Marvel Studios could now arguably be known as “the happiest place on Earth.” That’s not a reference to Disney buying them out, but a reference to the tremendous product Marvel has continuously put onto the silver screen that make general audiences cheer and hardcore, sweaty nerds squeal like school girls. From Iron Man, to Thor, to The Avengers, they have consistently produced excellent films, and now they cover a new and fresh frontier: Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, with this being a new release, I’ll try to be as spoiler-free as humanly possible.
Let’s start things off with the plot to Marvel’s wild card: Peter Quill (better known to HIMSELF as Star Lord, played by Chris Pratt) comes into possession of an unknown orb and it seems the entire galaxy wants it as well, including some foes we’ve seen before and others we’re meeting for the first time. Through his adventures, Quill meets up with skilled assassin Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), the vengeful Drax the Destroyer (played by on-again/off-again WWE Superstar Dave Bautista), and the mismatched duo known as Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).
One of the running themes in this movie is one we all can relate to, general audience and comic book fans alike: Lost. The fact that these larger than life characters take time out from space battles and showdowns to talk about and confront the tragedies that occurred in their past made me really get behind these five. If I had any advice to people before heading out to see the movie, be sure to go with friends. You’ll probably be closer as a group after you see it.
First, I want to talk about the visual effects and applaud the probably hundreds of men and women who worked on every bit of GOTG, because the movie looks stunning. One quadrant of space looks totally different from the next and you really get sense of vastness. Director James Gunn definitely took inspiration from Star Wars (as one does when creating a space opera) with sweeping shots of galaxies far, far away. I also enjoyed the practical and computer generated aliens, the film featuring so many different designs that no two look alike.
Now, let’s move on to our team: I’ve never really seen Chris Pratt in anything else so this was my first exposure to him and after watching the flick, I can safely say I can’t wait to see him next year in Jurassic World. Pratt as Star Lord is almost like an intergalactic Deadpool at times, spouting off one-liners and making wink-wink references (The Ark of the Convenant from Indiana Jones fame being one of them), but he dials it back for the more dramatic set pieces. Zoe Saldana does it right for the ladies as Gamora, being not a damsel in distress, but a strong and in-depth character with a VERY interesting back story, and it doesn’t hurt that she looks like a green-skinned goddess.We now come to what could have been major disappointments in Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Thankfully, I’m happy to say that this is not the case, as many people are saying that the duo “steal the picture” and they are “the Han Solo & Chewbacca of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Bradley Cooper deserves much praise and probably had the time of his life voicing this character, and it definitely shows in his performance. Rocket can be arrogant at times, stating one of the picture’s best lines: “ain’t no one like me, ‘cept me,” but he does have a soft and caring side to him, especially in the third act. Groot, what can I say about a humanoid tree that hasn’t already been said: he’s as wicked as he is powerful. Yes, he speaks just three simple words: “I Am Groot,” and according to Rocket, “exclusively in that order,” but the character makes up for his limited speech with his body language and how he responds to the actions of his teammates. This is Vin Diesel’s second outing voicing a character with limited speech, the other being the criminally overlooked animated film The Iron Giant.
Hmm, feels like I forgot someone. A massive mountain of a man..er..alien. Ah! Dave Bautista as Drax. The former World Heavyweight Champion will tell you himself that he’s not the greatest actor in the world and trained hard for the role, even breaking down when he heard he got the part. All that training paid off, because Drax has some of the funniest lines in ‘Guardians and the comedic timing of “The Animal” is spot-on. It might be too early to tell, but Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson might need to make room at the top of the professional wrestler-turned-actor mountain.
Every hero needs a foil and The Guardians have theirs in Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace, who wields a wicked warhammer. His accomplice is the cybernetic femme fatale Nebula, played by Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame. This would be, in my view, the weakest part of GOTG; while I really loved Ronan’s look, which was vastly different than anything we’ve seen before, I just think he was a one-note villain. “I want power!” and “I want revenge!” kinda gets mundane after a while. Now as for Nebula, I thought she should have been given much more to work with, since her character’s back story is filled with better material. I wish I could speak of that story further, but alas, this is a spoiler-free review. Great make-up work on Pace’s Ronan and Gillan’s Nebula, by the way. Sadly, Marvel just can’t seem to mimic the success they had with Loki.Rounding out the cast of characters are Glenn Close and John C. Riley as members of the “space police” the Nova Corps, the blue-skinned leader of the outlaws know as The Ravagers, Yondu (played by Michael Rooker, fan-favorite Merle Dixon from The Walking Dead), High-ranking goon of Ronan, Korath (played by Djimon Hounsou), and lastly a figure who enjoys collecting the weird, strange, and rare – The Collector (reprised by Benicio del Toro). Everyone of these characters has their own special moments in the film, and all of them were probably jazzed to leave their respective marks in the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy looks fantastic, but how does it sound? Composer Tyler Bates (whose body of work comprises of the recent Cybertron series of Transformers video games, Watchmen, 300, and James Gunn’s other two works, Slither and Super) does a marvelous job breathing life into the score of this film. Construction on the score was very different than most movie scores, as Gunn filmed to Bate’s music and not the other way round as per usual. (Editor’s Note: Fans of Spielberg will note that one of the most famous examples of this was in E.T., when Spielberg edited/shot the film to match John Williams’ score – in other words, this is not an insignificant event and it shows a lot of respect to Bates) The themes are playful at times and dark & brooding at others. For fans of classic 70’s and 80’s music, you’ll fall head over heels as it’s dripping with hits like Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”, 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, and the ever so popular “Hooked on A Feeling” by Blue Swede. Music lovers, rejoice.
All in all, I think James Gunn has assembled a picture that will be rewatched time and time again for years to come and a ragtag team that will be loved, looked up to, and cosplayed for years to come. Not only is Guardians an entertaining, funny space adventure, but it is one with heart and a few moments where I found myself getting glassy eyed. No surprise that Marvel announced not only an animated series, but a sequel as well.
Thanks for reading and as always, Stomp It.
P.S. – I did catch GOTG in 3D and while I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, it is quite good.