I’ll admit it: I thought Guardians of the Galaxy was going to bomb. When Ben described the concept to me, I was beyond skeptical that this would work. I mean, two of the main characters are a tree-like creature and a talking raccoon. What’s up with that? Marvel had taken some big risks with it’s movies, but they were still grounded in a bit of reality. How the hell was this going to feel like it was in the same universe where Captain America and Iron Man reside?
Boy, was I ever wrong. Guardians not only smashed it at the box office, but it completely converted me to a fan. This is such a cleverly written, well acted, and excellently scored film. I had to see it twice in the theater. I told Ben we had to buy it before Christmas, breaking my rule that he can’t buy himself anything between November 1 and his birthday in January. We’ve only watched it once since purchasing, so far anyway. I’d be up for another watch this week.
What I loved most about Guardians of the Galaxy is that it is a truly joyful comic book film, and I have not seen one in ages. DC has completely given up adding any levity or color to its movies. Batman went dark, which was fine in the context of Gotham City. But this gritty realism was carried into Man of Steel in order to provide continuity for an upcoming Justice League movie, making it horribly depressing. At the same time, Marvel’s outings have gotten drearier as well. Yes, they hold a lot more humor, but the story lines themselves are darker than they were five years ago (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 are the best examples of this, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron looks like it will also follow suit.).
But not Guardians. This movie is filled with loads of humor from start the finish, and it in no way compromises the drama or action that also makes it a great film. It’s clear that everyone involved is having a lot of fun, and no one more so than Chris Pratt. He’s basically gone from supporting goofball to leading goofball overnight. Pratt brings a blend of sarcasm and earnestness to the role of Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, a space outlaw who acquires an orb that could destroy the galaxy if it falls into the wrong hands. He is supported by an ensemble cast that is absolute perfection. Zoe Saldana is excellent as assassin Gamora, and Vin Diesel manages to do a lot voicing Groot, a tree-like creature, despite basically having only one line (“I am Groot.”) repeated with various inflections. But the real standouts for me are Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer and Bradley Cooper as Rocket. Drax is the straight guy of the group, and Bautista nails the dryness in his delivery. This is the last character you’d expect to provide any comic relief, but he provides some killer lines throughout the film. Rocket is a genetically modified raccoon and an all around bad ass. If I didn’t know his voice was Bradley Cooper’s I never would have guessed it. This is so different than anything he’s ever done, and he’s great at it.
My absolute favorite part of this movie is the soundtrack. The movie uses several rock and pop hits from the 70s and 80s, brought into the universe via a mix tape Peter’s mother gives him before her death. He’s basically been cruising the galaxy listening to his Walkman ever since, clinging to this small connection to his mother and Earth. It’s a brilliant way to ground the film, providing a familiar touchstone to the audience while introducing unfamiliar alien species and locales. It’s also just really awesome. The trailer very cleverly used Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” but for me the best inclusion is “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. I just love the way the movie’s title was splashed on the screen in time with the opening beats of this song. For me it signaled that Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be something special. A little different and a lot of fun, but undeniably special.
I don’t know what made Marvel decide that this group of characters deserved their own movie, but I am sure glad they did. The Guardians of the Galaxy were certainly not one of Marvel’s staple comic book franchises. I consider myself to be a pretty hard core fanboy, and I had no idea who Star Lord or Rocket Raccoon were until this movie was announced at Comic-Con a few years ago. I have a lot of respect for the guys at Marvel that seem to know their audience so well and consistently deliver quality comic book films that leave all of their competition for dead. Nobody else can match them in terms of quality and diversity of their films.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and a group of galaxy trotting deadbeats he befriends who inadvertently end up saving the galaxy. During an awesome opening sequence, Quill stumbles upon a mysterious orb that everyone in the galaxy is looking for. Running off with this orb gets a price on his head, and when Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a talking raccoon, and Groot (Vin Diesel), a giant tree, try to collect they are interrupted by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who also wants the orb. The four of them find themselves in an intergalactic prison called the Kyln. The four decide on a temporary alliance to break out and sell the orb for all it’s worth. Along the way they pick up Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista), a broken man looking to avenge the death of his family. The man responsible for their death is also the villain of the piece, a mad man called Ronan (Lee Pace). He is also wanting to get his hands on this orb and use its power to destroy his rivals. Quill and his new team must keep this orb out of his hands if they hope to spend more time in the galaxy before Ronan destroys it all.
This is such a fun film. I have been a huge fan of Chris Pratt ever since his time on Everwood. I love his character on Parks and Recreation, and I’m thrilled he is finally being seen by a large audience. Pratt makes this film, his character of Peter Quill (also known as Star Lord to those who will listen) is truly a cross between Indiana Jones and Han Solo. This movie announced the arrival of Pratt, who for so long was written off as the goofy best friend in films like The Five Year Engagement. This movie shows that he has all the makings of a solid and charming leading man. I am really excited to see his next adventure, a follow up to 90s dinosaur romp Jurassic Park, and I obviously can’t wait for him to return as Star Lord in the sequel to this brilliant film. The rest of the cast is a lot of fun too. Bradley Cooper is awesome as the sarcastic Rocket. Sometimes it is hard to even tell it is Cooper talking, but he does such a great job. As does Vin Diesel as Groot. The giant tree only has a limited vocabulary (4 words to be exact, “I am Groot,” and once he says “We are Groot” when he’s being heroic), but Diesel apparently recorded the line over a thousand times until he was happy with each delivery. The two CG characters of Groot and Rocket could so easily have been a joke, but they are done so well. This film just has so much heart and is the most enjoyable time I have had watching a movie in a long time.
I can’t end this review unless I speak about the soundtrack. Director James Gunn has assembled a brilliant mix of 70s and 80s pop/rock hits. Gunn was going for a tongue in cheek tone of film and the soundtrack fits it perfectly. This was the first soundtrack I have bought in years and I love just about every song on it. The opening sequence to “Come and Get Your Love” is fantastic and sets the tone for what is one of the best movie rides I’ve had in years.