Guardians of the Galaxy

"What a bunch of a-holes."

A lone figure in a space mask (Chris Pratt's Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord) strolls across the surface of a barren planet. He comes across the ruins of dead civilisation, removes his mask, pops on a set of headphones, hits play on his Sony Walkman and struts through the ruins to the funky sounds of Awesome Mix Vol. 1. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen and variations, to Guardians of the Galaxy, the best space opera since the original Star Wars trilogy and the closest thing we are ever going to get to a Farscape movie.

You've probably heard that GotG was a big gamble for Marvel. I have yet to read a single review or magazine article that hasn't said that at least once. It's a gamble that paid off as the film opened to a massive $94 million at the US box office this weekend. That's bigger than The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Not bad for a film based on a comic title so obscure even I had to look it up on Wikipedia when it was first announced. A lot of praise really has to go to the film's marketing team, who did a exceptional job promoting the film by emphasizing the two things the audience would easily connect with; the film's sense of humour and its killer soundtrack.

The film's biggest asset is probably that amazing soundtrack. After a brief Earth-based prologue to establish Quill's origins and tragic backstory (all heroes need one), the film blasts off to the stars and never looks back. The music, which comes from a mix-tape Quill's dying mother made for him (the woman clearly had great taste), gives the audience something familiar to hang on as Gunn takes us on a guided tour of the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, from Knowhere (a mining colony built inside the severed head of a space god) to the throne of this mega franchise's ultimate big bad, Thanos (Josh Brolin).

Story-wise, GotG is nothing revolutionary for Marvel. There's an all-powerful MacGuffin the bad guy wants so they can take over the universe for reasons so vague no one ever bothers to mention them. A mismatched group of bickering heroes reluctantly band together to stop them. Cue third act action extravaganza. But predictable plotting is something I am always willing to forgive when a film is as fun and hilarious as this one. In terms of action and visual effects, the film looks amazing. You wouldn't think that this was Gunn's first venture into big budget filmmaking. Visually, the film is somewhere between the shiny pulp sci-fi novel covers of the 70s, Jack Kirby, and the grittier used universe look of Ridley Scott's Alien.

With any film centered around a team there's always the risk that someone is going to get Hawkeyed. Luckily, that doesn't happen here. Every member of the team (from Pratt's Kirkian scoundrel to Zoe Saldana's assassin with a heart) is given a moment to shine, with Rocket and Groot the clear standouts. They may only be a collection of 1s and 0s but they feel as real and alive as their flesh and blood co-stars. Groot is just the most adorable thing ever and the true heart and soul of the film. It is impossible to come out of this film without a special place in your heart for him. I haven't been this emotional about a Vin Diesel performance since The Iron Giant.

GotG does suffer when it comes to its villains, a recurring problem for Marvel Studios' films. Lee Pace's Ronan has got that whole Dark Lord thing working for him, but he's no Loki. Best I can say is he's at least more interesting than Christopher Eccleston's Malekith. Meanwhile, Karen Gillan's Nebula doesn't get the screentime she deserves. Can we have more of her in the sequel please?

Notes and Quotes

--As with Gunn's previous films, this one includes an appearance by Nathan Fillion.

--Vin Diesel apparently recorded "I am Groot" over 1,000 times in multiple languages.

--You can listen to the entirety of the aptly named Awesome Mix Vol. 1 here.

--Quill's spaceship is named the Milano after Alyssa Milano.

Groot: "I! AM! GROOT!"

Rocket: "Metaphors go over his head."
Drax: "Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it."

Gamora: "You don't get to ask questions after the nonsense you pulled on Knowhere!"
Drax: "I just saved Quill!"
Quill: "We've already established that you destroying the ship I'm on is not saving me!"
Drax: "When did we establish that?"
Quill: "Like three seconds ago?"
Drax: "I wasn't listening. I was thinking of something else..."

Gamora: "I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy."

Rocket: "Why would you want to save the galaxy?"
Quill: "Because I'm one of the idiots that lives in it!"

Three and a half out of four legendary heroes named Kevin Bacon.


sunbunny said...

I actually thought the super standard plot was a smart play. So many Marvel movies feature villains with convoluted plans that don't make extraordinary amounts of sense I thought it was smart to keep this to blue dude wants to destroy planet. Because of reasons. Especially since so much of this movie was so strange and foreign and spacey. We didn't have to puzzle over the villain's evil plot.

I just love the worlds they created. They all felt so real and different. From the Skittles commercial future land of Xandar to the dirty and criminal mining colony inside the head of a dead alien (holy shit was that cool).

The villains were a snooze, but I've come to expect that from Marvel movies that don't feature Tom Hiddleston.

Emily Ecrivaine said...

I feel like the generic plot was good simply because that allowed for more character development and less exposition. A film (or show) tends to live or die by its characters, so this one made a wise choice by sticking with an old standard plot-wise so that they could develop their utterly unique characters better. Maybe if Guardians should get a sequel we'll see a different approach to the plot, since then the characters would already be established.

Also...Rocket Raccoon. Hands-down the best part of the film. And to think some were predicting that he would be the Jar Jar of the Marvel universe!

J.D. Balthazar said...

Loved this one so much, the characters were all so well realized. Rocket and Groot are some of the best cg characters I've seen. Up there with gollum and ceasar. The villains weren't great, but I liked nebula and ronan's final scene was classic. The soundtrack was great and so we'll, used. Like the pina colada song (which is really titled escape) played over the prison scene.

The sequel has already gotten a release date, so I'm alredy looking forward to revisiting these characters.

Patrick said...

Anyone who thought Rocket Raccoon would be the Jar Jar of this movie obviously never read the comics featuring this incarnation of the Guardians. :) Though I think a LOT of credit should go to Chris Pratt, he was front & center among actors with arguably much higher profiles and held his own quite well. This movie could really launch his career to the next level.

I thought this was hands down one of the best movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, easily on par with The Avengers & both Captain America flicks. I may even go back to see it again, though not in 3D. I only saw it in 3D so I could be in the one theater near me with Dolby Atmos. :)

The whole team was quite good, I thought it there was one weak link it was probably Drax. Not really because of Dave Bautista's performance, but he wasn't really given as much to work with compared to everyone else. Plus, they kinda Gimli'd him a bit, making him more comical than his comic book version, in a way that diminished him much like I felt Gimli was in the Lord Of The Rings movies.

The villains were definitely underdeveloped, but at the same time if they'd tried to enrich those characters further it probably would've confused the audience who was already getting used to a whole new setting and group of heroes.

Seeing the Nova Corps all flying ships makes me wonder if we'll ever see them operating with the "Nova Force" like they do in the comics(for those unfamiliar, it's kinda Green Lantern Corps-ish, only without the imaginary boxing glove stuff).

Now that they've clearly established the Infinity Stones in the MCU(and according to Kevin Fiege, we've now encountered three of the six), I'll be very curious to see when & how the other three show up. A Doctor Strange movie would probably be a good place for either the Mind or Soul gem to appear. :)

Juliette said...

So glad it wasn't just me who came out (having really liked it) feeling like Quill is basically John Crichton with less angst, and stuck in the 80s!

sunbunny said...

Found a great article on the movie entitled "Guardians of the Galaxy: A Superhero Movie That Actually Cares About Innocent Civilians."

mazephoenix said...

Haven't seen it yet but am sure I'll love it.
There was talk of a Kickstarter-funded Farscape movie. Maybe that could still happen. In the meantime this will do nicely.
The trailers looked awesome and all the good reviews have me psyched.

rebecca_s921 said...

Really love this one. Marvel really upped their games this year between Winter Soldier and GotG. I kinda knew I'd like it because the concept of Rocket and Groot had me very intrigued in spite of only ever seeing this bunch show up in recent Captain Marvel issues. The end result surpassed my expectations and I would love to see this in theater again.

TheShadowKnows said...

The audience where I saw it was in stitches from start to finish. A definite breath of fresh air in the "gloom and doom" comic book movie field.

But then again I really like Slither, by the same director.

mazephoenix said...

Finally saw it. Just as I'd hoped it was great. Much love for Rocket and Groot. Quill made a great Han Solo-ish hero, and Gamora was kickass.
The villains were weak, but Ronan's look and voice were imposing at least. Lee Pace did a good job, Ronan's just not that great a villain in the comics either.
Nebula was good though, wanted more of her.
Looking forward to more of this in a few years time, sigh.

mikethehat said...

I have to day I thought it was corporate bland. I've read with interest about the characterisation but failed to notice any beyond the most cursory needed - something akin to "I'm going to kill you because I don't like you" Nothing too demanding.

Many set pieces and special effects which are all very pretty and formulaic. Some dramatic tension, although it's clear that none of the heroes will die, so it's actually not that tense, or dramatic.

It is pretty much Farscape in a film. Farscape was "good" because it has a long story arc and time to develop it, characters (sort of), dialogue and so on, and sometimes some interesting ideas (often not, but I digress). GoG doesn't.

A much better film is Skeletons. It might not be very new, but it's still good. And if you want something more clearly SF, Bladerunner is still hard to beat. While I like spaceships in my films it's not what it's really about and SF should be about ideas. Bladerunner has the potential to give one's brain something to do, GoG will "entertain" it and probably make you a little bit fatter.

Billie Doux said...

I liked it. It was very Farscape and clever. But I agree that the plot and the villain, or villains, were way too formulaic. I kept wanting less action and more funny.