If you’ve entertained any hesitancy on seeing Guardians of the Galaxy because you’re not sure if it’ll be any good, I’m here to tell you to drop those hesitancies right this second. Guardians takes the dysfunctional team dynamic of The Avengers, throws it into a galaxy far, far away, and injects 80s pop culture references aplenty, to become one of the funniest, wackiest, most imaginative pieces of film ever produced. If by some horrible misfortune Marvel Studios stop producing films and their popularity wanes, the cult following that is sure to ensue with this series will live strong and for some time yet. The tenth Marvel Studios film again sets a new standard for the superhero genre and, dare I say, may even give The Avengers a run for their money.
To call Guardians of the Galaxy a superhero film may be a slight stretch, despite existing in the same universe as characters such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. The thing is, Thor is only super on Earth – on Asgard his abilities are just above common. Compared to the humans on earth, Captain America and Iron Man’s strengths are likewise heightened in one form or another above the average human, making them ‘super’heroes. But in space with heightened strength and firepower being the norm, to refer to the vagabond protagonists as superheroes just seems a bit off. I’ll settle for space cowboys though, as the film’s many influences dabble with the very best of the space opera genre.
From the get-go, the film has a staggering amount of swagger about it, never taking itself too seriously (or serious at all), yet it never shies from greatness. And that is aided by the perfect, albeit frankly ridiculous, soundtrack ranging from The Runaways “Cherrybomb,” Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” and even The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” In fact, much of the film revolved around Peter Quill’s cassette player, and his “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” tape, removing the music entirely from the background and placing it into center stage. Amidst Kevin Bacon Footloose jokes and the like, if this movie teaches you anything it’s that it’s never a bad time to dance.
Arguably the main protagonist, Peter Quill (as played by Chris Pratt) is ripped from life on earth as a child in 1988 for reasons unknown until hinted at later in the plot. Direly attempting to make a name for himself under the title “Star Lord”, he becomes an interstellar thief. That is until altercations with the films other stars get them all thrown into prison. He is tasked to bring the team together, and the hilarious absurdity that follows makes it easily Marvel’s most eccentric and funny film to date. He in many ways takes the place of the overconfident space pirate role in Han Solo’s stead.
Gamora, the green chick played by Zoe Saldana, works for Ronan the Accuser as a sort of bounty hunter/assassin, who’s family was ultimately destroyed by the seemingly all-powerful Thanos (who we get a great money shot of near the middle of the film) and she’s reached a point where she can no longer work for either and goes out on her own. Her apprehension and general elitism struck me as very Leia Organa.
Drax “the Destroyer”, played by Batista, is out for revenge on Ronan who killed his family. What most surprised me about this film is actually how much I enjoyed Drax. I completely expected his character just to be the brute in the background, but what I actually found was that his many quirks added some serious laughs to the film. Be it his literal laughter in the presence of intense chaos, or his inability to decipher metaphor, as it goes over his head. “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast and I would catch it.”
Rocket and Groot, the genetically modified raccoon, and the walking, talking tree that can only utter “I am Groot,” were brilliant. Best duo team-up ever. Groot has several moments where he is capable of stealing your heart and capturing your imagination with some truly unique and wonderful abilities, but he is also he possessor of some serious retard-strength. The variations of “I am Groot,” voiced by Vin Diesel, rarely ever get old. A little fun fact, Vin Diesel actually recorded his lines in every language that the film will eventually be translated into. Bradley Cooper’s ‘Rocket’ is a “love him” or “you better love him” kind of character and won’t take lip from anyone. He has a dangerous knowledge of crafting explosive weapons, but also has some serious insecurities that won’t take long to bubble forth. He is a force to be reckoned with.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the under-use of Karen Gillan’s ‘Nebula’, and Benicio del Toro’s ‘The Collector’. Aside from the end-credits sequence, The Collector legitimately gets one good scene. A wasted performance on both accounts, although Nebula gets more screentime. Perhaps the purported 15 minutes of deleted scenes will do them both justice, or a good presence in the sequel will make their casting more worth it. Regardless, the film had very little wrong with it. It was so fast paced that even if there were plot holes, you honestly didn’t have a chance to catch them lest the story leave you behind. Nebula is far better realized/empathized in the Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude comics I reviewed a few weeks back.
The film shoots the Marvel universe right along, ever closer to the inevitable buildup to Avengers 3, where the big bad Thanos will at last take center stage. For those uninitiated, Thanos was first seen in the mid-credits Avengers scene, and was subsequently revealed as the overarching villain for the eventual Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His plan, as is most apparent at this stage is to collect all 6 Infinity Stones to comprise the Infinity Gauntlet, and with this film, we now specifically know of 3. The Tesseract was introduced in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and played a large part in The Avengers. The Aether was introduced in Thor: The Dark World, and eventually given to The Collector in the end credits scene who appropriately says “One down, five to go.” In Guardians we’ve been made aware of a third stone, although they sadly don’t name it. I wish they had, as it feels odd calling it the “third stone.” Between now and Avengers 3, expect at least two more films to deal with these Infinity Stones. The last stone will most likely be introduced within Avengers Three, with Thanos unleashing the full power of the Gauntlet in the third act. Most likely, the Guardians 2 sequel will fulfill the role of bringing another stone to the big screen. And yes, the sequel has already been greenlit for July 28, 2017.
Honestly, the most spectacular thing about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it has been essentially, until now, a completely underground entity. When it was announced this would be in the MCU film roster, there was a collective “huh?” within even the die-hard comic book community. But now their obscurity has turned into one of the biggest successes in comic book movie history. I personally kept my expectations low, until I saw that first trailer. Now that Marvel has pushed this out with the finesse it managed, I have little doubt in the company’s faith with its product – all of its product. Who knows. We may even get a Howard the Duck movie. 😉