The dastardly alien Ronan the Accuser has begun his siege on the benevolent planet of Xandar. Entire cities burst into flames and thousands probably die by the minute. If Ronan’s plan succeeds, the entire planet will be decimated. In a last ditch effort to stop this evil force, our heroes rush aboard the villain’s flagship. Within seconds, Ronan’s guards flank the protagonists from all sides, surrounding them. The heroes adopt defensive stances, preparing for an imminent attack. One guard glares at the heroes’ leader, his gaze piercing deep into his soul. Our hero stares back. With menace and hatred behind his voice, the guard addresses this leader: “Star Lord.” Peter Quill, the leader of the so-called “Guardians of the Galaxy,” breaks into an appreciative smile. “Finally!” he retorts gratefully, feeling that it’s about time someone addressed him by his code name.
You see, Peter, played by an exceptional Chris Pratt, has been labeling himself as the inter-galactic rogue “Star Lord” for years, and this is the first time ever that someone has addressed him as such. The universe could be burning, and that wouldn’t stop him from enjoying the hell out of this moment. That is until the guard hits him with a sucker punch right to the gut, but that’s not really relevant.
I apologize if you feel that I’ve “spoiled” crucial parts of the movie with my little intro, but I promise that you really shouldn’t worry about knowing plot details ahead of time. From the moment the film introduces Ronan and his flagship, I had a decent idea of what the climax was going to look like, and I certainly anticipated Peter/Star Lord to have a moment similar to the one I described above (not that it was any less enjoyable because of that). To be perfectly frank, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s primary plot is rather predictable, uninteresting even. Where this movie truly excels is in the creation of its characters. Each “Guardian” has a surprising amount of depth, and a lot of heart, which keeps the film compelling even when it’s story feels stale. And, as demonstrated by the above anecdote, it’s really funny and all around fun.
With this movie, Chris Pratt is offically a superstar. He depicts Peter as an arrogant asshole with many flaws, but, in his own words, “still isn’t 100% a dick.” In fact, as we learn from an emotional opening scene (which is important to the story, but not very well-executed), Peter has some demons of his own that he struggles with. You always know that he’s a good guy underneath, but he doesn’t, and it’s fascinating to watch him discover the hero within himself. It’s not exactly easy to pull off, but Pratt does it.
Speaking of characters that are hard to pull off, Rocket Raccoon, another “Guardian,” goes through a character arc similar to Peter’s, but there core personalities are different. Whereas Peter is a bit of an asshole, Rocket is straight-up crazy and unpredictable. I didn’t think I was going to care for this character going in, but Bradley Cooper brings him to life in ways I didn’t think possible. Seriously, this is probably the most impressive voice work within a film in at least the last several years. He’s zany and irreverent, but also struggles with his own feelings of inferiority due to the fact that he’s, well, a talking raccoon. Accompanying him is Groot, a walking tree-like alien who, as I’m sure you know, can only say the words (as voiced by Vin Diesel) “I am Groot.” Although he’s light on dialogue, he just might be favorite character of the movie. He has a pure soul, something no other character can make claim to. As a sci-fi sidekick, he’s a modern Chewbacca.
Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, a character much less showy than her counterparts, but she does a good job with the material that she’s given. Unfortunately, she’s saddled with an unimpressive sub-plot regarding a rivalry with her evil sister. Saldana does the best she can, but the chemistry just isn’t there. The last Guardian is Drax the destroyer, who’s played by the professional wrestler Dave Batista. His backstory involving a slain family and a quest for vengeance is as clichéd as can be, but you grow to love him nonetheless.
There are some smaller roles in the film as well, each played with varying degrees of success. Lee Pace tries hard to inhabit Ronan, but despite some visual flair in the character design, he’s not a particularly engaging villain. Glenn Close is just sort of “there” as leader of Xandar. She doesn’t do a bad job, but her character is rather pointless and could have been played by anyone. Michael Rooker is underused as a side-antagonist with a personal connection to Quill, as is Benicio del Toro as a shady artifact broker. I did love John C. Reily here, however; he’s given the perfect amount of screen-time and makes the best of every second.
While this movie does belong to the characters, the universe that surrounds them is quite impressive. The visual effects are top-notch, the alien creatures creatively designed, and the gadgets unique and original. I don’t want to give out many specific details, but there’s a particular scene involving a “remote-controlled” arrow that is a distinct highlight.
When all’s said and done, this movie is just plain fun. You see so many comic-book movies that try to be dark and serious that it’s refreshing to have such an unconventional change of pace. Now that this movie has scored +$90 million at the box office, I feel it’s safe to assume we have another Marvel franchise on our hands. I’m happy to report that it’s well-deserved.
I give Guardians of the Galaxy a . . .
That means go see it whenever you have some free-time on your hands!
So have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy? Do you agree with my assessment? Let me know below!