Marvel Studios has now released their 10th major motion picture film in the Avengers franchise. With a previous 9 entries, they have a mostly spotless track record. Marvel Studios has built a lot of trust between them and the general public. So much so, they can take a risk on a property that almost no one knows about, “The Guardians of Galaxy”. I grew up reading comic books and I had never heard of them before either. “Iron Man” originally may have been a small gamble but still the general public had a solid idea of what “Iron Man” was. “Guardians” nearly no one outside of the geek community (and to even some within the geek community) knew about. The superhero industry has already a bunch of heroes that are proven yet Marvel decides to roll the dice with this property instead of a safer bet like a “Hulk 2”. It’s just strange, a talking tree and raccoon? Such a strange group of heroes. Not only is the property itself a gamble but so is some of the talent behind it.
The cast, like it’s characters, are a group of actors seemingly thrown together. Chris Pratt from the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation”. The wrester Dave Batista, John C. Riley, Vin Diesel , and Glenn Close? That’s to only name a few but it’s sufficient to say it’s odd casting. Then hire mostly unknown director James Gunn from “Slither” and “Super”. Many predicted that this would be Marvel’s first bomb at the box office which is something Marvel didn’t want leading right into the second “Avengers”.
All this risk and odd talent behind the project had paid off in the end. “Guardian of the Galaxy ” is a fun sc-fi adventure movie that’s Marvel’s biggest departure yet from their usual forte. There are a few flaws with this, however the strength in the film is the newest team of Superheroes, that make us overlook most of the flaws. With great energy and comedy, the new and strange characters will win the hearts of movie goers and cement Marvel’s phase 2 films (anything after the first “Avengers” leading up to the second “Avengers”) as a far more dominant and superior phase to their first one.
After being abducted from earth as a kid, Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) has become an intergalactic outlaw, stealing artifacts and selling them for a profit. He steals one artifact that makes him a become a target for several people in the galaxy. Through a series of circumstances he becomes surrounded by a rag tag group of outlaws as they fight to avoid capture and take on the warlord Ronan before he launches an attack on unsuspecting planet.
The first thing that struck me when viewing this film is how unlike a superhero movie this really is. All of the movies in Marvel’s phase one felt like superhero movies. There is nothing wrong with that at all, it served its purpose in the build up to “The Avengers”. However in this second phase of Marvel films it’s been really different. “Iron Man 3” did feel like a superhero film and for variety of reasons was the weakest of the new set of films. “Thor: The Dark World” felt like a mix of “Lord of Rings” and “Star Trek” all wrapped up in a superhero movie. This year’s “Captain America: The Winter Solider” was a spy/political thriller, didn’t at all feel like a superhero movie, and blew us all away. “Guardians of the Galaxy” continues that trend, this is not a superhero film. This feels like “Star Trek” mixed with “Star Wars” and given the fun thrills of “Indiana Jones” series. It’s a brilliant mix of different styles and tone that the screenwriters and director James Gunn brings to the screen.
The biggest strength of this film is its characters. No we didn’t need individual solo films to love them by the time they teamed up, we got to know them as the story progressed. Each character got his back story told and gave each one, their moment in the film. Star Lord, played by the rising star Chris Pratt, is the only human in the collection of strange and odd characters. He provides leadership and plenty of laughs along the way. Dave Batista kills it as Drax the Destroyer, a man seeking revenge for the death of his wife and daughter. Drax would easily fit into an episode of “Star Trek”. Vin Diesel voices the talking tree named Groot, that’s only lines of dialogue include the phrase of “I am Groot”. Zoe Saldana plays the green alien and daughter of Thanos, Gamora and she actually kicks serious ass in the role. I thought I’d be tired of her in these sc-fi films since she is in “Star Trek” series and “Avatar”. However her role is different from the others and does a great job at it.
The show stealer though was Rocket. The talking badass raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. He is funny and his banter between him and the other characters is irresistible. However there are scenes that show some depth to his character, which brings him out of a pure comic relief role. Rocket is awesome.
Why is the characters the biggest strength of the film? Simply because the story isn’t a standout. Although it’s perfectly fine and serviceable, it’s just not that outstanding nor always interesting. Some details get lost or barely mentioned and occasionally tries to cram a little too much info without fleshing some of it out. It’s really a simple story meant to serve the characters instead of the other way around. There is a big threat and the team has to come together to stop it, simple as that. It’s not nearly as good as “Captain America: The Winter Solider” but it’s a good vehicle to have some fun.
Even though there is great attention to the characters the main villain is very one note. He serves the purposes of the story like the main antagonist in “Thor: The Dark World” did, but he isn’t that memorable. Other than Loki, Marvel doesn’t have a ton of good villains in their series. I would like to see them step it up with their villains like they did in the recent “Captain America”.
Also stay tuned for the after credit scene. It’s nothing amazing but comic book fans will get the joke that was thrown in there. It’s a nice wink to people who remember one of Marvel’s first characters put on screen.
This is yet another example of how to make a summer blockbuster. It’s funny, action packed, and filled with wonderful and memorable characters. I think now we can call the year of 2014 one of the best years for comic book movies even if the upcoming “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” isn’t amazing. This is a great send off before we get to Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” next year. If anything this also proves that Warner Brothers/DC doesn’t need to make individual solo films before “Justice League” comes out. If you didn’t enjoy Marvel’s previous films I would still tell you to give this a shot. The tone and style is so different than previous entries that you might enjoy this one too, even with its minor flaws.