MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Written by J.T. Johnson

4-12-stars

DIRECTOR: James Gunn
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ben Davis
WRITERS: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
MUSIC: Tyler Bates

Director James Gunn gives audiences the most unique Marvel Film since they began their Cinematic Universe with “Iron Man” back in 2008 with “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The biggest question is whether or not this gamble paid off. After all, while aliens were introduced in “The Avengers”, this film dives head first into the realm of the space opera.

This is okay, though, because the risk does pay off for Marvel and sci-fi fans alike. This is because to offset the fact that the audience is in a distinctly alien part of the galaxy, Gunn fills the screenplay with relatively human characters. It’s time for a roll call.

First, the audience is introduced to the Earthling known as Peter Guill (Chris Pratt). After his mom’s death from cancer, he is abducted by aliens and raised by smugglers known as Ravagers, led by the seemingly ruthless leader played by Michael Rooker, Yondu. When Peter grows up, he becomes an outlaw and refers to himself as Star-Lord.

After he obtains an ancient artifact, he is pursued by the forces of Ronan (Lee Pace), which includes Thano’s (Josh Brolin) daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana). When she tracks him down, they are both intercepted by Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Once they are all caught by the Nova Corps, they are sent to prison where they eventually meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a character who has his own score to settle with Ronan.

Okay, now that they are all introduced, it’s time to see how these characters stack up. Again, they are all distinctly human in nature. Quill is looking for his purpose in life, Gamora is trying to stop her insane father, Drax wants revenge for the death of his family and Rocket and Groot fill the Han Solo and Chewbacca roles quite nicely.

Still, despite that not so subtle comparison to “Star Wars”, that is not really comparable to this movie as is Joss Whedon’s sci-fi classic, “Firefly”. The fact that these are a bunch of outlaws with a healthy sense of humor reminded me more of Captain Mal and his merry band of smugglers. Even the style and tone seems to fit in well with Whedon’s cult classic.

Thankfully, the actors all have good chemistry with each other as well. This is an ensemble piece with Quill simply as the master of ceremonies. If these characters did not work well with each other, then the whole thing falls apart. Thankfully, the performers are up to the challenge and they all have their parts to play without spoiling too much here for those not as familiar with the comic book counterpart.

Speaking of which, I do want to take a moment now and make a note that the comic book on which this story is based is still quite unfamiliar to me. I purposefully maintained that ignorance because I liked the idea of going into a Marvel film with a fresh pair of eyes. That being said, I can’t tell you how this stacks up to the actual source material, but I’m sure fanboys will line up to tell you what Gunn and crew got right and wrong.

As far as being a rollercoaster action film is concerned though, this is definitely going to be in my top five films of the year if not higher. First, we’ll talk about the special-effects. In particular, I’ll talk about the realization of Rocket Raccoon.

Yes, the spaceships, the dogfights and all of the action stuff looks amazing and that goes without saying. Rocket though is one of the most fully realized characters that I’ve ever seen produced by a computer. Every hair and emotion comes into clear focus and there is one scene where the character is talking about what he’s been through and I truly got emotional. Rocket’s effects were achieved by visual effects house Framestore and I wanted to give them a particular shout out for a job well done.

Finally, I’ll make a special note about the soundtrack. Due to being abducted in 1988, Peter only has a Sony Walkman with him at all times to remind him of his former home. Throughout the film, Gunn successfully uses the soundtrack to establish the tone and sometimes the humor of a particular scene. After watching the movie, I honestly considered downloading the soundtrack.

To be honest, I generally tend to write about what sticks out the most for me after the film is finished, good or bad. With this one, I’m only able to recall the good and there is nothing too bad that sticks out like a sore thumb… Oh! I wish there had been more scenes with the Collector played by Benicio del Toro. There, I found something. Moving on!

The best thing that I can say in conclusion is that you should go see the movie. If you are a fan of the Marvel films or simply a fan of sci-fi, you will find that there is a lot of fun to be had with this flick. Great action, great effects, great performances and good music make this a particularly high point in the library of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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