Marvel has unleashed its latest cinematic undertaking unto the comic book movie loving public this week with the arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters. Unlike the previous Marvel movies though, this particular film is a whole new sub-genre of the Marvel universe, and plays out more like a classic sci-fi action film from the glory days of space opera films like the great Star Wars trilogy before Lucas lost his touch. With that being said there are plenty of ties and callbacks to past Marvel movie projects that allow you to take an imaginative glimpse into the future of the Marvel cinematic universe, and your visions should get you super excited for what’s to come over the next five years of comic book movie releases. Guardians not only opens up a whole new galaxy to Marvel movie fans, but it also packs a great cast of interesting characters and locations that will entice you to learn more about the series thanks to the stellar first introduction to the source material that James Gunn and his cast provide.
The film is centered around the character of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who as a young boy gets abducted from earth by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and taken to another galaxy. Through Yondu’s tutelage Quill becomes a bandit and a member of Yondu’s Ravagers, who scavenge the galaxy for items and jobs that will garner them some cash-flow. By his own accord he dubs himself Star-Lord, which most of the galaxy ignores to call him, much to his chagrin. At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, Quill is on a mission to retrieve an orb to sell to a broker for a major payday. Little does he know that the orb is also being sought by Ronan the Accuser, who is a Kree (blue alien people) whack job hellbent on securing the orb to use its hidden powers to his advantage. Ronan is also in league with Thanos, who is one of the character from the previous Marvel movies that appears in Guardians of the Galaxy to setup the tie between the two wildly different Marvel comic book universes.
Quill succeeds in snagging the orb, but due to this triumph he becomes the main target of Ronan and a strange duo of bounty hunters, which leads to his circumstantial meeting with the rest of the Guardians on the planet Xandar. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the step daughter of Thanos, and an employee of Ronan, finds Quill first, but by the time they start to scuffle, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) sniff out Quill’s bounty and join in on the hunt. They all get incarcerated, which is where they meet the final member of the soon to be Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).
From this moment on the film’s plot really starts to take off and becomes quite a thrill ride through space that will instantly resonate with sci-fi fans who’ve felt that the genre has been misrepresented over the past few years. The first 10-15 minutes of the movie are some of the best, if not the best opening scenes showcased in the Marvel movie universe to date. Gunn’s music choices and Pratt’s inherent ability to act like a hilarious goofball really draw you into the world of Guardians of the Galaxy from the get go. Right off the bat you will become intrigued with the character of Peter Quill and his role in the galaxy, thanks in part to Pratt’s fantastic performance, because he really is great at being a lovable lug. He can also hold his own during the film’s multiple eye-popping action sequences that make most of the previous Marvel movies’ action moments seem tame.
Obviously this movies isn’t called Guardian of the Galaxy, so the film would have felt a bit flat without its exceptional supporting cast of characters, namely Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax. Saldana, Cooper, Diesel (I AM GROOT), and Bautista all bring their A-game to their respective roles, and really help to bring a sense of camaraderie to the film, plus a comedy club full of laughs. These two aspects of Guardians are what make it such a memorable and amazing movie experience, which is why the ensemble cast needs to be recognized for their achievements. Rocket and Groot are particularly hilarious together, with the raccoon nearly stealing the show with his dark humor. His partner Groot on the other hand, offers up one of the more emotional gestures and scenes I’ve witnessed in a Marvel movie. Yes, I shed a tear during a film called Guardians of the Galaxy that featured a talking raccoon, a green alien chick, a tree with a limited vocabulary, and a testosterone fueled badass who doesn’t believe in wearing shirts.
That is why this film is so special to someone like me who earned his Masters in Geek by watching films like Star Wars and Flash Gordon while growing up in the 80’s. It has great action, awesome special effects and 3D, an entertaining plot that has threads that will span multiple films and properties, great villains, and most importantly it’s all done with an air of humor that hasn’t been showcased in any of the other Marvel films. With all of these ingredients it’s impossible to not get invested in the world and characters of Guardians of the Galaxy, which is why you may find yourself cheering raucously during the climax and heavy action scenes, while also getting a bit emotional during a few of the more touching moments between the Guardians. Be prepared to let out a few belly laughs too, because the humor truly is a stand out aspect of this movie.
The only complaint that I have with Guardians of the Galaxy is that I personally would have liked a bit more background information on the villains. Ronan the Accuser is definitely a badass with horrible intentions, but I felt like his stake in the plot could’ve been further fleshed out with a bit more backstory. The same can be said for Nebula, who looked like a Picasso painting melded with machinery. Even Thanos could’ve used a bit more screen time or backstory to explain to none comic book readers who he really is, and why he enlists the likes of Ronan to do his bidding. For all intents and purposes this is a very minuscule gripe, and ultimately since the movie was so damn good I wanted to learn more about the characters on my own anyway, so in reality Gunn and his writing team hit the nail on the head, and showed just enough to engage noobs like myself to get us caught up to speed without making a three hour long film.
Guardians of the Galaxy is pure sci-fi awesomeness with a splash of Marvel comic book movie excellence. It doesn’t feel like the other Marvel films, but it does a great job at tying into them and setting up future events that will inevitably take place sometime between now and 2019. Peter Quill and the other Guardians offer a great contrast to the Avengers, and they’re definitely a highly functional, dysfunctional family that packs more laughs than Last Comic Standing. The end will leave you wanting more Marvel cosmic universe action, and will have you foaming at the mouth for the return of the Guardians to the silver screen in 2017. Don’t even think about this one geeks, just grab a ticket (3D is recommended) and your closest comic book friends, and take a trip to your local theater for two hours of pure out-of-this-world awesomeness.
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Review Statement: The author of this review paid for a 3D screening of this film for the purposes of this review.