Marvel’s newest film, Guardians of the Galaxy, opens with one of the most traumatizing events that could happen to most any young boy: the death of his mom. That young boy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), goes on a journey to explore the deep reaches of the galaxy and becomes the anonymous Star-Lord in the process. Quill quickly becomes the target of many dangerous bounty hunters after he snatches an object of many people’s desires. The hunters out to collect their bounty include the man who helped raise Quill named Yondu, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). Also with her sights on capturing the orb is Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of Thanos working on behalf of the main baddie, Ronan (Lee Pace).
After an altercation between Quill and his pursuers, the band of “a-holes” end up in prison where they meet the final piece of their group, Drax. Drax’s sole mission in life is to avenge his family who died at the hands of Ronan. The five come together in order to achieve their goal of escape but find out quickly that their allegiance is much more important to the fate of the galaxy than they initially realized.
At first glance, Guardians looks like a markedly different film from other Marvel releases and in some respects this is true. The galaxy far, far away has yet to be explored in any fashion within the Marvel films and make no mistake this movie goes full out Star Wars in its vision of what is out there. However, the film still approaches the setting and characters from a Marvel Cinematic Universe point of view, which has by now become formulaic. It is a good formula, but it is hard to shake the feeling that with each passing movie in phase 2 of the MCU we aren’t starting to get more of the same. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy (and make no mistake, Guardians is a huge hit) is owed to its charming leads who deftly handle outrageous humor that a story like this allows.
Much like Joss Whedon’s Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy features a lot of witty dialogue and snappy zingers. In fact, director James Gunn’s galactic hit probably features more humor than any Marvel film before it. Nearly every character in the film has a moment or two of brevity; usually caused by some insane action on the part of one of the guardians. Chris Pratt is absolutely perfect in the leading man role; portraying daft humor with a certain roguish charm to his character usually reserved for those played Harrison Ford (albeit with a lot more goof).
While not quite equally good, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Bradley Cooper are all in top-notch form. Zoe does not seem to have much of a role for the team, but she shines as the straight woman for the group. Drax’s act of being a walking thesaurus while taking every thought as literal also worked for me and I thought he had some of the funniest lines in the entire film. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is similarly hilarious: the talking raccoon taking advantage of his unexpected audience, relishing in violence and foul deeds. Vin Diesel also lacks much of a part in the film, but his character Groot is very likable: his relationship to Rocket allows for some of the most heartwarming moments of the film.
The hindrances to the film may be due to Guardians place in an established MCU rather than any failures of its own. Too often the film feels forced into a style or realized world outside of what it is trying for. This film also falls for many of the same errors as many other Marvel films. The villain, Ronan, is nondescript and could seemingly be replaced by Malekith, the villain from Thor 2, and no one would know the difference. As good as Marvel has been at building up their roster and consistently churning out top quality characters they have failed in providing great villains in the majority of their films. If the Dark Knight Trilogy has taught us anything it is that a great villain can truly elevate a superhero movie to “amazing” status.
However, the worst part of the film happens to be the derailing act that occurs in the final 30 minutes of the movie’s runtime. The script and direction fail at balancing the humor and seriousness that the final scenes beg for. Without spoiling too much, the final “fight” between Quill and Ronan is embarrassing. And the final few lines from the film also reveal something about Quill that is neither necessary nor worthwhile to the audience except to explain why Pratt’s character could do something he shouldn’t have (and a better film would not have had him do said thing).
All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is a very entertaining movie thanks to its charming leads and sardonic humor. This film is a definite recommend to any fans of the marvel universe, but also to anyone that is a fan of the space western genre or those with a love of grim wit.