Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) Review
Written by: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close & Benicio Del Toro
Movie theaters have been inundated with comic book movies for quite some time now and, although I’ve been a fan of most of them throughout the years, I’ve been waiting for that one comic book adaptation to come along and do something entirely different within the genre. Well, that film has officially arrived in James Gunn’s off-beat and down-right hilarious Guardians of the Galaxy.
While the Guardians have been around the comics world since 1969, they’ve never achieved the notoriety or fame that most of their Marvel counterparts have. Gunn’s feature is truly their coming out party to the masses and it honestly couldn’t be a more fun ride for them to enter the Marvel-verse in on. Guardians centers on Peter Quill, a space criminal who sets out to obtain an orb that could make him rich. Once he obtains it, however, he is forced into conflict with Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a power-mad religious zealot who is looking to use the orb to destroy whole worlds. Quill then teams up with a talking raccoon named Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper), a lovable tree named Groot (voice by Vin Diesel), the muscle-bound Drax (Dave Bautista) and former Ronan compatriot Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to get the orb back and, of course, save the world.
- The Cast – When Chris Pratt was first cast as the lead in Guardians, many were left scratching their heads. I on the other hand couldn’t have been more excited. Pratt has been consistently one of the funniest people on television in NBC’s Parks & Recreation for the last few years and although he’s had his fair share of supporting roles on the big-screen, he hasn’t really had the chance to lead a feature film until Guardians, and boy does he ever deliver. From a delightfully bonkers opening credits sequence in which Pratt’s Quill dances to Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love” to his quick-witted lines of absurd dialogue, it’s no wonder fans are chomping at the bit for a potential Marvel cross-over scene between Quill and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are absolutely fantastic in their voice roles, giving heavy doses of humor and heart to Rocket and Groot respectively. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the film is the performance by WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. His Drax is a very literal-minded alien, and Bautista is absolutely fantastic at playing this character trait up to great comedic effect. Zoe Saldana perhaps could have been given more to work with as Gamora, but she is fittingly bad-ass and exudes a maniacal confidence that pays off in spades in her fight sequences.
- The Tone – As I inferred in my introduction, I have been waiting for a filmmaker to come along and make one of these Marvel properties their own. Well, Troma-alum James Gunn has done just that with Guardians. He embraces his indie roots by making this rag-tag group of misfits different from all the comic book characters that have preceeded them on the big-screen. They are an absolute joy to watch, constantly bouncing off one another with clever dialogue, but never at the expense of their characters and who they are in relation to one another. Some film enthusiasts believe a director’s most important job is managing the tone of their film, and Gunn does a masterful job here of embracing the inherent silliness of the Guardians of the Galaxy concept. The film never takes itself seriously, at all. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at the movies, and that’s all thanks to Gunn’s management of the film’s supremely silly tone.
- The Production Design – If there’s one aspect of Guardians that is most likely to go unnoticed but is absolutely one of the key factors in its success, it’s the work of the production design team. The intergalactic worlds of the film are so fully realized that you never question for one moment why Gunn has chosen to take us to this particular place. Most of these settings feel Star Wars-esque, and it’s in that way fitting that Guardians outdoes the prequel trilogy quite easily in placing us in these computer generated worlds that feel real as opposed to us sensing that these actors are merely acting opposite each other in front of a green screen. The color scheme is also a lot of fun, Gunn and his team choosing to highlight bright, primary colors as opposed to the rather muted and darkly bland colors of many other superhero features. These choices let us know on one of the most basic levels that we are allowed to have fun with the film, and boy do we ever.
- It’s Not Flawless – As is the case with many of Marvel’s films, the villain is underwritten and at times the use of the typical superhero plot points is frustrating. With that said, you’re often having so much fun that you don’t really pay much attention to these aspects and just go along on the ride. Guardians can be quite messy at times, particularly in its first half, but the characters are so well realized and Gunn keeps the silliness so much in the forefront that it’s hard to even give these flaws a second thought. You just accept them and move on.
As far as I’m concerned, Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s best film to date. It may not be the most well-written, have the biggest, most bombastic action sequences, or even have a plot that is all that consequential in regards to the entire Marvel unvierse, but it is without question a comic book film that doesn’t really feel like anything else within the genre. It takes chances, gives us off-beat characters that we’ve never really seen before, and cracks jokes at moments that other films wouldn’t dare. James Gunn has crafted a comic book film that is uniquely his own. Here’s hoping Marvel will allow other filmmakers to do the same in the future.