|Review by Clay N Ferno|
Marvel Studios, James Gunn and Kevin Feige have done it.
They’ve taken sci-fi to a new level, brought humor to the game and among the accomplishments too many to list have made unknown characters to the spotlight with great actors to get Marvel Cosmic into movie theaters across the globe.
The ensemble cast, one who is a raccoon, another a tree, spark on the screen and the space battle action triples from the previous epic-scale Marvel movie, The Avengers.
Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord opposite Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and the two lead the ‘unlikely team’ from a bunch of losers to the Guardians of the Galaxy (Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, and Bradley Cooper at Rocket) alongside stars Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro and Glenn Close.
This is a movie unlike any I’ve seen before. When Star-Lord first lands on a desolate planet Morag with his scanner, I thought of Riddick —here we go, doom and gloom and violence. When Peter hits play on his Sony Walkman for Awesome Mix Vol. #1 the tone shifts immediately as he dances his way toward a cave containing his sought after Orb.
Lee Pace stars as the Lee/Kirby classic villain Ronan The Accuser who is also seeking the Orb. The blue merciless killer is adorned with a samurai outfit and face paint of a warrior as he talks to — spoiler warning — Thanos played by Josh Brolin!
When growing up, reading The Infinity Gauntlet, X-Men and Avengers, I never would have imagined to see the big bad blue Titan on screen. Marvel has expanded beyond Earth to the stars and created the worlds of Xandarians, huge Kree ships and a prison called Kyln. We are truly lucky to be in a time when scale is not an issue with special effects, and in the many space battles, the payoff is gigantic.
Basing these movies on established Marvel properties and even obscure characters like Benicio Del Toro’s The Collector tickles all of the comic book fan’s need for continuity and world building, established way back in the days when Iron Man first premiered in 2008. The through line from Iron Man to The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World to Guardians is there but somehow this movie is able to stand alone.
Perhaps this is one of the movie’s biggest strengths.
Tropes abound, like Rocket’s plan to escape from Kyln succeeding at the last minute. A Star Trek “on screen” standoff between two armed ships happens, if just for a second. Star Wars is aped, appropriately, on some of the dogfight scenes as well as Quill’s ‘filthy’ space ship. Sprinkle a little Disney/Pixar on all things Groot and on Xandar with The Nova Corps and you’ve got quite a recipe.
Hands down, what is my favorite part of the movie, and sure to be yours? Guardians is hilarious. From ‘under the breath’ comments to team members, Groot acting in the background, and even his eponymous running gag, “I Am Groot” makes for a raucous movie. Pratt and Saldana’s uncomfortable flirting and Pratt’s bravado/bragging makes him equal parts Han and Luke with the sexual tension. Rocket ends up being the Andrew Dice Clay of the group, crassly making up for his short stature with bad words and seemingly cold heart. Of course it’s all a ruse, he loves Groot and the team mates (eventually).
Who’s the funniest? In my estimation, on first viewing, surprise funny man Drax the Destroyer has the best lines, and completely unexpected! He (and Gamora) doesn’t ‘get’ jokes and takes everything literally. This brand of straight man strongman stuff is amazing “Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast”.
There is a transformation and arc for all of the Guardians, from sketchy bad guys and assassins to becoming heroic, though at times you can see them fall back on their old ways. Compared with The Avengers vs. a solo Marvel Studios movie, the ensemble makes for an encompassing story that literally goes from one quadrant to another of the galaxy.
Again, scale is important. We have a raccoon with a bad mouth and bug gun flying into Celestial heads at Knowhere. This movie is Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Office, Judge Dredd all at once, with a nostalgic throwback to The Last Starfighter and Battle Beyond The Stars thrown in for that 80’s feel.
I’m still not sure I need to pick up any more Guardians comics after watching (although I already have!), but I wouldn’t mind revisiting Infinity Gauntlet, et al. this summer. Starlin, Abnett and Lanning and Bendis should be proud of this movie, however — I’m sure they are if anything they worked on made it to the screen!
I usually rank and file Marvel movies in this column, but predictably for some, the latest always equals the greatest. Almost time to start a new list — with new criteria! Guess what spot this one takes? Yup. You can depend on me for pushing this to the top spot. This movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen but familiar enough to make it resonate deeply.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly special sci-fi movie, with superheroes, aliens, Gods, stars, space ships, pods and jokes. I’m waiting for someone more clever than myself to come up with a new category for this Marvel Cosmic movie, but until then please check out these bunch of a-holes.