Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie whose reason for being made is one not many people understood, as Marvel was treading into unfamiliar territory. What? A team of superheroes that include a talking raccoon and a big tree? It was a huge gamble for Marvel Studios to introduce a lesser known team of comic book characters and add them into a world with popular heroes such as Iron Man and Captain America. But man, am I glad they took that gamble. James Gunn has brought a fresh new team of superheroes into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and they may not all be human, but they sure are a lot of fun.
WARNING: May be some minor spoilers ahead!
The movie starts out in 1988 with a young Peter Quill. After a rather emotional scene in which Peter witnesses the death of his mother, he is abducted from Earth by Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his group of space pirates called the Ravagers. Jump to 26 years later, and we see an older Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) with headphones on, listening to one of the many awesome songs on his “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” tape, dancing, singing, and kicking small lizard like creatures in his path to a place that harbors a mysterious orb. During his attempts to steal it, he is interrupted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a man who answers to Ronan (Lee Pace), the main villain of this film.
After he manages to escape the planet, he finds himself on Xandar, being hunted down by Gamora (Zoe Saldana)–a green-skinned assassin sent by Ronan to retrieve the orb–as well as a talking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his big tree friend, Groot (Vin Diesel), who want to capture him and trade him in for the bounty Yondu put on his head. After this little brawl, they find themselves arrested and thrown in prison where they are forced to form an unlikely alliance with each other as well as Drax (Dave Bautista), a big muscled and very literal guy who wants to get revenge on Ronan for killing his family. After seeing what the contents of the orb can do, they think twice about their original plan of selling it and become determined to keep it out of Ronan’s hands so that he won’t be able to harness the power himself and destroy Xandar, or worse, pass it on to Thanos (Josh Brolin), the big baddie who will be a lot of trouble for our heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe later on.
Guardians of the Galaxy is chock full of well-paced action, gorgeous special effects, and more importantly, humor. One of the best things this movie has going for it is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whereas some other superhero movies are just too heavy to be genuinely fun, this one is light-hearted and a freakin’ blast from beginning to end. On top of that, this is comedy done right. Some of it is inappropriate, some of it is corny, and some is just down right hilarious, but it all compliments the personalities and quirkiness of each character, makes them likable, and makes the chemistry between them that much more interesting and fun.
Peter Quill/Star-Lord is a likely leader of the group. From the very beginning of the movie, we are emotionally invested in his character, seeing him first in a vulnerable and sad position. When we see him grown up, he is a fun guy, with no doubt questionable morals, but the type of guy you’d want to hang out with nonetheless. Making references to 80s pop culture on Earth that no one understands but him (i.e. Kevin Bacon in Footloose) and listening to some of the best, upbeat songs from the 70s and 80s–contributing to the awesome soundtrack of this movie–he sets the tone for how the rest of the movie is going to play out. I was minimally aware of Chris Pratt’s acting and comedic capabilities. Seeing him mostly in smaller secondary roles, I wasn’t too confident about him being able to pull off the lead guy, but thankfully, my lack of confidence faded away almost immediately as his strong, charming personality pulled me into the film and kept me there until the end.
Gamora is a great leading lady whose tough, but noble personality rivals that of the sassy, and at times, unethical characteristics of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. In fact, I think I just might like Gamora even more. She’s a strong assassin with great fighting skills and a big heart to go with them. Zoe Saldana, a woman who has made herself a strong and likable presence in the sci-fi genre, brings the same kind of strong willed female appeal to this character as she does to her others. At this point, it seems like a cakewalk for her.
Drax is awesome mainly because he’s such a literal guy. He’s funny without trying to be funny. He makes insults he doesn’t realize are insults because he repeats what he hears. He says things which are meant to be endearing, like “This dumb tree is my friend”, (after having heard Rocket call Groot an idiot), as well as calling Gamora “this green whore,” and then blasting Nebula (Karen Gillian) away for calling Gamora stupid and traitorous, replying with, “Nobody talks to my friends like that.” What a stand up guy. Dave Bautista didn’t have to put much into this character besides his muscles and strength. Drax isn’t really the type of guy to talk with deep inflections so the performance, including the unintentional jokes, are spot on.
Rocket being a talking raccoon with the accent of a tough guy from Brooklyn (a voice by Cooper that is almost unrecognizable at times), putting other characters in their place with his zingers, surprisingly steals the show. He’s quite simply amazing and hard not to like. You feel really bad for him when the other characters call him things like “monster” and “rodent,” as he reveals that he was once tortured and experimented on (poor guy), but his “don’t mess with me” attitude is humorous and admirable, and him going nuts with machine guns kind of makes you forget the unfortunate factors of which his existence is based.
Rocket’s best friend and bodyguard, Groot, a tree which can grow and retract limbs at will, is hilariously endearing. Not able to say anything except, “I am Groot,” (a phrase which only Rocket can understand different meanings of), his personality is shown best through his actions and facial expressions. There’s one scene where he grows a long arm and takes out a group of bad guys with it, swinging them back and forth and pounding them between two walls. He then turns around to look at the rest of the group with an excited, self-satisfied smile as if he were a puppy who’s done something worthy of praise. If ever there was a point when I would’ve thought a movie with a raccoon and a pet tree would be stupid, I would take it back right now. This duo is awesome.
Ronan the Accuser is a decent enough villain. He is more or less a terrorist who wants to destroy a planet in which his people have made a peace treaty with. Although, he may not be so memorable in a universe where so many villains exist. I can’t fault Lee Pace for that, though, as he does a fine job with the character. Nebula, as Gamora’s not-so-related sister, is a force to be reckoned with, although her motivation isn’t exactly clear, but it seems as though she’s jealous of Gamora and eager to please whatever higher power she can. Michael Rooker as Yondu is like watching Rooker’s character from The Walking Dead, except here he is blue and he has an awesome weapon that answers to his whistles. Glenn Close doesn’t have a huge part, but she does alright as Nova Prime. Benicio Del Toro plays a lot of quirky roles, and often times his characters’ motivations are questionable, which is why I think he’s perfect as The Collector. Looking forward to where his story goes for later movies. All in all, I enjoyed the characters, major and minor alike.
Guardians of the Galaxy has an entertainment level that rivals that of the already widely loved The Avengers, in fact, I can’t decide which one I love more as they are equally entertaining in their own right. This movie has the perfect balance of action and humor, as well as visual effects that are a pleasure to look at. It’s nice to have a Marvel movie that leaves Earth in the beginning and does not return. We’ve already seen superheroes saving lives on Earth, and here we get to see them saving lives, and at the same time, exploring the outer reaches of galaxies in all their glory. New creatures, new races, new worlds, and the beautiful mixture of colors out in space are amongst the things we get to discover. The characters are given just enough backstory to work with to make the audience care about what happens to them, and their individual traits add to that by making them extremely likable in a lot of ways. This movie is a surprisingly successful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is simply a blast and a movie that I would recommend to Marvel and non-Marvel fans alike.