When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced as a potential movie, I was both incredibly excited and more than a little worried. I was excited because I loved all the incarnations of the team, from the futuristic team of the 70s and 90s to the rag tag cosmic head busters of today. This was going to take the current version of the team and turn it into a big screen cosmic adventure, what a great idea. Of course, Hollywood could totally screw it up and the movie could end up looking like a Joel Schumacher “epic” production. Marvel took a huge risk making this. In 2010, when the movie was first announced, very few movie goers had any idea who the characters were. At the time, there wasn’t even a Guardians comic book on the shelves. With some stellar marketing and cross pollination between film studio and comic book publisher, Marvel managed to pump up a major amount of interest.
In my opinion, the gamble paid off big time. Guardians of the Galaxy immediately draws you into its world and makes you care about its inhabitants. We are on Earth for no more than five minuets. Young Peter Quill is apparently abducted by aliens and bam…..26 years later we are on another planet following this very devil-may-care, Han Solo meets Randall from Clerks type character (Played by Chris Pratt) on a mission to steal something he knows nothing about. Right away we are given a sample of how fun this adventure will be when Peter Quill (Also known as Star-Lord….well, he’s the only one that calls him that.) uses alien creatures as microphones in a weird karaoke session as he traverses the hazards of an alien cavern. We learn that Peter is working for Yondu (Played excellently by Michael Rooker), the leader of a team of intergalactic pirates known as Ravagers.
Peter’s stolen goods bring him nothing but negative attention. The films main villain, Ronan (Played perfectly by Pushing Daisies Pie Maker, Lee Pace) is introduced as a sort of religious zellot from the Kree alien race. Ronan works with Thanos (Played by Josh Brolin….Goonies!), the mysterious alien seen at the end of the Avengers movie. Under Thanos’ orders, Ronan sends Gamora (Played by Zoe Saldana), the assassin step daughter of Thanos to kill Peter and retrieve the object he stole. Rocket (An genetic experiment who resembles an Earth Raccoon; voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his awesome ally Groot (A living tree creature; voiced by Vin Diesel) are bounty hunters seeking to turn Peter Quill in for the reward on his head.
Through a very fun and entertaining battle, the four end up being arrested by the Nova Corps, cosmic cops headed up by Coprsman Rey (John C. Reilly) and Nova Prime (Glenn Close) and are sent to a maximum security prison. Here they meet the alien living weapon known as Drax whom seeks to kill Ronan. Soon all five characters realize that they have a common enemy….Ronan and they work together to break out of prison. That’s where the movie moves into a really fun team dynamic that sends us ricocheting across the Galaxy. The movie culminates in a very rewarding final battle. This is a battle our heroes just have no business getting involved in, but that’s what makes them heroes, and that’s what makes this movie all the more entertaining.
The story overall is pretty strong. There is a good plot that organically brings the characters together, rather than seeming forced like the Avengers. There are many great performances by some of the best actors in the business. Benicio Del Toro has a cool guest spot, reprising his role as the Collector, last seen in Thor: The Dark World. In just a few moments, Benicio is able to exude a creepy sort of charm. We don’t know if this character is good or bad, but he is certainly entertaining. While we don’t see a lot of her, Dr. Who’s Karen Gillian plays Nebula, another of Thanos’ stepdaughters. In the brief moments she is on screen, Gillian manages to give Nebula a very interesting, if not somewhat nihilistic mystique. Chris Pratt certainly proves himself to be a fun and entertaining action/adventure actor as Peter Quill/Star-Lord. Pratt provides so many hilarious moments simply by his facial expressions. WWE wrestler Dave Bautista gives an enjoyable performance as Drax, an incredibly literal man (well, an alien man) who is haunted by the loss of his family at the hands of Ronan. Many of the most entertaining Drax moments come from the culture clash between him and his other teammates. Rocket comments that figures of speech go over Drax’s head and Drax replies: “Nothing goes over my head…..my reflexes are too quick!” Bradley Cooper steals a large chunk of the movie as Rocket Raccoon, his wise ass attitude is the perfect shield for the character’s tragic origins. While Groot is incredibly fun and proves to be the team’s biggest asset, I still think anyone could have provided his voice. All he says is “I am Groot!” I like Vin Diesel, but couldn’t anyone have said that?
I wasn’t pleased with Zoe Saldana’s role as Gamora. She wasn’t necessarily bad, but she wasn’t all that engaging either. I think someone who is used to playing edgier characters like Rosario Dawson could have brought more depth to the character. Saldana just seems a little flat. Michael Rooker nails the role of Yondu, bringing the character to a whole new level. This isn’t the noble warrior from the original comic book, Rooker transforms him into an alien redneck with a bad attitude, which serves as a fun distraction for an otherwise overly serious genre. While many old school comic book fans may not like this incarnation of Yondu, it doesn’t cancel out the original character. The film Yondu is in the 21st century, he could very well just be an ancestor of the warrior comic nerds like me are familiar with.
Director James Gunn masterfully blends a wide array of characters, settings and plot pieces that would be difficult for many directors and creates a comic book movie that not only succeeds in being a great adaptation, it’s fun. Incredibly fun. With characters you’ve never heard of and far out cosmic plots, Gunn and crew have crafted a film that is superior than the Avengers in many ways. 9/10 (It would have been 10/10 if Saldana had given Gamora just a little more depth and edge. She’s just not that kind of actress.)