Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy (2nd Opinion)


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Plot:  In 1988 shortly after his mother’s death, eight year old Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is kidnapped from Earth by a group of  alien thieves called the Ravagers.  Raised by Yondu Undonta (Michael Rooker), Quill eventually becomes a Ravager himself, coasting from one dangerous heist to the next.  However, when the seemingly routine theft of an orb on planet Morag goes awry, Quill finds himself caught in a disastrous conflict between the planet Xandar and a Kree fanatic named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).  For the orb is more than it seems.  With the survival of twelve billion people on the line, Quill bands together with an unlikely rogues gallery:  Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a consummate warrior bent on revenge for the murder of his family at Ronan’s hand; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a Zen Whoberi alien and master assassin who seeks the orb for her adoptive father Thanos (Josh Brolin); Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a genetically and cybernetically enhanced raccoon and bounty hunter; and finally Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree-like humanoid who serves as Rocket’s muscle.  Somehow these five misfits must overcome their dislike for each other and unite to become The Guardians of the Galaxy.

Review:  A talking tree?  A cybernetic raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper?   Superheroes virtually no one except hard-core comic fans had ever heard of?  Dave Freakin’ Bautista?  THE WRESTLER???  I’ll freely admit that when I first heard about Guardians of the Galaxy I thought the whole concept was beyond ridiculous.  Furthermore, I thought Marvel’s grasp had finally exceeded their reach.  My interest in the film was less than zero.

And then the trailers started to roll in.  I thought to myself, “Hmmm.  They are playing this up like a comedy/slash space opera.  This could work.” But I was still leery.  Despite the buzz, the fantastic reviews, and my friends’ passionately positive soliloquies about this film, yes readers I was leery.

I have never been happier to be so wrong about a movie than Guardians of the GalaxyGuardians kept a smile on my face from the opening scenes on Morag all the way to the post-credit scene showing a rather well-known duck.  It reminded me why we go to the movies in the first place–to be dazzled, wowed, thrilled, scared, made to laugh, made to cry, and to immerse ourselves totally in a story.  It’s real easy to get jaded when you’re a movie critic and Guardians gave me a reality check in the best possible way.  There are still innovative stories to be told out there.  Not everyone is Michael Bay.

Star-Lord would tell people every ship needs a great captain and director James Gunn shines at the helm of Guardians of the Galaxy.  Despite having only minor directing credits to his name such as Slither and Super, Marvel took a chance on Gunn.  For a somewhat inexperienced director you might expect the studio to have a tight leash on Gunn.  Not so.  It’s as if the execs said, “You know what James, this movie has a talking tree AND a talking raccoon in it.  Screw it.  Here’s the reins.  Ride this mother like Shadowfax.”  Gunn couldn’t have steered this horse any better if he was Gandalf.   

Whenever you have a team-centric comicbook film, chemistry is absolutely key. One of the reasons The Avengers was so successful was because everyone just clicked. Chemistry is a nebulous thing. You just have it or you don’t. And Guardians has it in spades. The connection between Quill and Gamora works well. Saldana and Pratt deliver the quintessential love/hate relationship. The scene where Quill references Footloose to Gamora is nothing short of hysterical. Additionally, Rocket and Groot have a great Chewie/Han dynamic that succeeds on every level. The interactions between Peter Quill, Rocket, and Drax are just classic. To see two equally facetious characters go up against a guy in Drax who has no concept of metaphor or sarcasm just kills on screen.  (“Nothing gets over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.”)

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Speaking of Drax, as I alluded to at the beginning of this review I was leery of Dave Bautista, a pro wrestler, playing this role. But he crushes this part. He was just a pleasure to watch and I can’t wait to see where they take his character next. It may have been a risky move to cast Bautista as Drax but the gamble paid off.

Another gamble that paid dividends was just the tone of the film itself. With any science fiction film you can fall into the trap of tropes that have come before. Consequently, you end up with something derivative and empty. (**cough cough Oblivion cough cough***) Guardians however fully embraces the films that have come before it. While the opening sequences of the film echo tones of Indiana Jones and other parts of the film call Star Wars to mind, it never feels forced or ripped off. This is a grand space opera after all. Why not set the bar high? Credit screenwriters James Gunn and Nicole Perlman for going for it.

Oh and did I mention the soundtrack?  Because it’s awesome.  This may be best soundtrack ever to a movie.  Whether it’s the ubiquitous “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways, or “O-o-h Child” by Five Stairsteps, every song dovetails perfectly with the scene it’s presented in.  The retro 70s/80s pop mix is indicative of Quill’s childhood obviously, but like the rest of Guardians of the Galaxy it’s also just damn fun!

Gunn and Perlman also succeed in infusing Guardians of the Galaxy with a tremendous amount of heart. The first ten minutes where Peter attends his dying mother are just heartbreaking. This continues later on when Peter Quill chooses to perform a selfless act for one of his companions. And Groot’s moment of heroism? Let’s just say if you had a dry eye in the theater you’re colder than Arya Stark confronting The Hound in the “Game of Thrones” season four finale. Kudos to Vin Diesel for being able to infuse multiple layers to his performance despite only having one line in the entire film.

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Yet the glue that holds this film together is Chris Pratt’s performance as Star-Lord/Peter Quill. As his role unfolded I couldn’t help but think I was witnessing the birth of a movie star. Pratt showed his range handling tender moments, action, and humor with equal aplomb. With his amazing turn on “Parks and Recreation”, the smash success of The Lego Movie, and an upcoming role in Jurassic World next summer, the future looks bright for Mr. Pratt.

I cannot oversell Guardians of the Galaxy enough. Drama, humor, action, fantastic visuals, and solid performances–Guardians of the Galaxy has something for everyone. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year and the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time.

2017 and the sequel can’t come soon enough.

My rating: 10/10

You can follow me on Twitter as Darth Gandalf at @cocook1978 and on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/flicktasticmovies.