I don’t read many superhero comic books, so before they started brewing up this movie, I’d never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy. I do watch science fiction films though, so even if this hadn’t been a Marvel movie I’d still have gone on opening night. Because spaceships! Handsome smugglers! Gun-toting raccoons!
A thief, an assassin, a revenge-obsessed father, a genetically modified raccoon, and a huge talking plant join forces to keep a world-ending weapon out of the hands of terrorists.
Guardians of the Galaxy is similar to The Avengers in that it involves a bunch of smartasses with diverse skills reluctantly teaming up to stop evildoers. The big difference for me was that while The Avengers was almost all infighting, actual plot actually happens in Guardians of the Galaxy, which makes it the better movie.
I was particularly impressed by Guardians because not only did they have to tell the origin story of the team, but they also had to work in the backgrounds of the individual characters. Peter Quill, the Han-Solo-esque main character, gets the most attention. Kid Peter (Wyatt Oleff) was kidnapped by Ravagers (space thieves) from his sick mom’s bedside in the 80s. Therefore grown-up Ravager Peter (Chris Pratt) still obsessively listens to the cassette tape she gave him.
Good thing I don’t mind 70s pop music, or I’d find this soundtrack really annoying.
Peter (who calls himself Star Lord) discovers an orb in some ruins, which immediately takes on MacGuffin status as intergalactic terrorist Ronan (Lee Pace), his goon Korath (Djimon Honousou), his assassins Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Peter’s mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker) all try to steal it, for the purposes of terrorism, terrorism, betrayal, terrorism, and money respectively.
Ugh, I hate wanting something popular. Are there any indie MacGuffins we can steal?
Peter ends up with a price on his head, which attracts the raccoon/tree bounty hunting team Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Gamora’s connection to Ronan attracts Drax (Dave Bautista), whose family was killed in one of Ronan’s attacks. Unsurprisingly, the resulting battle in the middle of the street gets them all arrested by Nova Corps, which is a United Federation of Planets-like entity represented by two police officers (John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz) and a politician (Glenn Close).
Your Primeness, we seem to have captured a collection of A-holes.
To get out of prison and achieve their respective goals, they have to team up. As luck would have it, they’re all fully rounded characters with skills that mesh. Rocket is demented but also a genius with machines. Groot can only say three words, but can grow and shrink at will. Drax is literal to the point of Aspergers but really strong. Gamora is messed up from being raised by a terrorist, but is an ace fighter. And Peter is always getting in trouble, but can talk himself out of it. And keep the ‘team’ from killing each other.
Next stop… um… MacGuffinville?
The antagonists, however, are pretty one dimensional. This is both surprising (given the depth of the protagonists) and not surprising (given that it’s based on a comic book). Thanos (Josh Brolin), who is ostensibly in charge, spends the whole movie sitting in a chair making threats he doesn’t follow up on.
Like ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Palpatine, but not scary. And with no goals.
Male comic book nerds want to see a catfight. So lets tear our shirts strategically and go at it!
And Ronan, the bad guy with the most screen time, is a dead-eyed terrorist hell-bent on destroying Nova Corps… because reasons… that I’m not even sure HE understands, given his perpetually confused face.
I think… I think… I think I might like a muffin.
But I can forgive Guardians its lack of a sympathetic villain, because like most Marvel movies, it’s both hilarious and action packed. And unlike most Marvel movies, it’s also dark, sad, happy, inspiring, and a whole host of things in between WITHOUT feeling schizophrenic. I’m not even sure how they did it, but it really works. Nod of respect to screenwriters James Gunn and Nicole Perlman.
Awww, look! He made that little girl a flower.
It also looks fantastic (but what doesn’t, these days) and features a wide variety of cool ships and gadgets that are both original and actually based on actual science. Super strong magnets, singularity weapons, little fighters that join up to make a big shield, spaceships that can move along their axes instead of just around them like an airplane – this movie has it all. My only complaint is that sometimes it has TOO much, and it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
FWOAR SPACESHIP BATTLE ARR-TACK!!
So I really really liked Guardians of the Galaxy. On my personal scale of Achievement in Franchise Science Fiction Filmmaking, Guardians ranks slightly higher than Star Trek: Into Darkness and slightly lower than Serenity. My hope is that as a Marvel film, it will make sci-fi fans out of people who have previously only liked contemporary superhero movies.