In 1988, a young child by the name of Peter Quill is abducted by a mysterious alien ship. Twenty-six years later on a far distant planet, Quill (Chris Pratt), self proclaimed. Star-Lord, locates an ancient spherical artifact that he intends to sell on the black market. One problem: by stealing the orb, he finds himself the target of a bounty hunt as the object he carries is sought after by a Kree warrior named Ronan (Lee Pace).
As the target of a bounty hunt, Quill is pursued by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a deadly assassin, bounty hunters Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a humanoid tree-creature. A scuffle breaks out and all four land in jail, where they come across a powerful inmate by the name of Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a man who has sworn vengeance against Ronan. When they realize that Ronan desires the power of the orb, the five misfits are forced to work together to discover what secrets the ancient artifact possesses. What they discover threatens all life in the universe if it falls into the wrong hands, putting the fate of the galaxy on their shoulders.
The term popcorn flick gets associated with films like this. Then again, most movies are popcorn flicks. I mean, you eat popcorn while watching it, right?
If you’re going to watch this movie with the intention of nitpicking moments that would be realistic and filled with logic, leave them at the door. This is a comic book movie, plain and simple. Instead of attempting to create a sense of realism in the other Marvel films, this clearly feels like a comic book film, which is a whole lot of fun to watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy goes beyond what we’ve been accustomed to with superhero films. Marvel Studios has attempted to put realism into their plots, even with moments that you know couldn’t happen outside of a comic book, which could be influenced by Christopher Nolan’s take on DC’s Dark Knight trilogy. Guardians goes outside Marvel’s comfort zone, straying away from serious plots with some comedic tones to a more comedic and absurd approach with a B-movie plot, showing off the fun side of Marvel’s expansive universe.
If Marvel Studios has done one thing correct that Warner Bros has struggled with, it’s placing humor in perfect spots to lighten the audience from being beat down with a serious film. Guardians puts more of an emphasis on the comedy aspect, but manages to balance out the humor with just the right amount of action, unlike 2005’s Fantastic Four.
Casting is a major importance for a film like this, and casting Chris Pratt portraying Peter Quill couldn’t have been better. He comes off as a likable individual, similar to how viewers loved Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the first Iron Man. As mixture of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk and Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds, Star-Lord is a womanizing spacer that knows how to get the job done, protect and inspire those under his watch, and flirts with the ladies. What helps the audience connect with him is his Earthly upbringing–he goes around outer space with his old Walkman and his “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” cassette tape, going as far as to install a tape player into his spaceship and make numerous references that most kids from the 80’s and 90’s would understand. We can’t all be Tony Stark, but kids of the 80’s and 90’s can feel like they could really be Star-Lord.
Dave Bautista was a surprise as Drax. The only really notable roles he did outside of his WWE Days was a guest appearance on Smallville and a minor role in Riddick, cast in both to be the tough muscle, and didn’t stand out in his acting. Guardians gives him that chance. Yes, he’s a muscle man, but he really embraced the character of Drax and made him his own. Drax takes everything in a literal sense and sarcasm goes way over his head, resulting in some hilarious punchlines that delivered and silencing any skeptics that think former wrestlers can’t act.
While Pratt and Bautista do an excellent job with their roles, the voice acting of Bradley Cooper as Rocket steals the show. The idea of a talking raccoon shooting a gun in the trailers has to be one of the most ridiculous characters for a movie, especially since Marvel films want to retain that sense of realism. The moment Rocket makes his appearance in the film, you quickly learn to move past it and take it for what it is, and that’s where he sneaks in to steal the show. You learn to accept the wise cracking, sarcastic, foul mouthed raccoon with a New Yorker accent, especially his twisted logic for building an active bomb in a small cargo hold on Quill’s spacecraft. Rocket may be small and and be dismissed as no threat due to his appearance, but his skills with guns, piloting and technical knowledge make him a valuable person to have in a fight. It’s enough to look past the CGI and see him as a legitimate character (something that Jar-Jar Binks failed to be).
Vin Diesel provides the voice (as well as some facial expressions) of Groot, the giant tree-like being that only manages to converse by saying, “I am Groot.” As the hired muscle of Rocket, Groot is a lovable idiot and a softie at heart with a childish mentality but he makes up for it as a deadly weapon in combat that makes him a valuable part of the team. With the limited number of lines Groot had in the movie, Diesel doesn’t offer much. They could have picked anyone to voice Groot, but attaching Diesel’s name is enough to draw fans who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered with Guardians.
While Rocket can do well on his own, the relationship between him and Groot is what makes these two stand out over everyone else, making them the Han Solo and Chewbacca of Marvel’s universe.
However, not all castings were perfect. Zoe Saldana is no stranger when it comes to science fiction films (Star Trek, Avatar) and she’s more than capable of holding her own as Gamora, especially in the action sequences. The problem is that Gamora comes off as a rather bland character. While Quill, Drax, Rocket, and Groot have their own personality quirks, Gamora does nothing to distinguish herself from the rest of the group. Sure, she has green skin to catch your eye, but there isn’t much to like about her. She’s just…there. Whether it’s the script or just Saldana’s acting ability, this role could have been handled a lot better.
As for the villains, we only get a small glimpse of Thanos. Although it was longer than the short end-credits scene teasing Thanos at the end of The Avengers, he was just a tease for what we would see in Avengers 3. Instead, the main bad guy is Ronan the Accuser. Sure, he’s the bad guy, but while he becomes powerful toward the end of the movie, he doesn’t cause much disruption throughout the course of the movie. He serves his purpose for the origin story of the Guardians of the Galaxy, lacking any memorable qualities that make him a creative villain.
And then there’s Karen Gillian. Many fans of Doctor Who were excited to see the girl that played Amy Pond cast as Nebula, and the hype skyrocketed at Comic Con 2013 when she revealed she had shaved her head for the role. With all the hype around Nebula, you’d think she’d serve a big role in the film, but she doesn’t. Aside from a brief fight scene with Gamora near the end, Nebula serves no purpose other than to be a potential threat in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.
Aside from the Infinity Stones, the appearances of Thanos and The Collector (especially the Dark Elf stored in his collection), and the reveal of the Kree (remember the blue alien that saved Coulson’s life in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D?), there isn’t much to indicate this movie had any connection with the other films, let alone any hints as to what’s coming in Age of Ultron. Perhaps distancing itself from the Avengers is a good thing to allow the film to succeed, but don’t expect to see a connection to the next Marvel film.
Although it features some disappointing characters and predictable plot points, Guardians of the Galaxy provides a good mix of action and humor as well as a fantastic soundtrack of 70’s and 80’s songs that fit perfectly with the film’s tone that will actually make you enjoy going to the movies this summer.
Grade: 4.5 out of 5