Note: I actually saw this movie on the Thursday before it officially came out (July 31st), and I was part of its $94.3 million opening weekend. I’ve just been dragging my feet in getting this review up, pending a potential second viewing, but instead decided to check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot instead.
Of the many movies that have been released so far this year, Guardians of the Galaxy was probably my most anticipated movie. Not because I am/was familiar with the characters ahead of time, but because I was interested in seeing a movie that I had little knowledge. Even though the stories of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Age of Extinction, for example, were new stories, it was still relatively easy to see where those movies would end up, especially considering the previous movies in their respective series.
But Guardians would be different; though I knew the general premise of the movie from reading a little about it and from the trailers, it ended up being something slightly different than what I was expecting. Because of this, it is definitely one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released to date, and it has me excited for some of the “deep cut” Marvel movies that are coming over the next few years. While DC Comics/Warner Brothers continues to struggle to build its own cinematic universe, Marvel/Disney have shown how you can turn even lesser known characters into box office gold.
(Minor spoilers ahead)
The movie starts out with a young Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) at the hospital with his family as his mother lies dying. After she dies, Peter runs outside, when he is abducted by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). We next see Quill when he lands on a distant planet to acquire an orb, an item that many people are looking for, indicated by his interception by Korath, who is also looking for the orb for his master Ronan (Lee Pace). Throw in that Quill is supposed to share the loot with Yondu and the Ravagers, and you have Quill – AKA Star-Lord – on the run from multiple people.
Instead of heading back to the Ravagers, who in turn place a bounty on his capture, Quill instead goes to Xandar to sell the orb to the broker, who refuses to buy the orb because of Ronan’s involvement in its search. Ronan has sent his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to capture the orb, and the bounty on Quill has also drawn the attention of the bounty hunters Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the ent-like Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). A chase ensues, which results in the capture of all four, who are then sent to the super prison the Kyln.
While there, they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and, after Gamora informs the group of her plans to betray Ronan, the newly formed “Guardians of the Galaxy” decide to escape from the Kyln and take the orb to a buyer that Gamora knows, hopefully resulting in keeping the orb out of Ronan’s hands. Long story short, they escape, get to Nowhere where the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) resides, Ronan show up because Drax called him, and the Guardians head back to Xandar in an attempt to stop Ronan from using the orb to really mess things up there. After that, you should really go see the movie to see how things end up going down, but trust me it’s very satisfying.
As mentioned previously, this is probably the first Marvel movie that I didn’t have at least an understanding of the characters. Every other movie in the MCU that has been done have used familiar characters, many that had parts in the cartoons of my youth. Guardians was obviously different, and only those that were truly dedicated to the Marvel Cosmic comics had any idea who these people might be. Writer/Director James Gunn took these “unknown” characters and made them a funny and endearing group of super heroes. Among all the wit and humor was just the right amount of drama and action, making the movie enjoyable from start to finish. My favorite MCU film might be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Guardians is solidly in the top third with Iron Man and The Avengers.
That does not mean there aren’t flaws in the movie. Karen Gillan is criminally underutilized as Gamora’s “twin” sister Nebula, and Lee Pace’s Ronan is pretty wooden and one note. The big bad from the next Avengers movie, Thanos, is on screen for no more than three minutes, and it would have been nice to see a little bit more of what Josh Brolin will bring to that role. But these are definitely minor complaints. I really thought the movie was great, packed with action, great jokes, and a fulfilling story that sets up well for the sequel in 2017. The expansion of the MCU beyond the familiar characters was a risk, but films like Guardians of the Galaxy help show that it was probably a good decision.
Until next time…