Review: “Guardians of the Galaxy” combines humor, action, and a stellar cast to become the perfect summer blockbuster
"I am Groot."
Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film produced by Marvel Studios to abandon the Avengers characters, which have become so incredibly popular, and expand upon the Marvel Universe. It would’ve been easy for Marvel and Disney to continue making hit movies based on Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the rest, but instead they decided to start taking chances on lesser known Marvel characters like Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Rocket and villain Ronan the Accuser. After early footage was shown at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con and 2013 D23 Convention, hype surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy started to build. Early critical praise and a heavy marketing campaign involving the stars of the film (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista) has only boosted the excitement for the film, but does it live up to the hype?
- Marvel Studios has proven they know how to put together a great ensemble in the past. The proof lies in 2012’s The Avengers, but Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have quite the same star power, which turns out to not be a bad thing. Sure, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (who only lend their voices to the film) are very well-known. Even Zoe Saldana has broken a lot of ground playing Uhura in the Star Trek franchise and Neytiri in Avatar. But, Chris Pratt is still considered an up-and-coming star despite nabbing the starring role of 2015’s Jurassic World, playing Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, voicing Emmet in The Lego Movie, and being a supporting actor in films like Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty. Dave Bautista has been in a few films, but is still primarily known as a WWE wrestler, not an actor. Throw in some minor roles for Glenn Close, John C. Reily, Djimon Hounsou and Benicio del Toro and all of a sudden the mixed cast turns into a powerhouse. One of the best things about Guardians of the Galaxy is no one seems miscast or out of place.
One of the many reasons Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds is the fact that the script is so well written. Even if it’s sometimes predictable at points, the plot manages to be hilarious and heartwarming, all while keeping high levels of action and excitement throughout the film. The writers, Nicole Perlman and James Gunn, who also directed Guardians, were able to find that perfect balance of intertwining the lighter emotional moments of the movie with fast-paced action sequences without it feeling jarring or out of place.
The characters’ dialogue was also written in a way that just felt natural and an extension of the character – which is difficult when it’s being delivered by a talking raccoon, or even harder, with only the single words “I. Am. Groot.” Even though the central cast of the movie is made up of mostly non-human outlaws, including a walking and talking tree, it’s never hard to identify and root for them as the movie progresses. Pun intended.
Even though the heart and the character development in the script is top notch, the standout aspect of the writing is hands down the humor. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the funniest movies that’s been in theaters in a while, and the amount of laughter in the theater only proves that. A lot of the humor comes from not taking itself too seriously – the main characters poke fun at each other and even though they are superheroes, they admit that they’re all losers – “you know, folks who have lost things…”
Chris Pratt delivers some of the greatest lines, most of which revolve around the fact that his character Peter Quill is this goofball, kid-at-heart type guy stuck in the 1980s. There are a bunch of pop culture references throughout the movie, both for fans of Marvel or just pop culture in general – including a running joke about Footloose and Kevin Bacon. Even though there are a few examples of hilarious ‘adult’ humor, I think most of them would go over younger kids’ heads – metaphorically speaking.
This isn’t to say that the other characters didn’t deliver on any funny moments in Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, I have a feeling that Rocket, the raccoon, and Groot, the lovable tree, will quickly become fan favorites. They definitely had some scene-stealing moments, especially Groot – including one of the “cutest” closing scenes that kids and moms everywhere will no doubt reference for a long time. Okay, and big burly men.
The Visual Effects
- Guardians of the Galaxy looks absolutely stunning on the big screen and that can be credited to the brilliant visual effects of the film. The movie primarily takes place in another galaxy away from Earth meaning brand new worlds had to be created using CGI technology, but the visuals are never cheap or distracting. The proof lies in two of the main characters, Rocket and Groot. Both characters were created through motion capture stand-ins and CGI, yet the combination of animation and the voice acting completely brings them to life in a believable way. The practical effects cannot be discredited though, as some of the sets are massive and detailed, but the visual effects tie the film together in a way that should make George Lucas jealous.
- Since the first trailer of the film came out and the “Ooga Chaka” chant from Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” was heard coming from Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix Vol. 1 cassette, it has been clear that music would be a critical part of Guardians of the Galaxy. The soundtrack’s tracklist was revealed weeks before the film’s release teasing that songs like Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” would make an appearance. It is clear that the soundtrack was meticulously planned, because every song fits perfectly into its scene of the movie and not a single bad song was chosen. The score, composed by Tyler Bates, is fantastic and should be recognized, but unfortunately it is completely overshadowed by the soundtrack which doesn’t disappoint at all.
- Despite being extremely strong overall, the script did have some predictable moments which seemed a bit cliche. However, because the writing was so strong, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Could we guess what was going to happen? Sure, but it all seemed to fit perfectly and wasn’t done out of laziness. We identified with the characters so well that when they happened, those semi-cliche plot points were satisfying and in the end told a great story. I’d much rather see a plot that has some predictability but is filled with heart, humor, and good storytelling.
- With every new Marvel movie to be released, more new fans are jumping on board and sometimes they don’t take the time to catch up on the previous movies or read about the Marvel Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy is by no means confusing for first-time or basic Marvel fans, but there will definitely be some questions about some of the characters, specifically Thanos and Ronan the Accuser. Throughout the film, their backstories are broadened a bit, but for those who are unfamiliar with the characters it might’ve been more helpful to have some context. For that matter, some initial information about the Xandarians and the Kree could’ve made an impact. However, at the end of the day Guardians of the Galaxy can be broken down to a group of good guys are fighting a bad guy who seeks to have more power than an even badder guy to destroy a world of good people. The fact that there is not more backstory is by no means a “bad” thing, because most who are beginners to the Marvel Universe will see the movie this way and enjoy every bit of it.
“Guardians of the Galaxy is the closest Marvel has come to making the perfect movie. Guardians mixes a ton of humor, a brilliant cast and breathtaking visuals into an epic space adventure, which has some minor predictably and exposition issues that are completely overshadowed leaving a film that is nearly impossible to walk away from without a smile.”
“It’s rare to walk out of a movie and know that it’s going to be a classic, but that’s exactly what Marvel has done with Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians is a completely well-rounded movie with a stellar cast, brilliant writing, and the perfect mixture of action and adventure, heartwarming emotion, and hilarious laugh-out-loud moments.”
Guardians of the Galaxy is now in theaters including IMAX 3D and Disney Digital 3D.