so-so attempt at Green Lantern. My only contact with the Guardians comic after the announcement was the Annihilation arc. That featured a completely different team besides Peter Quill, Rocket, and a very conversational, albeit rude, Groot. It your standard action-y comic with just as many clever quips as a Spider-Man book. It was giving me a hard time as to why I should be excited for the movie adaptation. But then the trailers started trickling in. Game over for me, man. My interests were piqued.
Director James Gunn manages to balance sincerity, action, and a wide array of goofiness (i.e. silly, slapstick, good jokes, bad jokes) like an even, buttery spread on a tasty piece of toast. A friend aptly described it as a movie featuring all the space antics you’d expect from the dregs and misfits found at the cantina on Mos Eisley. Probably the weirdest addition is the 70s greatest hits soundtrack. With the exception of “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, they’re all love songs. This isn’t a complaint, mind you. In fact, the songs provide a touch of nostalgia for all those who’ve had to listen to them with their parents. Considering Peter Quill’s origin during the first five minutes of the film, their inclusion makes sense.
Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, is the lovable human scoundrel who obtains certain items for collectors, brokers, pretty much anyone willing to pay a premium. After a brief scuffle with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and his men trying to obtain a mysterious orb, Quill escapes with the item to the Nova Corps (space cops) home world, Xandar, where he tries to sell off. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) assassin and adopted daughter of the big bad Thanos who currently works for Ronan the Accuser, ambushes him and steals the orb. A fight ensues. At the same time, Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are searching for bounties. They find Quill and pursue him as well. The chaos they cause around the city gets them arrested and sent to the Kyln, a space prison.
While the group bond over how to get out of prison, the group meets Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who wants nothing more than to join them if it means luring Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) so he can exact vengeance for his family.
The interactions among these core players gelled so perfectly. With all their fighting and sniping at each other at first, you can genuinely see a bond forming. There are some great little moments with Drax and Rocket when they hash things out and eventually come to an understanding. Then there’s Rocket and Groot. I always found it ironic that Rocket’s closest friend is a walking tree even though he absolutely hates being seen as a little woodland creature. The fact that only he can understand sweet Groot makes it all the more humorous.
Then there’s Gamora. Zoe Saldana does a good job humanizing this otherwise terrifying ball-buster of an assassin. My only complaint is that people around her could have been more afraid of her, especially if they knew who she was related to. The only perspective I can see arguing why they aren’t is because A) most only know her by name; B) those who do know what she looks like are already crazy enough (and in prison) to want gang up on her when she least expects it.
The inclusion of several other actors served as sweet cherries on top of a fattening ice cream sundae. Seeing Michael Rooker play Peter Quill’s boss Yondu was a pure joy. He’s just Michael Rooker being Michael Rooker, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s one bad ass scene where Yondu gets to take on 10-plus of Ronan’s men by himself, and he executes it like a boss. Thankfully, there were a few seconds of pause right after the confrontation that allowed us audience members to let it soak in a little bit.
Then there is Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, whose presence serves as a major plot point in the story. His entire collection room is riddled with easter eggs and call-backs to other movies. There are two little appearances that had the whole house in a positive uproar. You’ll know when you see them.
Karen Gillan played an effective Nebula, whom I suspect is the middle child in Thanos’ collection of mind-warped orphans. John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, and Glenn Close as members of the Nova Corps weren’t terribly important, but served as nice touches in the movie. Serafinowicz in particular, who usually plays a dry-witted A-hole, was given a heroic moment.
I, again, forgot Alexis Denisof was in this movie until I perused IMDB. You may remember him covered in makeup, scolding Loki in The Avengers. Yeah, a certain other guy is there, too.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is such a hilarious and enjoyable addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I dare say, it’s their best one yet. In a conversation with some friends after the movie someone made a remark that, after thinking about it a for while, I find totally true: “James Gunn has a twisted sense of humor.” This statement only becomes true and apparent at the very end of the credits. Yes, the after-credits scene is alive and well. Trust me when I say that this the most unexpected one yet. Unless this was just a throwaway scene, kids of the 90s will instantly lose their minds getting swept up in a wave of disbelief and excitement. So yeah, stick around. You’ll be glad that you did.