Guardians of the Galaxy
Pros: Absolutely fun in every aspect
Cons: The villains felt the weakest in the entire movie
There are quite a lot of comic books that I enjoyed reading in the past. Some are straightforward superheroic titles and some have that offbeat quality. From DC Comics, I thoroughly enjoyed the shenanigans of the Suicide Squad, a team made up of villains that had no choice but to work for the government. From Marvel Comics, it was the Guardians of the Galaxy, a ragtag team comprised of castoffs set in the future of the Marvel Universe. Recently, the concept of the Guardians of the Galaxy got a facelift in 2008 with a new team in place. The assorted bunch even looks much more dysfunctional than ever but that’s what makes them endearing. This is the charming bunch that graces the big screen in Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest movie offering by Marvel Studios.
Right away the tone is set when the film starts off in the middle of a storyline. It just thrusts the viewers unapologetically into the action. It allows the audience to quickly get its feet wet without having to drag everyone through the mud until the climactic ending. It worked for Star Wars Episode IV and it still holds true now. In fact the entire movie is a pastiche of other great adventures—space or otherwise—as it pays homage to them, such as Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon, Farscape, Firefly, and the aforementioned Star Wars, of course. There is no lengthy exposition in introducing the characters; we learn all that is necessary along the way without being bogged down by the minute details. And because of that, Marvel Studios does something quite amazing: it doesn’t treat the audience like idiots. That level of respect is greatly appreciated by the fans.
But it also sets up a bigger risk. The Guardians are made up of relatively unknown characters. Even the casual comic book fan will admit that they probably do not recognize these names at all. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and Groot are not household names but they have been around since the 1970s. Even more importantly, there is no build up for these characters. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America all received individual movies prior to the their gathering in the Avengers. The Guardians have no such luxury so for this movie to be as successful as it is shows the incredible understanding and nature of these personalities to mesh with one another.
Each actor really shines in these roles. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, is the nexus that brings these characters together. Chris Pratt excels in this role as the sarcastic drifter. He is really the only connection back to Earth; Zoe Saldana is the assassin Gamora, the adopted daughter of the cosmic despot Thanos; Dave Bautista is the fierce warrior Drax the Destroyer; Bradley Cooper provides the acerbic voice for Rocket, a genetically-altered raccoon; and Vin Diesel surprisingly humanizes the innocent tree-walker Groot. Bautista and Vin Diesel really shone in their performances. The former played the ultimate straight-man with his deadpan delivery and nailed every scene; the latter, though relegated to only three words for most of the movie, emoted the heart and soul of the group. Vin Diesel’s work doesn’t surprise me as he did something similar with the gentle 50-foot robot in Iron Giant.
The script is incredibly smart and witty. What helped a lot was the pop culture references. Since all of the action takes place in the far recesses of space, injecting that Earthling humour throughout the film helped the audience connect with the struggles of Pete Quill, the lone Earthman trying to make sense of his life. But while the actors give incredible performances, the real star of the film is the soundtrack comprised of 1970s hits. Not only did it help with the levity but it accentuated each situation that was presented.
The weakest part of the film had to be the villains. Ronan the Accuser and Nebula really became transitional adversaries. There wasn’t anything new that was brought to the table by them. But they were necessary foils to further punctuate the dire threat of Thanos.
What is really interesting is the tone of the film. Think about the parent company behind this Marvel Studios juggernaut, one that everyone seems to forget. Sure, Marvel is now a recognized and respected brand when it comes to movie making. People see its logo and flock in droves. This is rare when the studio outshines its characters. But it’s the Disney machine that keeps the momentum rolling by allowing Marvel to do what they need to do to be successful. Throughout the movie—and clearly at the end—it really felt like a feel-good Disney movie.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe took a huge chance showcasing this team on the big screen and had its faith rewarded. It could have easily been called the Misfits of the Galaxy but the team earned its rightful name. Ironically, Disney owns the rights to the Star Wars franchise and is currently making a new set of movies. However, they just created its own Star Wars with Guardians of the Galaxy as it definitely explores the best of what space opera adventure has to offer.
Other Comic Book Movies
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) || Batman (1943) || Batman: The Movie (1966) || Batman (1989) || Batman Returns || Batman Forever || Batman & Robin || Batman Begins || The Dark Knight || Catwoman || Constantine || Green Lantern (2011) || Red || Steel (1997) || Superman: The Movie || Superman II || Superman II: The Donner Cut || Superman III || Superman IV: The Quest for Peace || Superman Returns || Man of Steel
DC Animated Universe
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm || Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero || Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman || The Batman Superman Movie || Batman Beyond: The Movie || Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker || Justice League: Secret Origins || Justice League: Starcrossed The Movie || Superman: Brainiac Attacks || Superman: The Last Son of Krypton
DC Universe Original Animated Movies
All-Star Superman || Batman: Gotham Knight || Batman: Under the Red Hood || Batman: Year One || Green Lantern: Emerald Knights || Green Lantern: First Flight || Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths || Justice League: Doom || Justice League: The New Frontier || Justice League: War || Superman/Batman: Apocalypse || Superman/Batman: Public Enemies || Superman: Doomsday || Superman vs. The Elite || Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam || Wonder Woman (2009)
Captain America: The First Avenger || Daredevil || Elektra || Fantastic Four (2005) || Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer || Ghost Rider (2007) || Hulk (2003) || The Incredible Hulk (2008) || Iron Man (2008) || Iron Man 2 || The Punisher (2004) || Punisher: War Zone || Spider-Man || Spider-Man 2 || Spider-Man 3 || Thor (2011) || X-Men || X2: X-Men United || X-Men: The Last Stand || X-Men Origins: Wolverine || X-Men: First Class
Marvel Animated Movies
Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007) || Hulk Vs || The Invincible Iron Man (2007) || Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow || Planet Hulk || Ultimate Avengers: The Movie || Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther
Independent Comic Books
G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra || The Mask of Zorro || Men in Black || Popeye || The Spirit (2008) || Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles || Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze || TMNT || Transformers: The Movie (1986) || Transformers (2007) || Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
***This is part of my 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off. Let your inner geekdom out. You have until the end of August. Join here.