Guardians of the Galaxy is set in the cosmos and is an expansion of the Marvel universe. It focuses on Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an outlaw who was abducted from Earth as a young boy by the Ravagers, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Quill finds his way into a cave on a remote planet and recovers an orb, which will supposedly get him a lot of money on the black market. After a narrow escape from Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Quill heads to Nova and tries to sell the orb. However, when the buyer realizes that Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) is involved with this orb, he declines and Quill leaves.
After that, Quill meets Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green-skinned assassin who steals the orb from him and tries to run. But soon enough, she runs into Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper), who are after her for a bounty. All four get arrested and end up in prison, where they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), the fifth member of their motley crew. After a daring prison escape, these five loners must unite to stop a force that's out of their control.
Marvel has a formula and most of the time, they stick to that formula. And as much as people have raved about how unique this movie is, it really is just another Marvel origin movie. It's the same story as The Avengers. They've just tweaked the situations and the characters are alien criminals, not dysfunctional superhumans. But it's a formula for a reason. It works and it works every single time. Marvel hasn't made a bad film yet and Guardians of the Galaxy is no different. It's a rollicking space ride with a sick soundtrack, beautiful effects and some of the funniest characters in the Marvel universe. It's one of the more purely enjoyable films of the year.
The Marvel Studios films have always emphasized character development and always make sure that we care for their characters. They do a lot of world-building as well, but it's so effortless and it blends in with the terrific storytelling. Guardians is no different. These characters are some of Marvel's best and they make better than your usual Marvel flick.
Peter Quill is the leader of the group and he's played with a rocking swagger by Chris Pratt, who is destined to be one of the biggest superstars on the planet. I've already heard people call Platt "a male Jennifer Lawrence" and I really do think that's an apt comparison. He's terrific in the movie and will likely own Hollywood for a long time to come. After that, the screentime is shared pretty evenly between the Guardians. Bradley Cooper plays Rocket, the Han Solo of the group, and absolutely owns the role. The profane, machine gun-toting raccoon is often a scene-stealer, but he has genuine emotions as well. It's a terrific and deep character that could have ended up being relegated to comic relief in a lesser film.
Groot is the weirdest character of the bunch- he's a giant tree who says nothing but "I am Groot." Diesel does a good job in the role, I guess. There really isn't that much to do, but you care about Groot and he's one of the more likable characters in the movie. Dave Bautista was actually the standout for me. He plays Drax, a hulking alien on a search for vengeance. Bautista brings such a dry and uproarious humor to the role that you can't help but love him. Like Rocket, Drax has his own traumas, but he's also a very funny dude. Zoe Saldana is the weakest link in the cast by a mile. It's great to have strong female characters, but Gamora has nothing to do. She's a brutal assassin who's not all that likable and the romance angle with the womanizing Quill is forced. She has her moments, but in the end, she's not great.
One of the most awesome things about this film is its soundtrack. Holy wow. This soundtrack is probably the best in ages. No wonder it's already topped the charts on iTunes. The collection of classic 70's and 80's hits perfectly supplement the wacky space action and it makes sense when it comes to the plot of the film. It's an addictive soundtrack and, believe it or not, I'm listening to it as I write this review. From Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" to "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways, this is a soundtrack that is purely amazing.
The action in this film is also pretty fantastic. It's high energy and absolutely insane. The special effects are beautiful, and although I wish that there were a few more practical stunts, I can't honestly complain. The final forty minutes of this film after the Guardians finally band together is absolutely incredible. I just loved the action along with the look and feel of this film. Director James Gunn did a fantastic job.
And finally, for a film that is so action-oriented, this is a surprisingly heartfelt movie. You care about the characters. They're all loners and they've all experienced some kind of trauma (except for Groot- he's just a cute tree). Gunn does a great job of expressing this and you really root for the Guardians. That's a tough feat, but the filmmakers accomplished it.
As much as I really liked this film, I can't say that it's perfect. It takes a little while to find its footing and when it does, it's a really energetic and almost numbing experience. It's the rare film that moves too fast. The plot is pretty standard Marvel and the use of the MacGuffin in flicks from the studio is getting a little annoying. Ronan is a completely inconsequential villain and his motives are clear, but bland. Plus, at the end of the movie, a main hero is killed and then magically comes back to life. This is the fifth straight movie where Marvel has done this. It's getting annoying.
Nonetheless, this is an incredibly awesome and enjoyable film that people will have a ton of fun with. I know that I did and I believe that, unlike other Marvel films, it will have very good replay value. Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista give star-making turns and the special effects are incredible. The soundtrack adds a lot to the movie and the plot expands the Marvel universe in ways that most people probably thought were impossible a few years ago. It's not the best Marvel film, but it's hilarious, heartfelt and slickly cool. Simply terrific.
THE FINAL GRADE: A- (8.5/10)