Guardians of the Galaxy is the tenth film in Marvel’s cinematic universe and it easily ranks as one of their best. The movie follows the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) a.k.a. Star Lord, a human who discovered the wider reaches of the universe at an early age. As an adult he seeks adventure and the next big score. Early in the movie he is pursuing the latest score, a mysterious orb of unknown origin and power. Before he can get away with the booty, Star Lord is attacked by Korath (Djimon Hounsou). Korath works for Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who wants the orb for his own nefarious reasons. Star Lord manages to escape with the orb and heads for the planet Xandar, home of the galactic police force, the Nova Corps. After his deal goes south, Star Lord is attacked by the deadly and green Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who also wants to use the orb to double cross Ronan. While the two fight over the orb, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) step in, trying to capture Star Lord for a bounty on his head. The four cause a very public disturbance and some property damage which draws the attention of the Nova Corps who promptly arrest them and send them to the intergalactic prison called the Kyln.
Inside the Kyln, the criminal quartet draw quite a lot of attention. Gamora’s reputation precedes her, and Rocket publicly declares that Peter Quill is his and Groot’s property. They soon meet another infamous character, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Star Lord has to talk him down from killing Gamora, and the five form eventually form a tenuous alliance. Upon entering the Kyln, Rocket boasts that he has broken out of 22 prisons and soon, with the aid of his new friends, he makes it 23. From the Kyln, the group travels to Knowhere, a mining operation carved out of a giant floating head in space where Gamora plans to meet a buyer for the orb. Things go bad when it turns out that the orb contains more power than they ever imagined, and from bad to worse when Ronan shows up. After a skirmish with Ronan and is troops, Star Lord and Gamora are left for dead in the depths of space. They are rescued by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his Ravagers, the ones that took Peter Quill in as a child, and currently have a bounty out on him. Meanwhile, Drax, Rocket and Groot are stuck on Knowhere. They agree to work together and find Star Lord and Gamora. Once they do, they end up working with the Ravagers to stop Ronan from using the orb to blow up Xandar.
The final act begins with the band of outlaws deciding to be heroes and do what is right. They form a plan and get matching uniforms. They warn the Nova Corps of what is coming, and finally announce themselfs as the Guardians of the Galaxy. They work with Yondu and his Ravager fleet to make a final assault on Ronan’s ship before it can reach the surface of Xandar. An epic space battle worthy off Star Wars ensues. Some of the Guardians infiltrate Ronan’s ship, while the rest work with the Nova Corps to protect the planet below. They have to find their way through Nebula (Karen Gillan), Ronan’s henchwoman and Gamora’s sister before eventually having a showdown with Ronan himself. In the end, the Guardians prove themselves to be heroes and save the day, as expected, then take off into the cosmos to find their next adventure.
I would call Guardians of the Galaxy an unqualified triumph. It takes a group of obscure characters, even in the comics world, and made a highly entertaining film that appeals to pretty much everyone. It plays as more off a space adventure film like Star Wars or The Fifth Element than the typical super hero fare that Marvel has become known for. Except for Star Lord, all of the main characters are aliens. Two of them are completely CGI (Fortunately for everyone, they are nothing like Jar Jar Binks). Director James Gunn, who is known mostly for his work on cult films Slither and Super proves that he more than has the chops to take on a big budget film imbued with action, humor and heart.
Guardians has an ensemble cast and everyone gets a chance to shine. Chris Pratt gives us everything we need to know about Star Lord in an early scene when he dances to an oldie while working his way toward a treasure. He shows the trademark humor he has become known for in his role as Andy on Parks and Recreation, though Star Lord is much more sly and quick witted than Andy, and far less doughy. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora as cold and strong, a woman that was trained to be a weapon, but she hasn’t lost the ability to feel good emotions. She is willing to use her skills to fight for what she knows to be right. Pro wrestler Bautista plays Drax, the hardened killing machine that lost his family, very seriously. But somehow he manages to have some of the funniest moments in the movie. I normally assume that wrestlers make for mediocre actors, and while Bautista won’t be winning any Oscars, he certainly showed a gift for comedic timing and delivery that was pleasantly surprising. Then we get to the CGI characters. First off, let me just say that the CGI in this film, at least for Rocket and Groot, was superb. One thing that has always been hard to portray realistically with CGI is fur, so I can only imagine how challenging it was to bring Rocket Raccoon to life. However, we get to see his fur move, we see it wet, we see it matted after being slept on. He and Groot also have a wonderful range of facial expressions and body language. These are particularly important for Groot, who technically only has one line in the movie. Bradly Coopers voice acting for Rocket is spot on. It’s pretty much exactly what I would have expected from Rocket. It just hits all the right notes. The variety of ways Vin Diesel manages to deliver the line, “I am Groot” is impressive and entertaining.
The pace of the movie is pretty fast, jumping from one scene to the next without much time to slow down. There is a lot going on and many characters to keep track of. As such, there is a fair amount of exposition. This is a double edged sword as a lot of talking can bog down a movie, but since most people will be going into the film unfamiliar with its trappings, the explanations are necessary. Fortunately most of the dialogue is snappy and infused with humorous banter to keep it from getting to heavy or dull. I think this sort of thing is typical of a first film though, so the already announced sequel should be free from extraneous exposition.
It is nice to see Marvel try something a little different with Guardians. This gives me much hope for future movies with lesser known characters. On the other hand, we know that this movie takes place in the same universe as The Avengers and the rest of the Marvel films, and I’ve even heard a rumor that the two teams could someday meet on screen. These two movies are right at the top of the heap for me, in terms of Marvel’s best, so it would be pretty epic to see one big free-for-all that mashes the two franchises together.
As a final note, I’m not much of a fan of 3D, but I have seen Guardians in both IMAX 3D and traditional 2D. The 3D, while not the best I’ve seen, was well done and worth checking out.
Find out more about the Guardians of the Galaxy on the official movie site!