I apologize in advance. I have a feeling this isn’t going to be a popular review. The fan-filled early showing I saw of Marvel’s ‘Guardians of
the Galaxy’ had audience members howling with laughter, gasping in awe and maybe even getting a bit teary-eyed with some of its
It clearly took them for a wonderful ride to another galaxy. I guess I was left behind.
Don’t get me wrong, ‘Guardians’ is an entertaining movie with a great sense of humor and a superb cast, but it’s also a clichéd science
fiction blockbuster, filled with directionless action sequences and a plot so forgettable I’m struggling to find a way to even recap it.
The film begins on Earth in 1988 when a young Peter Quill witnesses his mother’s death. It’s a sequence obviously included to evoke
sympathy for Quill, but its generic execution feels hollow, especially considering we don’t even know this character yet.
The devastated Quill storms out of the hospital and is immediately abducted by aliens. It’s quite an efficient origin story. A boy is sad
because his mom died, done.
After this brief prologue, ‘Guardians’ begins in earnest, introducing us to the adult Quill, an intergalactic scavenger calling himself Star-
Quill goes to some planet and finds some orb thing that is one of a group of other things that do crazy things. I guess they’re evil and
destructive. Director James Gunn doesn’t seem too concerned with the actual story or in making its warring parties and mythology
Gunn’s focus is almost entirely on the Guardians themselves, and in this respect he absolutely succeeds. Their goofy chemistry and the
energetic performances that bring them to life are as charming as they are funny.
Chris Pratt is especially good as Star-Lord, evoking the dashing scoundrel spirit of genre icons Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds.
‘Guardians’ owes more than a little bit to both of those franchises.
Pratt’s supremely confident delivery and outstanding comic timing are a constant boon to the film.
In his attempt to sell the orb, Pratt is ambushed by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has her own reasons for obtaining the orb. In the ensuing
chaos, they are both arrested along with Rocket (A talking raccoon voiced wonderfully by a nearly unrecognizable Bradley Cooper) and a
humanoid tree named Groot, who constantly repeats “I am Groot.” Finally a role that takes full advantage of Vin Diesel’s talent!
While in prison, they team up with the brute Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). He gets some great lines in reference to his race’s inability
to comprehend metaphor. “Nothing goes over my head,” he contends, “My reflexes are too fast, I will catch it!”
The Guardians work as heroes because they are so unlike heroes. In a way, it’s an ‘anti-Marvel’ Marvel film. They constantly spout
unexpectedly unheroic and crude dialog.
Rocket is especially funny in that regard, acting as the antihero amongst a group of antiheroes.
The irreverent dialog is genuinely hilarious, with great moments such as Star-Lord accusing Rocket of fake laughing at his plan, and a
surprisingly disgusting reference to a black light and Jackson Pollack paintings.
It’s a shame that everything else in the film is so woefully standard. The villains are completely forgettable and the conflict between them
and the Nova Corps can generously be called underdeveloped.
In its mythology-driven sequences, ‘Guardians’ takes itself very seriously, creating a somewhat uneven tone that alternates between
outrageous screwball comedy and dry exposition.
Gunn also showcases little inspiration in the requisite action sequences. They are loud and frantically edited, but are lacking in style and
coherent direction. At least he takes advantage of some good art direction. Although, I do have to wonder if fellow Marvel director Joss
Whedon gave his approval to use the interior of the Serenity (of ‘Firefly’ fame) for Star-Lord’s ship.
The visual effects are good as well, even if they can’t match the recent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Rocket and the various other CG
characters look rather cartoony after Caesar and company.
‘Guardians’ is a difficult movie to rate. It has character and humor and energy, attributes usually absent from this type of sci-fi epic.
However, I simply can’t look past some of the gaping storytelling flaws at the very core of the film.
This is a shiny coat of paint over the same old tired clichés.
It’s mostly enjoyable and unquestionably hysterical at times, but ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ falls short of a full-fledged endorsement, because
it isn’t a full-fledged movie.
* * ½
(out of four)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin
Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cinematography by: Ben Davis
Released: August 1, 2014; 121 Minutes