Movie Review: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (Disney/Marvel Studios) Spoiler Free

This review is spoiler-free Marvel studios has been making money hands (multiple) over fist with their newest comic-themed movie line up dubbed “Phase 2” starting with Iron Man 3, then […]

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This review is spoiler-free

Marvel studios has been making money hands (multiple) over fist with their newest comic-themed movie line up dubbed “Phase 2” starting with Iron Man 3, then Thor: The Dark World, and then Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s been a good year for Marvel. One would expect them to continue along this same path by starting immediate production on more movies that fit into the Avengers timeline. Surprisingly, Kevin Feige of Marvel has been very vocal about the studios intention to continue to do what no one would expect, and in 2011 they did just that by announcing the official production on an adaptation of one of Marvel’s most obscure properties, Guardians of the Galaxy. What’s more, veteran indie movie superstar James Gunn had been tapped to co-write and direct the film. It seemed that at any moment, Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon were gonna jump out and shout “PSYCH!”, and so fans sat still and waited for the other shoe to drop.

Lo, and Behold. Three years later Marvel has kept their word and released a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and it’s nowhere near what you thought it would be. In fact, it’s so much better. Visually stunning, cleverly written, charismatically acted, and absolutely hilarious. It takes so many chances at every turn, you can practically hear the filmmakers holding their breaths. James Gunn breezes confidently in to the world of big budget high sci-fi, and maintains the same level of heart as seen in his indie movie roots.

The Characters: The Guardians themselves are the highest point of the movie, with each one bringing an entertaining, yet incredibly well rounded personality to the group. Chris Pratt’s Star Lord immediately comes across as funny, goofy, and baddass, with a Tony Stark-like level of wit. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is similar in many reguardians-galaxy-movie-previewspects to characters she’s already played. Essentially she’s a cross between Aisha from the Losers and Neytiri from Avatar, but her dialogue, delivery, and action scenes really make her stand out. Vin Diesel is brilliantly back in Iron Giant form as Groot, the gentle and child-like yet hulking and dangerous companion to Bradley Cooper and Sean Gunn’s Rocket. The big surprise ends up being David Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer. His character’s tragic past and quest for vengeance aside, he brings a lot of heart and love to the team, and a surprising amount of humor.

Rocket

“I’m only interested in the simple things…like how much this is going to hurt.”

And now for the biggie. Did Rocket work? Did he ever! Bradley Cooper embodies the role fantastically and creates more than just a mascot, but a genuinely clever and multilayered character of real substance. James Gunn has been incredibly vocal about how important Rocket’s role in the team has been to him, so it’s nice to see him succeed so completely.  Sean Gunn turns out as the visual stand in for Rocket, who’s movements and body language really added to the personality, making Rocket the most interesting thing going on every time he’s on screen.

Steal from everyone

 

Side characters that deserve a special note are John C Reilly as Nova Corpsman Dey who brings his trademark everyman charm to a small but sweet role, Glenn Close as Nova Prime who embodies a sense of true authority, Karen Gillan who makes for an incredible showing in her first big action role, Josh Brolin truly shakes the screen as Thanos, and Lee Pace is intense as Ronan the Accuser (but comes nowhere near matching the menace he shows in his role as Thranduil in the Hobbit movies). But the supporting character gold goes to Michael Rooker as Yondu. He’s loud, brash, stupid, and incredibly dangerous. Yondu is the “evil you know” of the movie, and never comes off as too good or too bad. He’s always self-serving and yet still completely loyal to his crew of Ravagers. His character is well established as sort of the mentor to our hero Peter Quill (aka Star Lord), and the chemistry between the two characters is an indication of that relationship, not to mention clear evidence to why Quill is the way he is.

The Story: Honestly the story is pretty standard. You’ve probably seen it in the exact order each set-piece is presented in, so it’s not like it’s terribly original. It fits vaguely in to the Avenger’s timeline, but never gets very close to what’s happening on earth.  But it’s not the story that makes the whole thing work.  It’s the…

The mask looks just in cool in action as it does in the stills

Atmosphere: This is it. This is what make Guardians of the Galaxy such a triumph. Everything that happens in the movie has substance. Production really emphasized the use of practical effects when they could get away with it. As a result, Guardians of the Galaxy has real tangibility. It’s high sci-fi, but it’s still rusted and dirty and very real looking. The characters don’t just move about the world, they’re a part of it. Due to the use of make-up and sets over CGI and green-screen whenever was possible, all of the locations that are used in Guardians of the Galaxy are incredibly varied and interesting. Subtle differences in light and changes in tone based on the location that the shot is taking place adds to the sense of scale that a story like Guardians of the Galaxy should have. Despite this scale, it’s all still very personal. Each character interacts with another with a completely different attitude, allowing everyone to build unique and varied relationships along the way.

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Hooked on a Feeling


Final Word:
The Avengers was brilliant. It was fun, and clever, and had a finale that just floored you. But it had almost 500 minutes of framework, and miles of audience familiarity to build off of. The genius of Guardians of the Galaxy is that it manages to be just as brilliant as Avengers, but endears audiences to characters they not only don’t know, but have probably never even heard of. It also establishes unique relationships and delivers real emotion, on top of humor and entertainment with intense and eye popping action. Guardians of the Galaxy does everything Avengers did, with no audience familiarity in 121 minutes. It takes the team building formula one step further, and creates a family of flawed and clever antiheroes who play off each other with pitch perfect accuracy. It’s incredible in virtually every way. It defies convention, takes no less than a thousand chances, and gleefully blows away the competition while blaring 70’s rock from blown out speakers. It’s not only Marvel’s best movie (this is just a possibility, but it’s most likely true for the simple reason that it started from seemingly nowhere), it the best movie you can see right now, and probably for a while. What are you waiting for!? Go watch it!

-PS 

Image sources

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All images courtesy of Marvel Studios©
Guardians of the Galaxy— Marvel Studios — © 2014 The Walt Disney Corporation, LLC. All Rights Reserved
http://marvel.com/movies/movie/179/guardians_of_the_galaxy

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