In a galaxy far, far away, there lies an obscure comic tale ripe with characters that rival any other on the big screen today. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has finally traded in convention for otherworldly antics, making for their best film since 2008’s Iron Man. A film about the teaming up of a Han Solo-esque space marauder, talking tree, mutated talking raccoon, tattooed blue killing machine, and a green alien murderess against a common evil makes for the most thrilling, entertaining, and heartfelt blockbuster of the year.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens with Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) as a young child, glued to his walkman whilst trying to gripe with the fact that his mother is going to pass away from cancer at any moment. He runs outside in tears and yells at the sky, it is then that a space vessel abducts him. Flash forward to 26 years later and we find Quill trying to steal a mystical orb that the evil Ronan the accuser (Lee Pace) wants. What follows is an unlikely team up with Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and talking-tree-man, Groot (Vin Diesel), as they must stop Ronan and his plans with that aforementioned orb.
Let’s put the obvious parallels between Guardians and Star Wars aside for just one second. Yes, we have the group of unlikely heroes teaming up to fight a common evil. That kind of convention isn’t where Guardians flourishes though. As much as Star Wars is a stunningly realized universe filled with all kinds of open-eyed wonderment, Guardians brings that and this palpable feeling of warm childish joy as you are whisked off your feet and flung into a world that secretes a gorgeous sense of escapism.
In the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), all of the films share very common dramatic story beats. The biggest story convention being the main characters finding the strength within them to overcome a loss and carry on into the film’s explosive third act. The multitude of comic book films try to hop over these obstacles by working off of the good will of the viewer, hoping that they really do believe in these characters. In Guardians, the ragtag group of space rejects are so well developed, balancing drama and humor perfectly, that you are fine with being subjected to the plot from The Avengers at times.
Enough about minor griping though, how did Chris Pratt do? Is he new leading man material? Without coming off too harsh to any other actor playing the macho hero role today, Pratt brings an air of slight vulnerability with his bravado that is guaranteed to overshadow every single male actor vying for a lead male role today. At different times in the film, he is hilarious, charismatic, and heartbreaking. Everything a viewer should seek for in the vast universe of comic book films today.
How is everyone else though? Saldana as Gamora, the mistreated daughter of Thanos, is incredibly fun to watch, as she is equal parts seductress and murderess. If anything, Gamora is the most underdeveloped character in the film but I’m sure that will be solved in the imminent sequel. Dave Bautista, the biggest question mark on the cast due to his role in professional wrestling, plays Drax like he is the only serious person in this whole universe and then softens up as the narrative progresses. This kind of humoristic ignorance is played perfectly by Bautista who seems to be speaking in some weird variation of iambic pentameter.
Bradley Cooper trades in his heartthrob presence for a much more vulnerable and understood role as Rocket Raccoon, an amalgam of scientific experiments gone wrong (and right). Cooper develops a voice for this character that at times is like the friend who laughs the loudest at the stupidest jokes and then at other times, speaks to the mousy-voiced nerd that tinkers with the unknown in all of us. Vin Diesel even squeezes as much story-affecting juice as he can out of Groot, a talking tree that only can say the words “I am Groot.” Through playing with multiple tones, Diesel brings humanity to an otherwise inhuman being.
James Gunn, the man who started out with Lloyd Kaufman and Troma films, manages to bring an unparalleled visual style to Guardians that sets itself apart from every other Marvel film. Gunn has an eye for his shots, he knows how to compose, frame, and shoo.t them. Fully realized, is a phrase that doesn’t exact enough justice on the topic of what Gunn created in Guardians. He took a story that could have been passed off as existing in a minimalistic universe and created a vast expanse where the weird, obscure, fun, and most of all, enthralling thrive in immensely beautiful detail.
With tracks from Blue Suede, David Bowie, The Runaways, The Raspberries, and The Five Stairsteps, Guardians grooves along to the foot-tapping, neon-soaked, and guitar-riffing way of the 80s. Tyler Bates, who also scored 300, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen, brings an extremely strong score to Guardians that emotes the same kind of fist-pumping joy that we got from Alan Silvestri’s work on The Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy may not only be the best superhero film since the first Iron Man but it’s the best film set in space to have come out since the original Star Wars trilogy. I am still coming down off of the euphoria caused by Guardians and I’m certain that you will be ‘hooked on a feeling’ soon, too.