Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman

Marvel #10

Coming off the success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the producers threw everything out the window and reinvented what a Marvel film could be with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is far and away the most unique film in the series. I think that newness provides such a breath of fresh air that it feels like at this moment in the franchise, there has been a renewal. Instead of going stale, delivering a similar product over and over again, they’ve reinvented themselves while still pushing the overall story of the franchise forward. It’s really a pretty remarkable accomplishment. This “otherness” the Guardians provide I think is largely what sets Marvel apart from the attempts of DC Comics. While the Marvel movies had light moments in them before, Guardians makes an entire movie of light.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), known as Star Lord, has retrieved a mysterious orb, mistakenly bringing upon him the wrath of Ronan (Lee Pace) and his mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker). Not understanding why everyone wants the orb, Quill ends up teaming up with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel) to keep the orb safe and out of the hands of Ronan, who has dispatched Gamora, the daughter of Thanos, to retrieve the orb. Knowing Ronan and Thanos’ intentions were malicious for the orb, Gamora helps Quill and the other Guardians protect the infinity stone stored within the orb, and deliver it to Nova Corps for protection.

Guardians of the Galaxy is colorful, vibrant, adventurous, loud, stylish, and extremely funny. I think it’s greatest attribute is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Surely, the other films of the series have their witty, funny moments, but at times their graveness really shines through. With Guardians, we simply are having a ball of a time. Pratt in the lead role is a perfect leading man for something like this: funny, but a little doofy too. Bradley Cooper is nearly unrecognizable as the CGI shit-talking Rocket raccoon. Dave Bautista is surprisingly effective in the role of Drax, and Groot might be the best character of all of them, while being limited to a three word vocabulary. But really the presence of Zoe Saldana helps balance out the ensemble.

We run into some of the same issues I mentioned in my Thor: The Dark World review, commenting on all the worlds and alien races to keep track of. But honestly, it doesn’t matter a whole lot here, just buckle up and enjoy the ride. This might seem to be a little unfair and unjust, and I wish I was better at expressing what made The Dark World not work and what makes Guardians work as beautifully as it does. But I think the lightness goes a long way. By not taking itself too seriously, it makes Guardians a lot easier to consume casually. And the main difference is what the two movies are going for. Guardians is a comedy that is able to accomplish exactly what it sets out to be. It’s a hilarious joyride that is extremely easy and fun to watch.

While I will admit a lot of the mechanics of the narrative were a little by the book, serving the greater picture of the franchise, spending time with these characters, getting to know them and see them work together is the joy of the film. And even while the plot serves the greater picture of collecting the Infinity Stones, this is the first time we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Stones. Some may have been mentioned in passing, Loki’s scepter for instance, but Guardians of the Galaxy also serves as a brief tutorial about Thanos and the Infinity Stones, what might be at stake after the events in New York City in The Avengers. Our heroes are still concerned over the safety of Earth, and while Guardians doesn’t take place on Earth, it furthers that concerns by showing the evil and power that lies beyond the Avengers atmosphere. Really a strong entry into the franchise.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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