Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guadians of the Galaxy

Rating

Director
James Gunn
Screenplay
James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (Comic Book: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning)
Length
121 min.
Starring
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Laura Haddock, Sean Gunn
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

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Review
When talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it becomes imperative to compare each film with its predecessors. However, Guardians of the Galaxy almost defies comparison. Whereas many of the prior films have had veins of humor running through their plotting, Guardians makes the humor a more pervasive and inspired part of its narrative, which moves the film in a decidedly new and fascinating direction.

James Gunn, who got his start at Troma entertainment, has had a varied career with Hollywood, writing the screenplays for the two live-action Scooby-Doo films, the first proving to be quite popular; and the positively received remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. With his directorial career, a new style developed with the acclaimed horror film , followed by superhero seriocomedy Super. With an appreciation for the macabre and the farcical, Gunn seemed like a decent fit for the heavily tongue-in-cheek Guardians of the Galaxy. His deft craftsmanship, clever use of comedic elements and sense of grand scale adventure combine to form a near-perfect piece of cinematic pulp art. Were the film not so amazingly popular, it would almost fit perfectly within the vaunted Midnight Movie circuit of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Adapted from the popular, if niche comic book world of Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn’s screenplay introduces and collects a quintet of diametrically opposed individuals to serve as protectors of this small section of the universe. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), abducted from earth as a child, has made a name for himself as an outlaw, a thief and a ladies’ man. Guided by the only mementos of his dying mother, Peter adopts the name Star-Lord as a moniker that he hopes will gain him fame in the galaxy, but which no one can seem to remember. Pratt’s appealing comic timing gives Quill a egotistically humane quality. He genuinely cares about those around him even if they are trying to kill him, which most of his cohorts are.

Zoe Saldana is given little narrative impetus to develop her character, a pawn in Ronan the Accuser’s (an wonderfully vicious Lee Pace) plot to destroy his mortal enemies. Gamora is a green-skinned, sexy combat expert who wants to distance herself from Ronan’s machinations, if only she can capture the orb Peter possesses. Also on Peter’s tail are a pair of mismatched anthropomorphized critters. Rocket, a cybernetically-enhanced raccoon, is voiced with great fervor by Bradley Cooper; and Groot, a genial tree creature. Given voice by Vin Diesel, Groot knows only three words: “I am Groot.” Strung together with differing intonations, only Rocket can understand what he’s actually saying, but this gives Diesel a lot of room to play with vocal fluctuations and trills while injecting each recitation with subtext. Diesel’s is probably the most impressive performance in the film, simply for having such a complex task of making “I am Groot” not sound like a one-time-recorded sound bit played every time Groot opens his mouth.

After getting captured and tossed in prison, the foursome attract the attention of a vengeance-seeking warrior covered in rigid red tattoos and with absolutely no desire to wear a shirt. WWE wrestler Dave Bautista doesn’t have the most entertaining character, but he gives a surprisingly strong performance as a vindictive man who wants to avenge the death of his wife and child and whose culture has no understanding of subtext, dishonesty or non-literal discourse. Ostensibly a character that could have become a villain, his deep compassion enables him to support the team as one of the most surprisingly compassionate of the group outside of its unchallenged leader Peter.

One of the biggest issues in the superhero world is the introduction of too many characters. Aside from the five central members of the Guardians, there are ostensibly three villains, two are subordinates of Ronan the Accuser, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou); a confused military adviser (John C. Reilly); a compassionate leader (Glenn Close); a rare items collector (Benicio del Toro); and Peter’s father figure Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker). They aren’t given a lot of room to develop, but the actors impart enough personality to make them feel necessary in the grand orchestration of the plot.

Gunn, who got his start at Troma entertainment, has had a varied career with Hollywood, writing the screenplays for the two live-action Scooby-Doo films, the first proving to be quite popular; and the positively received remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. With his directorial career, a new style developed with the acclaimed horror film , followed by superhero seriocomedy Super. With an appreciation for the macabre and the farcical, Gunn seemed like a decent fit for the heavily tongue-in-cheek Guardians of the Galaxy. His deft craftsmanship, clever use of comedic elements and sense of grand scale adventure combine to form a near-perfect piece of cinematic pulp art. Were the film not so amazingly popular, it would almost fit perfectly within the vaunted Midnight Movie circuit of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Guardians of the Galaxy rests in the upper tier of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It doesn’t need to be ranked as it feels both a part of the universe and as a stand alone feature. This is the first of the Phase 2 films from the Disney/Marvel classification, so perhaps future outings will fit together with Guardians and a secondary ranking structure can develop. While it’s a genuinely more accomplished film at times than The Avengers, if I had to compare the two, I’d say they are about equally impressive with Guardians barely eking out a victory, both of which are surpassed easily by the marvelous Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Oscar Prospects
Guarantees: Visual Effects
Probables: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
Potentials: Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup & Hairstyling
Review Written
August 12, 2014

1 Comment

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  1. Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing short of an amazing movie. If there’s anything I can say, it’s that it is the best superhero movie I have seen. Not only does it have the impressive set pieces and enough action to last you a lifetime, it has an emotional core and you actually get to care about each and every single character. Overall this movie is filled with all the required thrills and spills and is a first class action movie. It also has a great mixture of comedic value and a deal of seriousness.

    The film’s unlikely hero is Quill (Chris Pratt), an eccentric gunfighter in the Han Solo mould who we meet stealing a metal orb coveted by the evil warlord Ronan. When he dispatches his top assassin, the green- skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to recover the artifact, the pair find themselves locked up, along with the galaxy’s most unlikely bounty hunters – a gun-toting raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick (Vin Diesel) who just happens to be a walking tree. All the actors do a great job at portraying there characters, they feel real beings. You get to know about them and their struggles and you become attached to them. Every character in the movie got their time to shine, especially Rocket Raccoon who is voiced perfectly by Bradley Cooper. Everyone is pitch perfect in their roles even Batista!

    For those that want specifics: effects were top notch, acting was excellent, story lines were compelling, the comedy was perfect 99.5% of the time and surprise there were a lot of one line typical superhero zingers that worked really well. What really can’t be stressed enough is just how insanely fun and entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy is for literally its entire two-hour-plus run-time. I still have a hard time wrestling with who was my favorite actor in this. all in all, the film is brilliantly well done, action scenes are engrossing and genuinely done, you genuinely worry about certain characters and I for one was thrilled with it. Go see this.

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