Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review & Trailer: Cast Scores A Diverting and Thrilling Action Movie
Over the last few years, the comic book film has come under siege.
The genre still makes a ton of movies, but critics and fans seem to be looking down on it. Part of it is the quality (as was the case with this summer's "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"), but a lot of it has to do with the repetitive structures of storytelling. Superhero films unfortunately do not have anything new to say beside the same old "Virtuous hero with ideals overcomes villain intent on destroying civilization."
But once in a while, a relevant superhero film comes along that takes the formula and turns it on its head.
Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" was the first major step in transforming the genre. In that film, Nolan overlooked the usual themes and actually questioned the integrity of a hero. When must a hero overlook his ideals in order to save the people he loves? When does he stop being a hero and start becoming the villain? These profound questions not only fascinated audiences, but made the genre relevant and transcendent.
But redefining a genre does not require taking on a more serious and profound tone, as many superhero films since "The Dark Knight" have attempted and failed to do ("Man of Steel" and even the recent "Spider-Man" films). Sometimes, all it takes is irreverence. And that is exactly why "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a tremendous success.
The entire plot winds up revolving around a powerful stone that Peter Quill steals off an abandoned planet in the film's opening sequences, thus keeping the narrative focused for its lengthy running time. There really is not much to say about the plot as it generally maintains many genre clichés. Quill and his rag tag team of bandits-turned-heroes escape a prison, then nearly get killed by potent opponents before rising up and making a last stand to save a planet. To call the film predictable is not a stretch as the denouement proves easy to guess. But the journey getting there is the true wonder of it all.
In its opening frames, the viewer is made to believe that the James Gunn film is going to follow the tried and true formular. A young Peter is watching his mother die of cancer before deciding to run away. It has the makings of a typical origin story. But then the film jumps ahead a couple of decades and Peter is all grown up and is attempting to steal an ancient stone on a deserted island. He reveals his cover name to be "Star-Lord," but his initial adversaries do not seem to think much of it. As noted later, Peter's attempt to give himself a superhero name is silly in this universe and completely subverts the pre-established notion established in other comic book films.
And Gunn is not shy about overturning audience expectations at every turn. Peter and Gamora have a few sentimental moments that are punctuated by tremendous comedic timing. The second such instance is far more subtle, but just as effective. Peter gives a heroic speech which is ultimately subverted by Rocket's hilarious reaction throughout. Even the final climax avoids the usual "final boss battle" style filmmaking that has become a fixture of other comic book films. Some might find it a bit anti-climactic, but it certainly fits in with the mood established by Gunn throughout the balance of the film.
But the comedy is where the film really stands out. To call this a children's movie is way off the mark as "Guardians" has no qualms about eschewing profanity to deliver its humor. At one point, Peter talks about his ship potentially looking like a Jackson Pollack painting if a black light were used to investigate it. But there are other over-the-top touches that also resonate. In the opening sequence, Quill puts on his cassette player and dances around the abandoned planet almost as if putting on a show. He takes on monsters by pounding out his dance moves. Coincidentally, it seems that it is this very behavior that ultimately proves to be his "super power."
The performances are all top notch. Chris Pratt proves to be a true movie star in his turn as Quill. His delivery of the one-liners is spot on, but he manages some truly poignant moments that fill in Peter's rather straight-forward character. The same can be said for Zoe Saldana as Gamora. She imbues the character with a mix of toughness and vulnerability. David Bautista is also solid as Drax.
But the real scene stealers are the CGI creations voiced by Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. Rocket (Cooper) mouthes off excessively, but he delivers the film's most memorable lines. But he is one-upped by Diesel's Groot, who only utters one line the entire movie. His "I am Groot" never gets old and constantly elicits tremendous laughter every time it comes up. Both of these characters, especially Groot, are unpredictable packages that make this film so memorable.
The music choices are also brilliant as Gunn opts for old pop songs in addition to the traditional orchestra score. While the score adds to the film in more subtle ways, the pop songs (and their respective placement) really give the film its definition and substance.
Gunn's script may veer along the familiar path but the moments that lead up to the dramatic milestones certainly keep the viewer not only interested, but in suspense. "Guardians of the Galaxy" might be the best Marvel film created since the first "Iron Man" and is undoubtedly the super hero movie to watch in 2014.
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