Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy
Many saw this film as a crazy Avengers in space Star Wars ripoff, that was too obscure to appeal to a wide audience and was likely going to be Marvel’s next misstep if not their biggest flop. Less than a week and over $170 million later, there’s only one thing to say to those folks… I. Am. Groot!
You can take that to mean whatever you want. I’m the first one to argue a films gross as an indication of whether it’s good or not, but in this case it is. I’m not however, going to argue with the comparisons that those and other people have made, because they are entitled to their opinions and in many ways they are correct. Except the Star Wars thing, that’s just stupid. Red uniforms, alien warbirds and lovely green ladies, it’s obviously more like Star Trek.
Alright then, let’s lock and load. Oh, and let’s set the mood if you’d be so inclined and I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but no promises.
Guardians of the Galaxy (or, How I Learned to Stop Being an A-Hole and Got Hooked on a Feeling), has something for everyone. As long as everyone wants a visually engaging space adventure that’s light on plot and heavy on Marvel lore and awkward humour. If you think that’s me being critical of the movie it’s not, I really enjoyed it and think that keeping the plot simple is one of the keys to its success. Face it, there have been some very good movies with little to no plot.
Lost In Translation
Or, how about The Empire Strikes Back?
Usually, when the main plot of the film is spelled out in the title, that’s a bad sign. Think any thing in which Ernest or Harold & Kumar go somewhere or do something. But sometimes a simple plot works best and allows something truly entertaining to unfold. A couple of my favourite movies have simple plots, but they manage to make the most of a minimal narrative, most notably The Blues Brothers. Guardians follows a simple formula that Marvel has hit with before and they have the ability to tweak it and make it different enough to stay fresh and fun.
Will audiences keep falling for this story? Yes, yes we will. At least we will when the Defenders miniseries brings together the heroes of Hell’s Kitchen on Netflix and possibly when they announce the Invaders or whatever team follows up the current Avengers. Will it be Dark, Secret, New, Young? Who knows, but I seriously doubt it’ll be West Coast.
Ready for a change of tune? Here you go. Gunn did a lot of smart things with this movie, this time the star (Lord) is the audience avatar and he could not be more an everyman if he tried. Not exactly a born leader, Quill is crass, greedy and not particularly bright. He mostly relies on the furry to come up with the plans (how great is that?!) and while it would seem he can talk himself into getting what he wants, his exit strategy is always fly by the seat of your pants. In the end, his stepping up is equal parts heroic and practical (“Because I’m one of the idiots who lives there!”) as he finally gets to be the outlaw hero he’s always seen himself as. He gets the majority of character development, which both works well and is disappointing because we’ll have to wait for the sequel to let Rocket, Gamora and poor Drax get something other then a back story synopsis. The characters are established and enjoyable at this stage and the motivations of the villiains needed to be covered as well, so there’s only so much time to go around and the pacing is fast without being frantic. The villain isn’t one dimensional in this and has motivations as rooted in galactic politics as they are deeply personal and then there’s the big bad in the background, pulling strings and setting up dominos.
There’s a lot going on in the background of this movie. It immediately struck me as the well crafted film equivalent of pop culture nesting dolls. There’s a great supporting cast, Glenn Close (all the Novas really), Michael Rooker, Josh Brolin and pretty much everyone was firing on all on all cylinders. Some minor over acting and the missed opportunity to bring in some interesting voice talent for Rocket are the only complaints I could make in that department. Another great aspect was the soundtrack. Honestly, it felt like a Tarantino soundtrack from the get go and that’s a compliment in my book. Everything fit and moved things along while maintaining a constant link to the emotional core of the film and Star Lord’s journey. Speaking of which. A solid soundtrack is a joy in itself and elevates a film in the eyes of music geeks, integrating that soundtrack into the film well is doing something special. Hmmm, minimal plot AND a catchy soundtrack!? I guess Star Wars isn’t the only Lucas film the creators watched.
The star studded voicing in the film was mostly spot on for me and even Seth Green’s voice was funny at the end. I’ll say though, as much as I liked Vin Diesel as Groot, this voice over still didn’t beat Iron Giant as my favourite role of his.
I mentioned all that was going on in the background and there was more than enough to satiate the standard Marvel fan and lots of little jokes peppered though out. My wife was laughing during the booking scene and afterward she said it was because Quill’s wrap sheet read like a young Kirk. I personally liked that even more, since Pratt had auditioned for the role in the reboot that eventually went to Chris Pine. They created lots of threads to be pulled on down the line and established so many cosmic entities in the Marvel Universe and set up the introduction of so many more (though I wonder if the link to the Shi’ar Empire could or will be followed up).
Again though, Marvel perfectly creates a balance between empathy and excitement keeping destruction at a minimum, while making it feel like the stakes are high enough. The possible loss, an entire planet (to start), the end result though was a sizable amount of destruction with minimal loss of life. A big part of that was quick, competent thinking on the part of the Nova corps and that wily Raccoon. Again, making Rocket the brain of the outfit is charming and fun and I was looking forward to that since the announcement of the movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a purely entertaining experience for me and my family. It’s a great example of a film crafted for a wide audience that still manages to service fans without feeling like things have been shoe-horned in. Its links to the greater thread in the MCU is obvious and up front, so there was no need to tease that link in the end credits which simultaneously are played for fun and one last moment in which Marvel reminds you how big and crazy their cosmic side can be. While not as strong a story as Winter Soldier, it’s easily the most fun film in the MCU and will no doubt be the favourite for some based on that fact and it’s strong allusions to classic genre fare like Raiders and Star Wars, while still appealing to fans of comic book sensibilities.
Verdict: I honestly don’t understand why you haven’t watched it yet and certainly can’t see why you’d need to read any review to convince you. It’s all there in the trailers, so much so that additional footage was shot just for the trailers that wouldn’t have fit into the movie scenes they appear to belong too. Again, smart. Is it a perfect movie? No, but its flaws are obvious and they have no need to apologize because it all still works. It’s all laid before you and it delivers exactly as promised. You can’t ask for much more from a movie going experience. For me, it’s a 4 and a half star film, but we don’t do half measures here, so it’s 4 stars and you’ll just have to live with it! I will leave you with this though, enjoy.
If you really liked the soundtrack, you can buy it here and keep the groove going with Awesome Mix Vol. 1
Also, if you really loved Rocket in the film, or have been a fan of the furball forever, his creator Bill Mantlo has hit hard times after a tragic accident several years ago and you can donate to his ongoing medical bills here if you want to thank him for his contributions to comicdom. Thank you.