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Guardians of the Galaxy – Movie Review

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Guardians of the Galaxy – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

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As Marvel continues to expand on their Cinematic Universe, they appear to be looking at new sources to adapt to the screen. Guardians of the Galaxy might be the craziest one of them all. When your cast of heroes includes a green-skinned assassin, a gun-wielding raccoon and a tree with a limited vocabulary, you need to have the right sense of humour to make it work. Thankfully, director/co-writer James Gunn has been allowed to go nuts and the result is the high point of Marvel’s current crop of world-building movies. This is a script that could very well have been produced in the 1980s and gained cult status, just for the sheer lunacy of it. However, Guardians of the Galaxy also works, because Gunn appears to have such a love for the material.

After a cold opening that’s strangely in contrast from the rest of the movie, the first scene after the Marvel logo immediately sets the tone for the remaining two hours. Guardians of the Galaxy is in love with the 1980s, not just in the references it makes, but also the sense of humour and the central characters. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is like a combination of many Harrison Ford heroes of the time period and yet underneath the occasional snark, he is possibly Marvel’s most relatable protagonist. Pratt’s delightful performance and Gunn’s screenplay develop a character whose a perfect representation of our childhood dreams of exploring the galaxies and meeting cool alien creatures. Remarkably, equal attention is also given the strange family of delinquents that Quill forms. Gamora is clearly set up to be both a teammate and love interest for Quill, but she has enough of a personality and an interesting background, that she holds her own. Zoe Saldana brings an almost sexy quality to the character, but does not turn her into an object to be lusted over, even though Quill is one step away from being Captain Kirk.

It’s also key to Gunn’s direction and the world the Guardians inhabit, that the appearance of a talking raccoon does not result in raised eyebrows. Rocket Raccoon is an impressive visual effects creation, but that’s quickly forgotten about, because the character is very funny and yet manages to have a tragic dimension to him. Bradley Cooper seems to be having a lot of fun in the recording booth and yet, Rocket still retains believable chemistry with his cohorts. Meanwhile, there’s an added bit of sweetness with the relationship he has with Groot. Speaking of which, Vin Diesel’s voice-work displays a lot of character for somebody with so few words, with each delivery coming off differently from the previous one. Drax is the least interesting of the Guardians, but there is nonetheless some solid humour with the way he takes every term literally. This is also the movie that made me realise that maybe the villains are afterthoughts in these Marvel movies. We watch these films for the heroes and as a result, the filmmakers seem to push the villains into the background. Ronan the Accuser feels very similar to the antagonist in Thor: The Dark World with his basic plan of wanting to take over the world and that’s the only development given to him. Karen Gillan is also disappointing as Nebula, a role that anybody could have played. The heroes are still memorable and charming, but it is a shame how forgettable and one-note the villains are. However, the stakes are still high for when the Guardians go into battle.

James Gunn takes full advantage of the toy chest Marvel has given to him by constructing some amazing space battles and fight scenes. All of the action sequences are exciting and never wear out their welcome. Part of this is because of how Gunn cuts between the various participants and still manages to develop their arcs. The humour is almost always there, yet he still makes time for serious scenes and the possibility of death. The outlandish worlds crafted by production designer Charles Wood and costume designer Alexandra Byrne add to the vast universe explored in Guardians of the Galaxy. The makeup team also deserves mention for the variety of alien beings they create. While a good number of them are multi-coloured, they fit the world they inhabit. While there have been many green-skinned aliens in science-fiction, the artists responsible for coating Saldana under all of that makeup still make her their own creation, distinct from the Orions seen on Star Trek. Gunn’s use of 1980s songs in the soundtrack not only present a unique and fun flavour to this Marvel entry, but are also key to Quill’s drive and motivation through the movie. They are not simply background music, but an important element of the character that adds to his identifiableness.

The best way to describe Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole is that it’s a 1980s movie made for the twenty-first century. The weird assortment of characters are a fun band of misfits that are different from their Marvel compatriots in a good way. Yet it still manages to connect with the rest of the studio’s movies in a more subtle manner than merely inserting references to them. There is a certain Firefly feel to how the Guardians interact, possibly owing to Joss Whedon’s involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this is still James Gunn’s project from beginning to end. Possibly noticing that audiences are very comfortable with their films at this point, Marvel has allowed Gunn to just go hog-wild with this movie. That allows it to even be the most comic bookish Marvel movie to date, fully embracing the medium from which it came from. One wonders if now that they’ve allowed a talking raccoon to join a franchise that also contains the Avengers, if a certain anthromorphic duck could get his own starring vehicle in the future. If the success of Guardians of the Galaxy leads to even more outlandish projects in the future, then I welcome its production even more.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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