The marketing for Guardians of the Galaxy has basically been omnipresent for the last few months. Hardly a day went by without a new poster or image or teaser or whatever. The reason for this is simple: this is the first real test of Marvel’s brand. Guardians, like it or not, is a lesser known property and while this film connects with the over reaching continuity of the established Marvel Cinematic Universe it doesn’t actually feature any characters that we’ve already met meaning that they can’t trade on the popularity of Iron Man or Captain America they have to rely on the corporate brand. In this world of “new things are risky let’s remake something from the 1980s” that’s kind of a big deal.
So it’s a good job they knocked it out the fucking park with this movie otherwise they’d be in trouble. Yes, it’s great and you should see it. No need to even finish reading this review. Just go. Or finish reading this review and I’ll give you a few reasons why.
You already know everything you need to know about the story. Peter Quill is a human on the far side of the Galaxy who listens to a tape of 70s and 80s pop songs which are his only tie to his home world. He gets mixed up with a band of misfits including Gamora (an assassin), Rocket and Groot (a genetically and cybernetically altered raccoon and a living tree) and Drax (a maniac bent on revenge for the death of his family) after trying to steal a mysterious orb and ends up having to team up with them to save the galaxy from a mad man.
Chris Pratt is great as Quill and it’s kind of awesome to see him in a role where he’s not an oaf. He’s fast talking and quick-witted and he more than holds his own in his fight scenes.
Zoe Saldana plays Gamora and she’s perfectly Zoe Saldana in the role. THat’s not a complaint, she’s a good actress and the role doesn’t need that much of her really.
Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are Rocket and Groot respectively, Rocket is hilarious but he’s at his best when he’s playing off Groot’s silence or childlike wonder or interpreting his many utterances of “I Am Groot”.
The real scene stealer is Dave Bautista though. Drax The Destroyer comes from a race who speaks only literally, and as a result takes everything everyone says literally, and he just completely owns it. He’s the perfect straight man to basically everyone else’s zany characters.
Lee Pace and Karen Gillan are on hand to play the villains, Pace is as melodramatic as you know he can be and while that might be a bit much in another film but here as a larger than life fanatic bad guy it just works. Gillan doesn’t have that much to do except brood but she’s clearly having a good time doing that.
The real strength here is the direction though. James Gunn has a pretty distinct voice and this is the first time he’s really been able to let loose with it on a grand scale. Aside from the humour being a bit darker and more subversive than any of the other Marvel films so far the films real strength is that it balances the characters pretty much perfectly. Everyone gets some back story, but no one gets too much and it doesn’t all come up in the first act and as their pasts are revealed to Quill he gains their trust and helps them become a team, which is awesome.
Make no mistake though, this movie is also hilarious. Almost everyone gets at least a few laugh out loud funny lines, so much so that more than once I actually missed a follow-up line because everyone in the theatre was laughing so loud.
It’s brilliantly designed too. The locations, ships, and aliens are all fresh and unique and fun looking and brightly coloured. None of the drab dark and gritty and “realistic” we’ve become accustomed to recent years. Locations that should look clean are clean and those that should be old and abused are old and abused, while the ships have interesting designs that actually look alien.
There is some world building for the greater universe as well but none of it is over the top or overdone. Sure Glenn Close and John C. Reilly don’t really have enough to do but they also aren’t there for no reason. The best Marvel movies are the ones that can stand completely alone while still tying into the greater continuity and Guardians does that nearly perfectly.
Oh, and yes, it does make perfect use of the amazing soundtrack you’ve heard in all the trailers.
Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the most fun movie I’ve seen all summer. It’s an old school fantasy sci-fi epic with big characters, lots of laughs, great action, and a lot of heart. This is definitely one you’ll want to see in theatres, preferably on the biggest screen you can find.