Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy marks the first time in a long time in which I was actively rooting for the arrival of another Marvel feature. That might have just been from the odd sight of a raccoon and a tree interacting with one another. Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest film to come out of the Marvel Universe, and it almost feels like they hit the restart button with this one, and got nearly perfect results.

I had an inkling, which turned out to be very wrong, that Guardians of the Galaxy might completely reinvent both superhero and action movies. I was wrong. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t reinvent any genre, and it doesn’t even try to do so. Guardians of the Galaxy is a product of Marvel, yet it also bears director James Gunn’s incredibly original voice. James Gunn worked the system: he made a fun summer blockbuster that also happens to be an auteur piece.

For this reason, Guardians is the perfect comic book film for the casual comic book fan. In it, I saw the influence of The Avengers as much as I saw the influence of Steven Spielberg’s entire filmography. In particular, Guardians felt like a throwback to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Like RaidersGuardians has a fun and silly feel while still committing to its story. Guardians is about a group of people who shouldn’t be heroes, and many people tend to forget that Indiana Jones was terrible at his job. Besides losing the Ark and the Holy Grail, he also gave birth to Shia LaBeouf.

But I digress. While most action movies are about “The One,” or a person who was destined for something or is just the best at their craft, Guardians is about a group of criminals who are forced to be heroes. Hell, they aren’t even good at that. The nickname “Guardians of the Galaxy” is at first bestowed upon them in jest. Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill a human abducted from Earth as a child. With a nickname like Star-Lord, he fancies himself the most notorious criminal in the galaxy. Yet, nobody knows who the hell Star-Lord is. Quill reluctantly teams up with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel) to steal back a very powerful orb before it ends up in the hands of the very evil Ronan (Lee Pace). Their mission is one that is both selfish and altruistic.

With The Lego Movie earlier this year, it was apparent that Chris Pratt was ready to be a household name. With Guardians, Pratt is ready to be a movie star. Back to the Indiana Jones comparison, Pratt is great at being both a smart ass and a badass all at once. Yet, unlike Harrison Ford, Pratt has this very sweet, golden retriever quality to him. He has mastered the lovable idiot character, which he first began developing as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation. Like any good movie or TV show, any of the main characters can qualify as the best character. But for now, I will just settle on Rocket Raccoon, who’s identity insecurity sums up the way all the characters actually feel about their place in the universe. For Bradley Cooper, it is the sign of a true movie star when you appear as charismatic as ever when it’s just your voice in a raccoon’s body. Guardians sets up a huge cast of characters in a really efficient way. It didn’t need to resort on being an origin story to do so; it was as subtle as a fart on a first date.

Guardians is truly astounding in scope. This is perhaps the first time I regret not seeing a movie in 3D. James Gunn clearly has Star Wars-type ambitions, as that was all I could think of throughout most of the film’s run. The action sequences manage to dwarf the pretty awesome ones from this year’s Winter Soldier. Oh, I should probably mention this: Guardians of the Galaxy is hilarious. It might not be the funniest movie this year (it is still hard to compete with They Came Together), but it is the most consistently funny. Jokes come out of nowhere and then come back later and land just as well the second time around.

Guardians works as both an action comedy and an action movie with comedic elements. In fact, it nails every emotional note. With a soundtrack ranging from Marvin Gaye to The Runaways, Guardians sounds like nothing I have seen in a long time. The story and the tropes are familiar in a way that is comforting rather than tiresome. Gunn has found a way to mix the best parts of 80s movie nostalgia with modern day cinema. Here is a film that manages to strike a balance between the gritty realism of The Dark Knight and the “ice to meet you” level stupidity of Batman & Robin. Walking out of the theater with a smile on your face, you will just feel every ounce of cynicism in your body wash away.

Brain Farts From The Edge

  • I had a bad feeling months ago that Guardians would flop, only to be rediscovered years later. Based on the reaction from tonight’s audience, I think it is going to do quite well.
  • I just get a sense that a cultural phenomenon is brewing. I hope that “Hooked On A Feeling” makes a comeback and ends up in the Billboard Top 100.
  • This is the first Marvel Studios film in a long time that doesn’t feel like it is trying to sell another future film/product to me. And yet, this is the first Marvel movie I’ve walked out of and thought, “I could really use a Rocket Raccoon action figure.” You see, consumerism works when you don’t shove it in our faces.
  • New Sci-Fi Trope: The silver haired, eccentric hoarder/scientist. Examples: The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy; Hannibal Chau in Pacific Rim
  • Other films this reminded me of: Mystery Men, Spaceballs, E.T.
  • So Guardians wasn’t completely perfect. I had some small problems with the villains, mainly that they were a little broad. However, that may have been the point. Also, could have used more John C. Reilly. But then again, I say that about every movie.
  • It’s hard for a movie to be quotable after just one viewing, but I feel like I already know certain parts of Guardians by heart. Good.
  • Something that happened at my screening: as the “Turn Your Phones Off” warning popped up on screen, somebody in the audience shouted, “don’t tell me what to do!” Okay, so I guess I should still be really cynical about things.