“I look around and you know what I see? Losers.”
I feel sorry for all future Marvel movies, mostly because none will ever be as daring, earnest, or laugh out loud funny as Guardians of the Galaxy. Not only is it the best and most entertaining movie I have seen this summer, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best overall movies I’ve seen in years. There are some minor hiccups and noticeable problems with the story, but they are so easily forgotten with this altogether amazing and fun moviegoing experience. See it in IMAX 3D…it’s worth the dent in your wallet. Forget Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk. Put them aside for now. Marvel is a vast galaxy of characters, and a new, more brash motley crew has come to guard it.
Earth, 1988. A young man loses his mother and is abducted into the skies. Fast forward 26 years and we meet Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), or as he calls himself “Star-Lord.” His garb is that of a futuristic Inspector Gadget who seems to have a weapon or trick on his person for every circumstance. He’s also a Ravager, a space pirate of sorts. Upon landing on the deserted planet Morag, Quill puts on his Walkman headphones and dances his way to his prize. It’s an informative and charming sequence that tells us what the tone of the film is going to be and what we as an audience should expect. Remember the first time you met Han Solo? This harkens back to that same kind of moment.
Quill stumbles upon a mysterious and ultimately deadly orb that everyone in the galaxy seems to be after. After a little shakeup he makes his way off of Morag with it. He’s a bit of a materialist, and after revealing to his buyer that the deadly Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) seeks the orb as well, he is squarely turned away. A lot happens between this point and the guardians becoming an actual team. I can’t stress that point enough, and I think it’s better off to leave that for you to watch on your own, in interest of the written word and in saving grace of all of the hilarious moments that ensue.
Just as a background check, the hodgepodge group of convicts consists of the following. Peter Quill is their leader, an immature and selfish man with an eye for women and an even greater eye for a chance to make money. Gamora (Zoe Saldana, apparently the only woman sexy enough to play a colorful alien) is the deadly pseudo-daughter of supervillain Thanos, leased out to Ronan for his own nefarious purposes. Drax (Dave Bautista) is hell-bent on avenging his family’s death at Ronan’s hands and comes from a species that can only take things literally, thus providing some of the film’s best humor. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is a genetically modified Raccoon with a knack for tomfoolery and has a soft heart hidden beneath his dense hair and constant wisecracking. Groot (elevated by Vin Diesel’s fantastically simple voicing) is a sentient tree-creature, capable of regeneration and spitting out that same “I am Groot” sentence at a moment’s notice. Each character brings a different aspect to the table and the balance that director James Gunn pulls off between them, while maintaining a sense of hierarchy for the story’s sake, is impeccably done.
The story, at only 2 hours, is very dense and detailed. All of the different planets and characters are almost overwhelming in the first 20 minutes or so. But once we get to the main cast it’s smooth sailing and the brief calmness lets the initial hectic pacing calm and fully register. As the story goes along, it’s clear we’re going to be seeing the Guardians vs. Ronan. The showdown is inevitable. There isn’t a whole lot to spoil in between the beginning and the end, yet it’s all worthwhile. Every scene builds towards the next, establishes character, and is there for a reason. It might be the most concise, driven, and well-paced comic series based movie since The Dark Night. It’s just as grounded in the concepts of trust and ethics. Except this is a hell of a lot funnier.
Every masterpiece, even to the most amateur eye, can have its own flaws. This movie has a great vintage soundtrack revolving around Quill’s cassette tapes, but it doesn’t compensate for the lackluster and unrecognizable score. Ronan is not established well enough for us to understand his drive to disregard a peace treaty with the planet Xandar and exterminate its entire population. And Gamora, the lone female lead, is eventually forced into a one-beat love interest arc that betrays the strong woman (if that’s what you call her) that we initially come to know her as.
What does stand out are the vibrant graphics, effective use of 3D, and the memorable quotes. I figured that Rocket and Groot would be spared time due to the cost of CGI, but they are just as prominent as the rest of the core group. The casting is wonderful and the comedic timing is tremendous. I mean come on, there are references to Footloose and John Stamos. It harkens back to Steven Spielberg’s best work and appeals to the masses with its irreverent and often self-acknowledged humor, found in dramatized superhero poses and kitschy chatter. Joss Whedon needs to keep his head on a swivel. James Gunn, as far as I’m concerned, is the new king of the Marvel galaxy in terms of dialogue and storytelling. The vastly overrated The Avengers is a doormat to the beautifully ornate wicket door that Guardians of the Galaxy is for every Marvel film to come.
I caught an opening night showing with one of my best friends. He has a great taste in movies, and an even deeper knowledge of the technical side of filmmaking than I do, so naturally I trust his opinion. We sat down in a front row of the IMAX theater, thanks to his suggestion, wearing our hefty and apparently recyclable glasses, fully surrounded by the lights and sounds and vibrations that the experience provides. We loved it, as did the full theater, cheering at the sight of Stan Lee and clapping once the credits rolled. Then I went home, and about an hour after the movie I received a text. “Can’t get over it,” he said. I couldn’t, and still can’t, agree any more.
“What should we do next? Something bad? Something good? Bit of both?”
Rating: 4.5 out of 5