Guardians of the Galaxy has been billed as the most out-there, bizarre and wacky of all the Marvel Studios films. In truth, it’s all that and then some leading to the most fun-filled Marvel movie yet.
Far beyond New York or even the realm of Asgard, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, The LEGO Movie ) is an intergalactic thief known as Star-Lord. He stumbles onto a mysterious orb that immediately attracts a ton of attention. Namely Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), who places a bounty on Quill’s head in order to get it.
Pratt has always been that solid supporting performer, but he shows here he was more than ready for the spotlight. In his care, he takes a character who was taken from Earth as a child into a smooth, cocky hero. Pratt carries Guardians with a breezy, self-assured confidence like he’s regularly carried films. And he’s the ideal every man to make sense of the rest of the bizarre occurrences.
Numerous factions come calling for the bounty. First is Ronan’s enforcer, Korath (Djimon Hounsou, Baggage Claim) and Quill’s fellow thief/mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker, The Walking Dead). The deadly assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek: Into Darkness) seeks the orb for other reasons. But the bounty hunters Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are a pair likely to split the audience favorite vote with their scene-stealing antics.
Director James Gunn quickly reinforces the notion that this is unlike other Marvel Studios films. Gunn goes all-in with the vastness of Marvel Comics’ space universe. Guardians showcases a galaxy of alien beings and the Nova Corps, Marvel’s analogy to DC’s Green Lantern Corps. At least they back some quality actors with Glenn Close as Nova Prime and her lieutenants John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz.
Quill convinces Gamora, Rocket and Groot to work together to keep the orb out of Ronan’s hands. In the process they gain another ally in the powerhouse Drax (WWE superstar Dave Bautista. Bautista makes Drax another winning character with his knack for taking everything literal. Drax has his own vendetta against Ronan and his leader Thanos (Josh Brolin).
With a playful, fun-spirited look at a group of misfits coming together, Gunn and co-screenwriter Nicole Perlman make Guardians of the Galaxy completely unique from its comic book movie peers. There’s a greater sense of playfulness and unpredictable adventure. While the Avengers may prevent New York from being invaded, the Guardians are in large part creating their own issues.
At times Gunn and Perlman try too hard to be funny. It’s not needed since the Guardians are immensely likable and fun to watch interact. Guardians packs a bit more fanboy references than other films. There’s a slew of Easter Eggs not even counting the final post-credit scene.
Ronan is one of the better Marvel Cinematic Universe villains. He’s cold, merciless and cruel. He’s not a quote machine like Loki or a pawn like The Winter Soldier. Pace uses his commanding tone to make Ronan a genuine threat, which is necessary for bad guys taking on a team.
Still, perhaps the most exciting moment in the film features the full appearance of Thanos, who continues to be positioned as the Marvel Studios’ ultimate evil. Thanos gets the perfect amount of screen time to whet your appetite for an extended role. That presumably is slated for the third Avengers film.
Beyond the action and excitement, the film’s soundtrack is a nice surprise. Comprised largely of hits from the 1970s and 1980s, its throwback vibe gives Guardians an 80s Marvel blockbuster feel.
Gunn handles the action moments well despite this being his first big blockbuster-sized film.
In the Marvel Studios’ pantheon of movies, it’s just a notch below the top tier films Marvel’s The Avengers, Captain America: Winter Solider and Iron Man. Considering this is just the Guardian’s first outing, the follow-up could jump right to the top of the MCU films. It’s a testament to the Marvel Machine that it can make seemingly any of its infinite properties a buzz-worthy blockbuster.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a feel good blockbuster done exceptionally right. By the time its sequel arrives in 2017 it and not Warner Bros’ Justice League could prove to be the biggest challenger to the Avengers’ superhero box office supremacy.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures/Marvel