Much of the advanced press and early reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy touted it as the best Marvel movie ever. Could it really be? I mean, that’s some damn serious praise.
As I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help but think how much I would have loved it as a kid. It might be going too far to say that Guardians could be this generation’s Star Wars, especially when a new batch of Star Wars sequels will be coming out in the next few years.
But in terms of meeting a bunch of new characters, watching them fly a bunch of cool spaceships and use hi-tech weapons and gadgets, and encountering alien life and other worlds, it feels similar. The whole thing can capture the imagination and increase a yearning to see further adventures.
Superhero, science fiction and fantasy movies have gotten so good at creating spectacular, yet believable images on screen that it’s almost difficult to be impressed anymore. However, Guardians and director James Gunn (who’s taken a big step up from previous films Slither and Super) somehow manage to provide something that feels fresh and innovative. You might think we’ve seen all there is in spaceship design, but you would be wrong.
I wince at calling anything “the best ever” so soon after it takes place, so I’m not ready to say that this is the best movie Marvel has made. (I think Captain America: The Winter Soldier has to be in the discussion, and as more superhero films are released with multiple characters, it’s becoming easy to forget what an accomplishment The Avengers was.) But that argument can convincingly be made.
The thing that Guardians of the Galaxy does so well is make you care about its title characters. Chris Pratt shows he can be a leading man, playing a mischievous, brash, bumbling, reluctant hero that can comfortably stand alongside Han Solo and Mal Reynolds. Yet his Peter Quill also has an element of tragedy to him, one which forms his anti-authority, look-out-for-himself philosophy and fuels more than a little bit of anger. He’s not just quirky for no reason.
Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is raised to be a ruthless assassin after her parents are killed by Thanos (whom you might remember from the post-credits scene in The Avengers) and wants to get away from that past. Drax, played by Dave Bautista, is a bruising killer whose family was murdered by the main villain of the story, Ronan (Lee Pace), and wants revenge. He also has a deep sense of loyalty to his friends.
(Bautista might be the most pleasant surprise of the movie, delivering some hilarious lines in deadpan fashion as a humorless meathead who takes what everyone says literally.)
Then there are the two CGI creations that are sure to be breakout sensations after people see this movie.
Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a creature resembling a raccoon who has a penchant for big guns and building bombs, along with a wicked temper that comes from a rough life. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is basically a walking tree, speaking a language that’s only heard by humans as three words “I am Groot.” Though he can be extremely violent when necessary, especially when it comes to protecting Rocket, there’s an innocence to him which results in some of the film’s funniest moments.
Just accept that if you take your kids to see Guardians of the Galaxy, they will want Rocket and Groot toys afterwards. (Hell, I want a Groot action figure for my desk.) And they’ll probably want to be Peter Quill or Gamora when they play.
As a comic book and comic book movie fan, I was apprehensive about this movie. Could Guardians of the Galaxy — five obscure characters not even that well-known among comic book fans — really make the same impact in theaters and throughout pop culture as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America?
This looked like it could potentially be Marvel’s first swing and miss, after connecting on its previous nine projects. It was a bold departure for the studio, one that probably shouldn’t have worked. Guardians steps outside the comfort zone of superheroes and into a genre dominated by the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. Yet it feels like exactly the right move to make at just the right time.
Whether Marvel sensed it or not, I think there is some superhero movie fatigue. These characters and their stories are beginning to feel the same. Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past showed that altering the formula a bit can result in some really good movies. Guardians takes that a step further, because it’s not a superhero film. Sure, it’s an origin story and Quill follows the familiar hero’s journey. There are also connections to the previous Marvel movies. But this very much seems like its own thing.
Above all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun. It’s just a really funny movie, with a witty script and excellent comic timing from everyone in the cast. You might laugh more while watching this than at any other film this summer, other than 22 Jump Street. But Gunn delivers on the action and spectacle as well.
I can’t wait to see it again. If not for being late in the evening and other work to do, I might have turned around and bought a ticket to the very next show. I’m also eager to see the next movie involving these characters and the world they inhabit. It’s been at least a couple of years since I felt that way, and I’m betting you’ll feel the same.