Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Awesome Mix cassette tapes for this awesome movie that has broken box office records for August releases and whose praise is well deserved. This movie is thoroughly entertaining and doesn’t ever take itself too seriously, making it a refreshingly daring endeavor– not only where Marvel’s cinematic canon is concerned but also with regard to our current landscape of superhero films that often veer toward the dark and brooding and formulaic. Boisterous and irreverent, this film also serves as a big, brazen and sometimes bawdy science-fiction flick whose sense of humor, scale and scope are reminiscent of Star Wars— and it’s truly a testament to the quality of this movie that I’m not the first or only person to assert such a claim.
Guardians of the Galaxy was one of my most highly anticipated films of the entire year, and definitely my most highly anticipated film of the summer, and it did not disappoint. Its complex story is sorted out and propelled forward by its charismatic cast and grounded in an otherwise strong script. The band of misfits include Peter Quill/Star Lord, played to comic perfection by Chris Pratt, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced hilariously by Bradley Cooper), and the lovable standout Groot (whose oddly emotive three-word line “I am Groot” was brought to life by Vin Diesel). They’re brought together by greed, theft, and revenge when a mysterious orb is stolen– everyone wants it or wants to sell it, but why?
The answer lies in Lee Pace’s hammy, over-the-top, power hungry villain, Ronan. After some brief and ever so slightly convoluted exposition concerning a peace treaty and interstellar genocide, we realize that with the possession of this orb, Ronan can fully defy said treaty and destroy whole worlds. So needless to say, a zany, action-packed manhunt begins when these mismatched companions are finally given a chance– a chance to give a shit.
The film is intensely watchable– it is colorful, loud, smart, funny, exhilarating and always offbeat, even when it does follow a formula of sorts. Guardians of the Galaxy is also an underdog story with a particularly ballsy tone, and in a way, it is masquerading as an epic space saga, but the masquerade works incredibly well and it is, above all else, a ton of fun to watch.
Further, the galaxy in question is fascinatingly intricate but it is also quirky and imperfect– this is not a science-fiction story or comic book adaptation whose concerns are merely black and white, good and evil. I think what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so great is that it explores the very vibrant middle ground, in which good and bad coexist, particularly within each individual member of this motley crew, and where there also exists the strange and the silly in grandiose measure.
Even with all the heroism and sentimentality to be had as the film barrels toward its conclusion, nothing ever feels cheesy, or if it does, it does so with full awareness, and our heroes still exhibit a ragtag kind of chemistry no matter how valiant they have proven themselves to be, as individuals or as a team.
The performances are wonderful, the special effects are all consistently dazzling, and there are innumerable opportunities to laugh out loud– Groot and Rocket are notably amusing, though Drax has his moments too (especially when it comes to metaphors) and Pratt proves himself to be a dynamic lead by perfectly balancing heartache and a goofy brand of cockiness as Quill/Star Lord, effortlessly combining those facets at times, singing and dancing to distract his enemies.
Speaking of singing, I clearly cannot sing the praises of Guardians of the Galaxy enough. After all, in what other sci-fi/comic book movie would a corny classic pop soundtrack work so well to establish tone and to partially drive certain aspects of a plot about alien lands and unlikely saviors– saviors that include a genetically engineered raccoon and a walking tree who has a limited vocabulary, no less? The answer is, you won’t quickly, or perhaps ever, find a film like Guardians of the Galaxy– in this or in any other respect. It is not simply a successful film, but it is also truly special.