Marvel’s film division has been batting homers for a long time, but when they announced this film, people were both incredibly excited and confused. It was one of the company’s lesser known franchises and a weird one to boot, so fans wondered if this movie might be too out there to do well, even if it looked amazing. Could audiences get behind a gun wielding raccoon or a bald Karen Gillan? Does the film manage to take off without a hitch, or was it anchored down by its own quirkiness? Well, it is a Marvel movie after all.
Let’s take a look at Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy follows the adventures of thief Peter Jason Quill aka Starlord, a man roaming around space in search of valuable treasures after he was abducted from Earth as a kid. He recovers a very precious orb which is also the desired possession of several other characters — mostly because it can destroy any planet and all its inhabitants in seconds. Quill, along with assassin Gamora, berserker Drax the Destroyer and bounty hunters Rocket and Groot, must make sure the stone doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
First and foremost, this is a gorgeous movie that deserves a lot of credit for its visual effects. The scenery itself is done beautifully, looking very Blade Runner meets a Skittles rainbow; colorful, a bit familiar, but very futuristic and alien, just how I like it. The special effects are perfect, without any of the strings showing or weird disconnect from the rest of the scenery. I honestly forgot that Rocket and Groot weren’t actually there with the rest of the cast because they are so well done. Excellent CG helps to keep you in the middle of the action instead of looking at weird animation fails or actors trying to connect with people who are not there.
Speaking of actors, Chris Pratt is a revelation as Starlord, and I try not to say that too often. He fully encapsulates the energetic and somewhat skittish but ultimately honorable Terran, which makes you wonder why Hollywood hasn’t signed him for more roles. Zoe Saldana also pulls off a great performance as the tough and calculating Gamora, simply by allowing some of the fear and doubt of the character to shine through in the quiet moments. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel both work off each other expertly, even though neither of them are actually together on set, and Diesel only says four words in the entire film. Dave Bautista is actually the weakest of the group, though not by a large margin — I wasn’t particularly charmed by his stoic and blood hungry performance but its definitely effective.
The villains are also really well done. Karen Gillan doesn’t get much time to romp around as Nebula so I didn’t get much of a read on her besides that she wasn’t awful in the role. I have other qualms about her due to the writing, not the performance (I’ll get more into that later). Lee Pace is so good as Ronan I didn’t even know it was him — he is truly one of Hollywood’s most underutilized actors and I want him headlining his own movie pronto. Michael Rooker makes a surprisingly fun and scary Yondu, Quill’s father figure and boss, with a needle that reacts to the sound of him whistling.
Guardians’s biggest problem is pacing. Unlike The Avengers, we don’t have the benefit of several movies giving us the back stories of the other characters. The movie must therefore create backstories for each member of this unlikely team up and then develop relationships between them. It’s an impossible balancing act that holds up pretty well but it is a little jarring how fast these distrustful criminals start to care for each other and become friends. It goes from utter dislike to becoming unlikely allies to caring about each other within two scenes. In fact, the best developed character out of the cast beside Quill is Groot, mostly because he’s not that complex. Gamora and Nebula both randomly turn their backs on Ronan without any signals to the audience, Drax just changes his single-mindedness after a near death experience and Rocket just gets drunk and angrily reveals his back story. The problem is that there is just too much going on all at once, and makes you feel like you’re on a ship going into warp drive.
The screenplay by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman was either very very rushed or ended up getting a little lost in the editing process. Still, it’s a hilarious script that plays to the comedic talent of its actors and thus softens the bluntness of the pacing. The direction also works well in tying the film together and making sure that we as an audience know who these characters are, feel their pain and root for their (inevitable) success.
I was worried the soundtrack was going to feel out of place because it’s mostly comprised of 1970s hits that Quill is enamored with, but they are pretty great. They make excellent use of the song Cherry Bomb and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough makes for a great finale. Like the rest of the film, it is the quirky approach that works the best.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that needs to be seen to believe, one that was actually too weird to fail and it soared. Marvel took a chance on one of its more bizarre franchises and it paid off in scores. I hesitate to say it was better than the The Avengers or Winter Soldier but it’s definitely up there in the rankings. Proof that letting your freak flag fly works ridiculously well, something DC could learn before their film franchises completely fall apart. We’ll have to see how it does in the weekend box office, but considering the massive line that was there for the screening I went to, I think it’s going to be just fine.
– Excellent cast.
– Excellent direction and writing.
– Exceptional cinematography.
– Some characters needed more development.
– Pacing was a little rushed.