Guardians of the Galaxy ****
One Liner Review:
It’s Star Wars meets Avatar with some Raiders of the Lost Arc thrown in there as well, this movie is lively, exciting, and completely adventurous.
This is a fun movie. it’s got it all, and it delivers in nearly every way possible. first and foremost is the action. it might be computer generated (mostly), but it’s fantastic. so are the characters and their individual personalities. how this movie manages to make a walking tree with only one saying interesting is a remarkable accomplishment. there is great humor here and an energetic carefree tone of just going for it, without holding back. there might be some minor areas of improvement (more story to some characters), but for the most part this is just pure great entertainment.
There is so much to like about Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe it’s because we don’t really know these characters (unlike, say Spider Man or Wolverine), and so the team behind the movie has a lot of freedom to play around with. Still, whatever the reason, the film is clearly a great success. it’s got humor and an unpredictable tone (meaning it often goes from serious to funny in the blink of an eye.) It’s also got some fantastic action with a vast galactic landscape and epic scope. Like Star Wars or Avatar, this movie creates new and original worlds and doesn’t hold back.
It also gives us multiple villains who are all connected. This is how you handle more than one villain in a movie and get it right. Spider Man 3, Batman Forever, the Amazing Spider Man 2, or any other movie that tried to throw in a ton of villains, and didn’t know how, should take note. You don’t leave each villain for a different portion of the film. Instead, you keep weaving them in throughout the story, connecting them to each other or to the other things that are taking place with the main characters. Here, we get four villains. That’s the same number as in Batman Begins, the only other superhero movie which juggled a multitude of villains in a successful manner that only added to the movie’s greatness.
Our villains are Ronan the Acusor (the main villain), Nebula (his second in command), Thanos (his boss), and Yondu (the bounty hunter who has been crossed by our hero and is seeking revenge.) The reason why they work is because nothing is forced. They all don’t have to be given their moment fighting against the main hero, for example (like in Spider Man 2, with an ending that felt both important and rushed.) Instead, they appear in different capacities and only enough to further the story. Thanos, for example, has only one scene, and it is a great one. He’s like the Joe Chill character in Batman Begins (the guy who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents), meaning he is only in there to feed the plot, and not to get attention for himself.
There are tons of characters in this movie, and nearly every one of them is terrific. Those villains all hit their notes just right. More importantly, however, our team of heroes is composed of actors who are giving it their all and really have an understanding of how to make their characters work. The Guardians are a team of misfits who have been kicked around and treated poorly their entire lives. The theme about how they are a bunch of losers who form an unlikely friendship is repeated throughout the movie, and it all leads up to some great moments toward the end.
This team is composed of five members. There is Star Lord, (given name Peter Quill), played by Chris Pratt. Like Robert Downey Jr. basically playing himself in Iron Man, it’s the same thing going on here. Pratt is playing a goofy, fun version of himself and having a blast doing it. His character doesn’t seem to take much very seriously or to ever be too far away from the next joke. Quill is joined by the green Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana who looks incredibly hot. We’ve seen her in Avatar and Star Trek, among other films, but she has never looked better than she does here. Director James Gunn really knows how to shoot this character right in order to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Aside from those two, there is also Rocket, a raccoon who is the result of all kinds of genetic experiments, and his friend Groot, a walking tree who only says three words, “I am Groot.” He says these words in different ways throughout the film, and doesn’t overdo it, so that they never get tired or annoying or old. That in itself is impressive. It’s a repeated joke that never really feels repetitious. And then there’s Drax, the Destroyer, a blue skinned, red marked giant bear of a guy played by wrestler Dave Batista. This character has a lot of personality, as he doesn’t understand sarcasm or metaphors and as a result we get lots of humorous moments (my favorite is when he easily admits he wasn’t listening to a conversation that was happening just moments ago.)
With so many characters, it’s amazing that most of them get developed pretty well. We learn a good amount about all of our team members, and most of these guys have got it pretty rough. Rocket’s experiment situation is hard, and Drax has lost his entire family at the hands of Ronan. There is so much character work here, that it’s no wonder the movie doesn’t have enough time to also develop some of the more minor characters who are played by big actors. Glen Close, John C. Reiley, and Djimon Honshu, all appear in the film, and aren’t given enough to do. That’s not a fault of the movie, there just simply isn’t enough time. We are lucky that the movie finds ways to take other side players like Michael Rooker and Benecio Del Toro, and make their characters significant. Del Toro’s character, The Collector, is the one who gets to explain the Infinity Stones to us. These will be important as the Marvel Cinematic Universe goes on (the Tesseract from the Avengers was but one of these stones.)
There’s a lot that works about this movie from the characters to the humor. The story isn’t anything spectacular, but that’s okay because it is enough to get the job done and take us where we need to go. It’s the action and colorful set pieces that really get us involved. From adult Peter Quill’s very first scene, exploring a series of caves and temples, as he tries to steal a precious item (just like the opening of Raiders of the Lost Arc), we are interested in this character and this world.
The movie has action going on throughout the duration of the film. And this action is impressive. There are tons of fights and wonderful choreography. There’s also great weapon-work and gunplay. And then there are the creative moments, like when Groot decides to grow out one of his arms as a lengthy tree branch and uses it to stab a bunch of guys. He then turns this arm into a skewer turned bat to knock a whole bunch of other guys down. Even Yondu, a side villain, gets his moment in the sun, as he takes down an army of attackers with a single arrow.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a James Gunn film, and the fact that Marvel tapped this guy to make such a big budget movie is totally to the studios credit. Gunn has made some quiet low key movies that are smart, but weird. His film Super was about a vigilante turned superhero and the story wasn’t afraid to go to some pretty dark places. Guardians is fused with the same kinds of smarts. The humor and language don’t hold back for a family friendly tone, (Jackson Pollack joke, anyone,) and the action and excitement go all out. There are dogfight spaceship battles that feel like a combination of Star Wars and Avatar, and that’s some pretty good company to be in. This movie doesn’t feel so much like a superhero movie as it does like a space opera. It’s the modern day Star Wars (and wants to be that, with similarities including hologram messages, a villain who wears a black hood like Darth Vader, and the band of strange creatures packed together on a space ship. Our hero is even an orphan, just like Luke Skywalker.) Guardians is a fantastic movie that nails nearly every punch, every character, and every joke.