Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Some of you might be wondering, what or who the hell are these Guardians of the Galaxy? It has the Marvel logo all over the promos but these aren't characters or superheroes you've probably ever heard of right? Marvel has had a good thing going here, why take a chance with some space movie? Ten films, billions of dollars, and one hell of an opening weekend later trust me these Marvel guys know what they are doing.

It wasn't too long ago that most folks didn't know the name Tony Stark, but now the armoured Avenger is a household name because the studio took a chance and brought something special to the big screen. That's exactly what Marvel is doing yet again here with Guardians of the Galaxy. Granted Marvel's previous 9 films have all been grounded (more or less) in an Earthly setting. However, despite the intergalactic locale Guardians still delivers on all the same levels that fans and audience members have come to expect from the Marvel Studios brand. I'm willing to go as far say Rocket Raccoon will be just as recognizable as any other Marvel Studios characters in the very near future.

To those still wondering who are these Guardians of the Galaxy, they are essentially a collection of 5 criminals who wind up coming together and become a team of heroes. Basically Avengers in space, with a strong criminal element. The film begins following the eventual leader of the Guardians, Peter Quill. As a child Quill is taken from Earth in the late 1980's, only to grow up across the stars among scavengers and thieves for hire. Present day during a botched heist over a secret orb Quill runs into a deathly assassin named Gamora, who is also looking for the orb for the powerful villain Ronan, and an unlikely bounty hunter duo of a talking tree (Groot) and a talking Raccoon (Rocket) who are looking for Quill. A series of action packed events later and the four them wind up in prison with some of the cosmos most dangerous criminals. It's there where those four meet a revenge driven killer name Drax and implausible team of misfits is formed.

Admittedly the beginning of the film is a bit overwhelming with all the set up and exposition. Even though these characters and these worlds exist in the same cinematic universe as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, the story is literally galaxies apart from them so there is no easy connection for audience members to make. I've read the source material and even I thought some of the explanations were a bit dense to follow at first. However, after that opening 5 minutes of establishing this new universe the fun really starts.

Other than this film being funnier than most people are expecting, audiences are going to be walking away from this film loving these five characters. Much like 2012's Avengers, Guardians is an ensemble film. Chris Pratt is a great lead as Quill (aka Star-Lord), and he carries the film when story needs him to, but all five of the Guardians and the actors portraying them are constantly stealing each other's scenes; and having a blast doing it. Zoe Saldana as Gamora is as deadly as she is beautiful (even in green), and delivers some great dry wit. Surprisingly Dave Bautista as Drax (aka Drax the Destroyer) had some of the funniest moments of the whole film. I expected the laughs from Pratt and Bradley Cooper's Rocket, but Bautista almost stole every scene he was in.

Then there is the CGI duo of Vin Diesel as Groot and Cooper as Rocket Raccoon. As odd as it sounds, even with Groot's three word restricted vocabulary, but Vin Diesel's portrayal of the character was pretty incredible. The majority of the credit has to go to all of the many animators that brought Groot to life on the screen, because he is exactly like the comics; terrifying to bad guys one minute, and goofy around the Guardians the next minute. Those amazing visual effects paired the words "I" "Am" and "Groot" with Vin's different inflections the character really comes to life. And everything I just praised about Groot is tenfold for Cooper's Rocket Raccoon. If Groot is Chewy, then Rocket is the Hans Solo of this film. Cooper is able to crack one-liners in-between delivering exposition for the story, then in the same scene break your heart with a couple of lines alluding to his terrible past, making this unlikely character just as believable as any of the live-action cast. Parents might see the posters and think Rocket is the kid friendly one of the group but trust me this guy pushes the boundaries of PG13 whenever he gets the chance.

Being a regular reader of the current Guardians of the Galaxy books I had some reservations on how Gunn and Marvel were going to be able to pull off certain characters. But it didn't matter if half of the team were super-powered and green skinned, or the other half was completely CGI, every Guardian was faithfully and brilliantly adapted to the big screen. All of these characters have a long history in the comics but they never were put altogether as a group till 2008, kind of making it the youngest Marvel property to be adapted to film. However, even though every other Marvel Studio film has at least four decades on this franchise it's youth actually gives the film its edge. With Pratt's character, Peter Quill, being a child from the 80's the movie is riddled with pop culture references still current enough that most audience members will get instantly and are only funnier because they go over every other character's head.

Director James Gunn definitely puts his own unique stamp on this film. Guardians of the Galaxy not only looks very different than any of other Marvel films because of the settings but it has a completely different feel to it altogether. Both qualities sound like Guardians goes in the opposite direction of Marvel's winning formula, and it does, but somehow this fresh new group of characters and distinctive new visual style works just the same. The film is funny, but not Robert Downy Jr/Tony Stark kind of funny. The film is action packed, but not Captain America kind of action packed. The film's cinematic look is visually unique, but not in the same way the Thor films are. It's a different Marvel movie and 'different' here just also happens to mean awesome as well.

If you are still scratching your head wondering what kind of flick this is just watch the first couple of trailers Marvel put out [check it out below]. It's one of those rare occurrences where the marketing of a film is spot on. They completely capture the film's tone, humour, and excitement; all the while giving you a brief samples of the movie's incredible soundtrack (which by the way happens to be a huge part of this film). There are a ton of elements to this film I haven't even mention like the visuals, the villains, and so many others but take my word for it everything in this movie is either awesome or fun or both. Hands down this will be the most fun you'll have at the theatres this summer.

Tags: Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Benicio Del Toro, Lee Pace, James Gunn, Marvel

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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.

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