Review: “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a blast of action, comedy, and pop

July 31st, 2014 at 9:35 pm by under Entertainment
"Guardians of the Galaxy" poster courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Guardians of the Galaxy” poster courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Runtime: 2 hours, 1 minute
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi

My spoiler-free review:

No Iron Man, no Captain America, no Thor, no Hulkno problem!!!  Starting a new comic book movie series with unknown characters (for most of the world)… there’s a huge risk  involved.  But writer/director James Gunn was up for the challenge… and he nailed it.  The source material was there, but the script, the look of the movie, and the performances of the actors made for a wonderful trip to the movies… and a chance to escape for two hours into the Marvel universe… I give it 8.5 out of 10 … if you love “Star Wars” you’ll like this movie.

Warning for parents: “Guardians” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

The recipe for successful movies in the Sci-Fi or Comic Book movie genre seems to be simple, but its often not executed…. in “Guardians of the Galaxy” we have a space-based superhero team that starts with a motley crew of outcasts, all unique in their own special way and they are brought together to fight for a common cause… and that journey turns them into the universe’s latest band of heroes.  Making those characters different enough to be very memorable but not weird, adding in the now-expected Marvel comic relief, lots of action, and a pop classics soundtrack… and Mr. Gunn has a hit on his hands.  And the studio knows it too… they’ve already announced a sequel.  As a mostly unknown comic property to the general audience it works as a fun new franchise and for the die hard fans it works and I’m told it’s stays mostly true to the original series of comics.

“Avengers” + “Star Wars” and pop culture –  ”Guardians of the Galaxy” is “The Avengers” (2012)  meets “Star Wars”… its a little darker and grittier, but we get an infectious group of rogues… that on their own may just be considered good… but when they finally put aside their differences/egos/agendas they are great together.  There’s plenty of character depth… even though they are basically characters most of us had never heard of until the last few months – it quickly feels like we’ve known these characters for a long time.   Director Gunn also adds another element for the older crowd: pop culture references abound and a soundtrack of hits from the 1960s and 1970s.  The movie starts in 1988, there are references like “ninja turtle”, “Ark of the covenant”, “Maltese falcon”, “Ranger Rick”, “John Stamos”, “Footloose”, “Kevin Bacon”, and a very brief cameo from “Howard the Duck” (in the background at “The Collector”).  The songs are ones many in the audience have heard before… but they aren’t just background music… they are incorporated into the movie and the background of the main character. See Peter’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 1″ below.

Hilarious band of outcasts on a mission to save the Galaxy (see photo below):

"Guardians of the Galaxy" lineup courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Guardians of the Galaxy” lineup courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a green skinned, highly trained assassin with a dark history and questionable reasons for joining the effort, but played with depth and vulnerability that makes the character likeable

Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is a thief who likes to listen and dance to pop music of the late 1960s and 1970s (comedically showing off his moves in the second scene … setting the tone for the movie)  He is more of a free spirit mercenary – he’s a young and confident strategist, good natured and loves to listen to his cassette tape (see below), basically he’s an everyman that you can root for

Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) is a marvel of animation, character development, script, and voice work – he’s a racoon that is smart with computers and weapons, who can turn junk into valuable equipment, he’s also the wise-cracking realist of the group that thinks they’re in over their heads… and steals just about every scene he’s in

Drax (Dave Bautista) is a man out for revenge after his family was killed by villains, he’s a warrior, but has a very literal personality that works perfectly for the inexperienced actor

Groot (voice of Vin Diesel) is a tree-humanoid and Rocket’s best friend, despite his mostly three word vocabulary, he’s a memorable character as a bodyguard with a big heart

Its their first step into a larger world: there are a lot of sci-fi things going on that we are introduced to, an entire world that many of us have ever heard of before: The Collector, Ronan, The Kree, Xandar, The Nova Corps, Infinity Stones, Knowhere, Nebula, and of course Thanos… unless you’ve been paying attention to those post credit scenes and Disney/Marvel cartoons.   But fans of the comic book series will recognize these things and understand that this movie ties in with “The Avengers” (2012), “Thor” (2011), “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), and others as part of the larger Marvel universe carefully being pieced together for years to come… but “Guardians of the Galaxy” is also strong enough to stand alone as its own unique movie.

The music: Peter’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 1″ track list:

"Guardians of the Galaxy" Awesome Mix Vol. 1 image courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Guardians of the Galaxy” Awesome Mix Vol. 1 image courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

1. “Hooked on a Feeling” (1968) – Blue Swede
2. “Go All the Way” (1972) – Raspberries
*3. “Spirit in the Sky” (1969) – Norman Greenbaum*
4. “Moonage Daydream” (1971) – David Bowie
5. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (1975) – Elvin Bishop
6. “I’m Not in Love” (1975) – 10cc
7. “I Want You Back” (1969) – Jackson 5
8. “Come and Get Your Love” (1974) – Redbone
9. “Cherry Bomb” (1976) – The Runaways
10. “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” (1979) – Rupert Holmes
11. “O-o-h Child” (1970) – The Five Stairsteps
12. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1966) – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

*Not in the film

Credits? Our screening had a scene at the beginning of the credits involving two of the Guardians, but did not have an end of credits scene, as we’ve become accustomed to with Marvel, however, my sources tell me that it just was not attached with the advanced screening but it does involve a Lucasfilm character and one of the Guardians

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): 

Ties with other Marvel movies:

We get a glimpse of the Chitauri from “Avengers”, The Tesseract from “Captain America” and “Avengers”, and the Aether (dark matter) from “Thor: The Dark World” (which means we’ve now seen 3 of 6 infinity stones).

“Guardians of the Galaxy” 

Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Lee Pace (Ronan), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Haddock, Sean Gunn, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Fairbank, Krystian Godlewski, Wyatt Oleff, Gregg Henry, Josh Brolin

Director: James Gunn [Super (2010), Slither (2006)]

Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (comic book)

The Plot: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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