Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Cast Headliners: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Original Release Date: August 1st, 2014
Marvel Studios has built a massive cinematic empire which has really, for the first time, been successful at fusing together different storylines and worlds. It’s not just a brand but an entire “Cinematic universe.” They’ve gone and told the stories of the Avengers and all that; in this process they’ve made an incredible amount of money and this has allowed them to experiment. This first experiment is Guardians of the Galaxy, based upon a semi-obscure comic book series. Can anything they touch turn out good even if obscure, will audiences react well, does it feel like a Marvel film with no superheroes? The answer to all these questions is a resounding YES.
The film begins with an emotional scene in the 1980’s on Earth as a young Peter Quill loses his mother. After running from the hospital he is abducted by an alien ship and brought far from his home. 26 years later an older Peter has grown up into a space pirate by the name of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). Star-Lord finds himself involved in the war between Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)’s forces and those of the Nova Empire after he steals an ancient artifact. He also has to contend with his “stepfather” Yondu (Michael Rooker) who wants his head as well.
Events soon transpire to where he begrudgingly teams up with fellow space renegades including the fierce assassin Gamora(Zoe Saldana), the brutish Drax (Dave Bautista), the plant-based Groot( mocapped and voiced by Vin Diesel), and the wise guy animal Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper).
The absolute highlight element of the film is the interplay between these characters. Every single one of them is hilarious in their own ways because they’re so unique. Drax’s species does not understand metaphors. Groot can only say “I am groot”. Rocket is a roguish raccoon with expertise and big guns and explosives. Traits such as these make every line of dialogue joyish to hear. Star-Lord is the one who ties them together, and Pratt was a perfect choice to be the lead. He has a charisma and attitude not seen since Harrison Ford was on a interstellar adventure. He and his peers even make the Avengers seem a bit dull, probably because they were scripted from the ground up to have great interactions with each other with this first movie.
The great charactization extends to the supporting cast as well. John C Reilly and Glenn Close are funny and fierce respectively as Nova Corps leaders. Michael Rooker offers his usual gruff performance yet fits in wonderfully into the humor of the movie. The villains are vile, from Lee Pace in standard firey self as Ronan to his assistants Nebula (Karen Gillian) and Korath(Djimon Hounsou). Even Thanos’ brief appearance , recast as Josh Brolin, or Benicio Del Toro as The Collector are awesome.
Thanos is the connective tissue to the primary Marvel series, since otherwise this could be a fantastic standalone science fiction comedy adventure. Some locations from the Avengers are seen as well as the Macguffins from movies like Captain America and Thor 2. What is obvious are the usual Marvel film elements like amazing visuals, plentiful action, and snappy dialogue.
The movie feels like a gem in the Marvel universe because of its director however. James Gunn has had an interesting career but has never made a blockbuster like this. But one can tell the huge amount of passion that went into this project. The humor is really edgy even for Marvel, and the soundtrack is largely composed of hand-picked 1970’s and 1980’s funky/soul songs which give the movie a unique atmosphere. It’s a sleeker, funnier, more entertaining take on the Marvel style and Gunn deserves praise for it.
The Guardians of the Galaxy is incredible because it works both as a stellar example of a Marvel film, but yet also as a standalone space opera. It might be the Star Wars of our time, and even if not it is an awesome movie. A 9.5 out of 10