Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

by James Oakey

For almost a decade, Marvel Entertainment has produced box office hit after hit. This summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy is no exception. James Gunn’s sci-fi adventure is a spacey romp through the galaxy in the vein of Star Wars or Avengers director Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The film is set up in a very similar way to The Avengers: a group of super-heroic individuals band together to fight for a common goal and save the world. In Guardians, however, gone are the metal suits and magic hammers, replaced by an intergalactic treasure hunter (Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord), a couple of alien assassins (Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and Dave Bautista’s Drax), a talking raccoon (Bradley Cooper’s Rocket), and a living tree (Vin Diesel’s Groot), all in search of a mysterious relic with immense power.

While Avengers had hours and hours of exposition on their characters through previous Marvel films, Guardians does a spectacular job of making you feel like you know these characters through only one two-hour movie. The characters are portrayed excellently with Star-Lord’s boastful Han Solo-esque bravado, Gamora’s too-tired-for-this snark, Drax’s deadpan seriousness, Rocket’s wiseguy cracks, and Groot’s childlike kindness coming together to form an unlikely but extremely likable team.

As is the trend with villains in Marvel movies, Ronan (portrayed by Lee Pace) leaves a bit something to be desired, however. His motives are weak and unclear and his plan seems a bit screwy at times, but Pace’s delivery is impeccable and the action sequences he’s involved in are superb. That said, Guardians isn’t a movie about the villain. It’s barely even a superhero movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is a story about a group of golden-hearted criminals looking for redemption and a place to belong, and it succeeds at that goal in spades.

I went into the theater with relatively low expectations (Marvel has had their share of critical bombs despite their financial success. I’m looking at you, Iron Man 2), but I came out pleasantly surprised. The movie rockets ahead at a thundering pace, moving from adventure to prison heist to space battle seamlessly and effortlessly, all the while maintaining a light, fun-filled air complete with an 80’s pop hit soundtrack. Guardians does take a few moments to slow down, tastefully adding drama and humanity to the otherwise bright, action-y atmosphere. While it is a Marvel movie, its ties to the other franchises are minimal at best (a reference appears every once in a while to maintain the Marvel universe’s integrity) and as such, I would recommend Guardians to any fan of space adventures or action movies, even to those without any interest in superheroes. If you see only one movie before the summer officially ends, I wholeheartedly suggest making it Guardians of the Galaxy.

(Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com)