Friday, August 1, 2014

Film Review: James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy

When Marvel Studios first announced that they were indeed making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, to go along with their already uber-successful Avengers, Iron Man (and friends) franchises, it was thought of by many to be a huge, huge gamble. I mean really, who the hell has even ever heard of these Guardians of the Galaxy? Okay, that is a bit of hyperbole. Obviously many comic book reading folks have heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but those so-called regular folks, the ones who don't (egad!) read comic books, would probably have no freakin' clue who any of these clowns were, and thus, the huge, huge (huge!) gamble. Would anyone care? Could they do it well enough to please those who did care? And just how the hell were they going to make a genetically-engineered raccoon bounty hunter and an anthropomorphic tree creature come to life? Well, not to worry, true believers, because they did it all, and they did it in proverbial spades.

Granted, to compare Guardians to other Mighty Marvel Movies, this film may not have the depth or solid foundation of something like The Avengers, my personal favourite of the studio's output, nor does director James Gunn have the kind of visual, auteuristic chops of Joss Whedon, nor do we get the classic old school thrills of the Captain America films, but none of this ever stops Guardians from being a rip-roaring, sci-fi adventure, from tragic start to high-flying finish. Gunn, who wrote Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, and wrote and directed his own small budget superhero film, simply titled Super, does do a good job here. From the film's casting choices to the equally esoteric soundtrack choices, this movie is pure, unapologetic fun. So much so, that I would say it is pure fun-ness. That's right kids, I just used the term, fun-ness. Get over it. Yeah, it may not be the greatest superhero movie ever made (that would be Zack Snyder's Watchmen) nor is it even the best Marvel movie (that, as I clearly state above, is Joss Whedon's The Avengers), but it is most certainly pure fun-ness. Pure fun-ness, indeed. And have I mentioned the genetically-engineered raccoon bounty hunter and the anthropomorphic tree creature yet? Yup.

For those of you who might be caught unawares, here's the basic gist of the story. Peter Quill is an Earth boy who is taken to space, and grows up to be the notorious outlaw (at least in his own mind) known as Star Lord. Chris Pratt, probably best known as the charming dufus Andy, on Parks and Rec, brings a kid in a candy store kind of flare to the role as space rogue. Not to mention, a brand new beyond buff bod. Pratt himself calls the character a combination of Han Solo and Marty McFly. I could not have said it better myself. Joining Star Lord on his journey to outwit the space police force and stop a madman from destroying the galaxy, is Gamora, daughter of the worst villain in the universe. She is known in the comics as the most dangerous woman in the universe. Played here by a green-skinned Zoe Saldana (and yes, unlike the actress's blue look in Avatar, the green here is make-up, not CGI), Gamora is probably the weakest link in this quintet of losers-cum-wouldbe superheroes. Not due to anything Saldana brings, or doesn't bring to the part, but because of her character being written rather one dimensionally. From a "wow, check out that hot green chick" viewpoint, it's a whole other story, though. We also get mixed martial artist David Bautista as the muscle-bound Drax the Destroyer. Yes, he is even more one dimensional than Gamora, but that only plays on the actor's rather one dimensional abilities.

The best of the crew though, and how could they not be, are the characters of Rocket, a cocky raccoon-looking creature, and Groot a superstrong tree creature with a three word vocabulary consisting of I, am, and Groot, and always in that order. Done in CGI (the best CGI this critic has ever laid eyes on by the by) and voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively, Rocket and Groot are the proverbial scene stealers...every single time. In fact, this bounty hunting duo can also be seen as the very heart and soul of this band of misfit space pirates turned galaxy-wide heroes. Groot, whose hilarious use of "I am Groot" as every sentence he says (and yes, BFF Rocket can understand what he says between the lines) is the one true innocent here. Yes, he can fight, maim, and kill with the best of 'em, but the big guy always has a smile ready to go. Meanwhile, it is Rocket, as voiced by a surprisingly nuanced Cooper (I usually find the guy rather drab in human form), who is the most emotional of the gang. Sure, he's your typical little raccoon who carries a big gun, but he is actually vulnerable as well. Something you might not have expected going in. There are two moments in the film, where Rocket lets slip his more scared side, his more tragic side, and we see a heartbreaking soul trapped inside of this mouthy, ring-tailed little killer. No matter what you may think of the film as a whole, I defy you to not enjoy the hell out of Rocket and Groot. I freakin' defy you.

As for the rest of the cast, the main villain in the film, Ronan the Accuser, as played by Lee Pace, is also quite fun (and by quite fun, I mean appropriately ominous) but is never fleshed out enough to be anything more than a reason to bring this band together in the first place. We also get the mad Thanos, the aforementioned adoptive father of Gamora, played by a combination of Josh Brolin and a CGI'd Sean Gunn (the baby brother of the director also does green screen stand-in work for Cooper's tenacious Raccoon), who is merely just a teaser for his eventual villainous role in Avengers 3. The film also features Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, and Karen Gillan, but they are never given anything much to do. There is also Benicio del Toro as The Collector, who gets very little screen time, but still manages to the best with it. Then we have Michael Rooker as Yondu. Granted, the Yondu of this film is vastly different from the Yondu of the comics, but to be honest, I would watch Rooker in anything, so it's all good. Forget Daryl Dixon, it's his big brother Merle who wins my favourite Walking Dead cast member. But again, I digress.

As for the film as a whole, Gunn makes sure to give us epic space battles, without ever going typical or cliche on us, and even though he may not be the boldest of directors, he manages to give us, as they are prone to say, one hell of a ride. A movie full of pure fun-ness. As a fan of Brian Michael Bendis' current run on the comic book series from whence this adaptation hails, I may have already been predisposed to liking this film, but it's more than just that, that does it for this old school Marvel kid. With obvious allusions to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars (and maybe even Ice Pirates or even Spaceballs), Guardians of the Galaxy is a romp and a half. Forget Iron Man and Thor and all those guys, these are the superhero sonsabitches with whom I want to hang. Combine all this space-farin' adventurin' with Quill's beloved childhood mix tape soundtrack that sounds like a mix tape I would make, and this is my kind of movie. And as for that inevitable after credits teaser, without giving anything away, I have to say that if what they are teasing actually comes to fruition (though it sadly, probably will not), that may be the coolest damn thing ever. The only other thing I can say is, I am Groot. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I love the raccoon that can kick ass! They made great trees in LOTR so i figured this would be great with CGI too. I think this is a movie one doesn't have to think too hard and just have fun

  2. Just saw this flick less than two hours ago! Very enjoyable.

  3. I really want to see this movie in the theaters and I am glad that you enjoyed the film a lot.

  4. Definitely a movie where you want to hang out with the characters. Well, if you're into space battles and all the Mos Eisley stuff that come with.

    See ya 'round the web.

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