Review of Guardians of the Galaxy

hr_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_29.jpgNo Spoilers

Cosmo enjoyed this . . .

It is no secret around the virtual corridors of NBC that I am a huge fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s revitalization of Marvel’s cosmic universe. Taking the reins from Keith Giffen, they produced some of the best Marvel comics of the past decade. Their run may have ended prematurely, yet, DnA left their mark on the cosmic line. Their lasting influence reached new heights this weekend with the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy film adaptation. (While various comics creators are thanked in the credits, DnA are the only ones whose works are acknowledge as part of the screenplay credit).

When Marvel first announced that they were using these comics as the basis for a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I was cautiously excited. I wanted very much for this movie to be amazing. See, I am not simply a fan of DnA, but a fan of the whole Marvel cosmic line in general. Thus, my hope for the film was not just to see a great Guardians story, but also one that would kick open the door to the larger cosmic sphere. (Or at least as much of it that is not owned by Fox). And I am happy to report that, for the most part, the film succeeds on both counts.

The story opens with a brief flashback to 1988, where a boy named Peter Quill is sitting in a hospital, listening to a mix tape on his Walkman. After a moment, his grandfather guides him to visit Peter’s ailing mother, Meredith. Peter witnesses his mother’s death and, grief-stricken rushes away. It is at this point that his life goes from tragic to weird, as a huge space ship appears out of nowhere, and sucks the young boy inside with a tractor beam.

Flash-forward to the present where the adult Peter, calling himself Star-Lord and played by Chris Pratt, prowls a desolate planet in search of a mysterious “orb.” Well, prowl is not exactly the right word. Queuing up a tune on his old childhood Walkman, Peter dances his way through a cavern, interacting with various small creatures (including using one as a mic stand-in) along the way. Things turn more serious once he secures the orb, however, as he discovers Korath the Pursuer has, well, pursued him. This extended opening sequences establishes the dual tones of comedy and action that run throughout the film. To the credit of director James Gunn and his very able cast, these potentially clashing registers blend together quite well. One moment, you’re watching Pratt slide across screen, the next he is just as grandly out-smarting his would-be captors. Neither mood seem out of place.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-star-lord

From here, the story travels to Xander, the home world of the Nova Corps, as various pieces of the plot are moved into place. Peter scams his old mentor and friend Yondu, which results in a bounty being placed on Peter’s head. This reward money, in turn, catches the eyes of Rocket Raccoon and his buddy Groot. Meanwhile, conflicting interests hatch their plans to gain possession of the orb. One of these interested parties dispatches Gamora to retrieve the coveted item. Gunn, who wrote the script along with Nicole Perlman, does a good job of juggling these various narrative strands. While the future Guardians are tossed together quickly, the writers take their time building their characters, allowing them to grow at ease with each other gradually. The result is a team formation which feels organic and natural.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-team

Credit for this achievement must, of course, be shared with the actors. As already mentioned, Pratt makes a convincing Star-Lord. The fact that he is an actor equally at home in either a romantic comedy or a military thriller aids him well here, as he conveys both sides of Peter’s personality (the humor and the heroics) with equal believability. As expected, Zoe Saldana makes a good Gamora, tough as nails, though also arguably the most compassionate member of the team. Bradley Coper continues his winning streak, as his voice work is one of the stand-out performances in the film. The writers give him a character that is funny, wily and affectionate in equal measures and Cooper runs with it. It also helps that he and Vin Diesel have a great dynamic together. Yes, Diesel only has three words (OK, there is a fourth in one scene), yet, the actor does vary their delivery according to mood. Having now heard it, I have a hard time imagining Groot sounding any other way. Then there is Dave Bautista. When his casting was first announced, I was worried it indicated that Gunn’s version of Drax would be a silent bruiser, lacking the articulation or personality given to him in the comics. I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise. While not the same as DnA’s Drax, Bautista’s is an engaging character. I enjoyed his presence in this film, and look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

The movie is also stuffed with secondary characters. Some of these such as John C Reilly’s Nova corpsman helps out with some plot points, but does not add much to the film. Similarly, the great British comedian Peter Serafinowicz is pretty much wasted as in his Nova Corps role. On the more positive side, Benicio del Toro is delightful as The Collector. Del Toro turns in a fun off-beat performance which might have looked completely out of place in his Thor 2 mid-credits scene, but here feels entirely at home. His time in the movie was too brief, mostly serving to fill in some exposition. Hopefully, Marvel Studios is not quite done with the character. Also noteworthy is Michael Rooker as Yondu. Again, like Drax, this is not a purist take on the character, but, within the film, works quite well.

Guardiand of the Galaxy Collector

One of my few quibbles with the movie, though, are the revisions to the character of Ronan. One of the aspects of Ronan which has always appealed to me is his nobility. Gunn and Perlman strip that away turning him instead into a “fanatic” who believes that instead of signing peace treaties with Xander, the Kree should be annihilating them. Admittedly, the idea does work within the logic of the film. Also, the design for Ronan is fantastic, and Lee Pace plays him well. Still, I feel that it was a missed opportunity for the character. It also reveals a potential weaknesses with the cosmic side of the Cinematic Universe. The Kree’s eons old rivals the Skrulls cannot appear as they belong to the Fantastic Four license at Fox. I am guessing that Marvel’s other big galactic empire, the Shi’ar, are probably tied up with the X-Men rights (also at Fox). If so, Marvel will need to get creative to find competitors for the Kree, which is probably why we got the conflict with Xander in Guardians. However, in the movie, Xander is just sort of dropped into the story without ever explaining what exactly it or the Nova Corps are. Also, those of you hoping for flying human rockets, you’re going to be disappointed . . .

That said, the space ships that are created for the Nova Corps are pretty great, as is the design work throughout the film. Again, this is established early in the movie, when Peter first touches down on the barren planet. The sky is a dark hazy color, while geysers launch water at random intervals. It feels like a place, not simply globs of digital painting. A similarly impressive bit of world building is when the Guardians first fly through Knowhere. This is a movie which is lovely to look at. Most outstanding, though, is the CGI for Rocket and Groot. The detailed, expressive rendering of both characters is probably the most impressive we have seen so far in a Marvel movie. It is brilliant artistic work, which when coupled with the voice talents, creates two individuals who are truly alive on screen.

Guardians of the Galaxy GrootGuardians of the Galaxy Rocket Raccoon

Finally (and as always, no spoilers), there is a bonus scene all the way at the end of the credits. Unlike Winter Soldier, this is not step forward to another movie, but circles back around to a supporting character from this one. The resulting sequence is something I never saw coming, and was well worth waiting out the credits for. I recommend that you do as well (the audience I saw the film with gave the scene possibly the loudest cheer of the whole movie).

Overall, this was another enjoyable entry into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. For me, it might not be quite as good as Winter Soldier, however, the two films are working within different genres. And, as such, we have another reason for Marvel Studios’ continued success. The Dark World riffed on fantasy motifs, while Winter Solider channeled the paranoid thrillers of the 70s. Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand, is rollickin’ sci-fi. All superheroes stories, yes, but told in different manners. Next May, Avengers 2 promises to shift the tone to something more somber (even apocalyptic if recent reports from San Diego are to be believed), before relocating to the more comedy & caper vibe of Ant-Man. Just as Marvel’s comics universe is a vast one, encompassing different voices, their cinematic one is as well. This week, Guardians of the Galaxy does its part by expanding that diversity just a little bit further.

Cheers

30 thoughts on “Review of Guardians of the Galaxy”

  1. To me, this was the movie that brought back Marvel’s glory. IM3 and Thor 2 were disappointing, and Cap 2 just didn’t hit it for me. THIS film? All the way; better even than “Avengers”. I can see another 2-3 viewings it was that enjoyable.

    Gotta say too, Ronan was a 1000 times better than Melekith but I’m not sure if it was because he actually had dialogue or because he had slightly better motivation. My 2 cents.

    1. I agree Itho, this was simply fantastic. Awesome action, I laughed throughout, and all the actors were wonderful in their respective roles.

      I don’t have any connection to Ronan save for his appearance in Hickman’s F4 run, but I think he’s second only to Loki so far for the Marvel cinematic villains. Pace did an amazing job.

      1. Yeah, the movie version of Ronan was cool and as I said in my review I thought that he worked well in the film. I just prefer the nobler comic version.

        Either way, Itho, I agree with you that he was better than Melekith.

        @otherbluth: DnA did some great stuff with Ronan during their run, especially after the Inhumans took over ruling the Kree. Then Hickman came along and systemically undid it all. Sorry, that’s kinda one of my beefs about Hickman’s Fantastic Four run — I really don’t like how he used the Inhumans and by extension Ronan . . .

        1. I kinda liked it, it was very “Game of Thrones” in it’s approach. But I say that never having read “War of Kings”… Weird part is I know more about Gladator than Ronan but I’m not that into X-Men.
          Do we know what other Races Marvel can use besides Xandarian and Kree? The Brood is the first to come to mind. I’m trying to figure out what other antagonists they can use for GotG2 since I doubt Ronan and Thanos are available.

          1. My theory is that Thanos will be in the Guardians sequel, it’s simply a matter of how much. If Guardians 2 leads directly into Avenges 3, then it might be fair bit.

            There is also the Sparta Empire. In the comics, the Emperor of Sparta is also Peter’s father, so that’s a direction they could go in . . .

            The Brood is definitely an option. Also, I would note that while there was a lot of talk about the Kree, we hardly saw any of them besides Ronan. So, there are still plenty of story opportunities that involve, for example, traveling to their homeworld Hala. Spending more time with the Kree could also allow the introduction of Captain Marvel . . .

            Or, they could introduce Adam Warlock in the sequel along with Magus . . .

            Suffice to say, they’ve got plenty of story possibilities to chose from . . .

            1. I would love to see Adam Warlock; I was alittle let down that he, Quasar, and Cosmo the cosmonaut weren’t part of the team in the film (but I got some fun conciliation prizes 😉

              Should Marvel introduce the old Cap Marvel? They’ve kind of neglected the character I think and that could be confusing when Carol Danvers gets introduced.

              Here’s a fun one; if we saw a Celestial in this film does that mean we will see the Eternals at some point? And could they be stand-ins for the Inhumans?

              1. Haha dude I was thinking the exact same thing about Warlock today. If they are going to do an Infinity Gauntlet movie would they have to introduce him? And if they do will it be in the Guardians sequel? They’ll prolly bypass the original Cap Marvel. As much as I love both of them his & Warlocks stories are kind of redundant

                1. Regarding Captain Marvel, I would introduce him in one film along with Carol Danvers in her military role. Establish both characters, do the Death of Captain Marvel storyline, then have Carol replace him Captain Marvel. This would also allow the filmmakers to introduce Phyla-Veil who is one of my favorite Guardians. This probably won’t happen, but I think that it could be quite cool if it did . . .

                  @itho, Marvel has not neglected the original Captain Marvel — they’ve simply let him stay dead, which is the right choice.

                  Regarding Warlock, he was a core member of the DnA Guardians, so I don’t think that he would be redundant at all. I think that it’s almost a given that he’ll show up at some point. When he does, he’ll probably resemble more the DnA version than the Starlin one, however.

                  So, here’s my question: if we see Adam Warlock, does that mean we get The High Evolutionary? Now, he’d be an interesting foe for the Guardians to go up against . . .

  2. Great review Cosmo. I saw this Thursday night and absolutely LOVED it. I was pretty excited for it, so I tried to keep my expectations in check, but I thought this delivered in spades. I still think Cap 2 is tops, but for me, this was better than Avengers. Gunn and Co. had a lot more ground to cover than Whedon did, and I thought they did a great job with everything.

    I do think it would’ve been nice to see some “legit” Nova Corps rocket suits, but I think this was a good way to introduce the Corps, and leave the rest to be expanded upon in later films.

    I didn’t want this movie to end, and I can’t wait to see it again, as well as the future adventures of the Guardians.

  3. I have to say I was pleasantly surprise by this movie. I had low expectations for it but was surprise by the amount of information from the Marvel Universe that was introduced in the movie. I was especially excited to see one of the Collector’s captives and wished his appearance was extended more but I’ll take it for now.
    The balance of humor and action sequences as well as character development was well paced. Almost makes me want to buy the monthly series…or wish DnA would come back to write it.
    I really hope this movie makes a killing at the box office because it deserves to.

    1. Well, I was just looking at initial box office estimates, and the film is doing even better than expected. We’ll need to watch how well it holds over the next couple weeks, but it looks like Marvel has another hit on their hands.

      Yeah, I wish that I could buy the monthly series as well. As we were standing in line last night, Patrick & I were trying to figure out who would be a good fit for the series. We kept drawing blanks though (clearly neither of us are reading enough science-fiction comics at present). Well, there’s Brian K Vaughan, but that ain’t happening. Oh well, at least Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon book is promising . . .

      Hmmm, I just thought of Van Lente, who’s doing a great job of mixing serious sci-fi with humor over in Magnus . . .

      1. Dude I actually came up with the perfect current Marvel writer while walking my dogs this afternoon: Al Ewing

        1. Dude, Al Ewing is a great choice, I’ve only read what he’s been doing with Loki, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Awesome choice for a comedy/action book.

          I haven’t read any Van Lente, but I keep hearing good things.

          1. Yeah Van Lente is dope. He’d be as good but I thought of Ewing because he currently writes for Marvel but I’m sure Van Lente could go back if he wanted to

            1. @bluth, Van Lente is a doing a great job on both Archer & Armstrong and Magnus, Robot Fighter — I’d recommend checking out either title . . .

              Ewing’s not a bad choice either. All I’ve read of his is Loki, which has been good so far . . .

  4. Damn all of you irresponsible, childless hipsters with your Pacman video games, hippidy hop music and ability to go to the picture show any time you damn well please.
    I’m such a jealous geezer. 😉

    1. Well the music in the movie was hipster like😎. Plus this hipster could afford to see it at an IMAX which I highly recommend for old geezers that haven’t seen it yet✌️

    2. Hahahaha you can take your kids to this one bro. As long as they don’t understand what he means by “If you ran a black light in here it would look like a Jackson Pollack painting”

    3. I just went right after work Friday. Cost me about $9. I will say this Marvel movie definitely pushes the bar for language if that’s a concern.

      But the music is great in the film, totally makes me wish I lived during 1988…

  5. This was the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in long time, I had a grin on my face nearly the entire film. The movie was just perfectly cast all the way around, and as a fan of Karen Gillan’s I liked seeing her play a villain, thought she did well in her role. Looking forward to going to see it again, I know I missed some lines because myself and the rest of the theater were laughing so hard.

    1. Yeah, there something Rocket said, which Patrick and I both missed because the theater was laughing too loudly . . .

      I did like Karen Gillen’s performance as well. The cast of the movie was just too huge for me to give a shout-out to every member in my review. . .

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