Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in years. Somehow director James Gunn brings his Troma sensibilities and creates a cinematic experience that rivals A New Hope. Which may sound insane, but I mean it. This high praise is warranted. Gunn pulls out all the stops and makes something more compelling than either Star Trek reboot, and all of the Star Wars prequels combined. This is the best Marvel movie to date, and a new standard of quality for the summer blockbuster.
For a film that seemed like Marvel’s biggest risk yet, the finished product is staggering. This is a tightly crafted piece of cinema that seamlessly transitions between moments of heartbreak, levity, and action. It’ll make you feel like a kid again.
The film follows Peter Quill AKA Star Lord (Chris Pratt) a young rogue who travels the galaxy flipping treasure to the highest bidder. When Star Lord comes into possession of a mysterious orb, he’s placed directly in the sights of Ronin The Accuser (Lee Pace) a genocidal alien maniac who will stop at nothing to get the orb.
Ronin has legions of Kree aliens at his command. He’s power hungry and on personal journey of destruction. Luckily Star Lord amasses a nice team of his own to fight back against the warlord working for Thanos.
Watching Star Lord come together with a talking raccoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), A walking tree, Groot (Vin Diesel), a deadly assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and a alien maniac, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Batista), is half the fun of the film. The team dynamics are rough and inspire a ton of comedy. But much like “The Avengers” the team is a well-oiled machine by the end of the two hours.
The story spans planets, introduces a wealth of alien species, and quickly gets tied up in intergalactic politics, but never feels overwhelming. Somehow James Gunn balances each of these delicate points and never slows the pacing. It’s an incredible feat made to look easy. There is emotional depth that isn’t apparent when you watch the trailers. Each character has a very clear arc and finds time to resolve their issues in fantastic ways. This is a story about losers, people who have nobody and find something in each other that they never thought they’d have again.
Visually the film is an absolute spectacle. Deep space has never looked so good. No really. Remember what you wanted the Star Wars prequels to look like? Well this film’s got it in spades. The backdrops of deep space are colorful and engaging. You see the vibrant world in the backgrounds of the scenes and the every piece of this world is unique. Most of the imagery echoes past science fiction films, but it never feels like a tribute to the films that inspired it because the cinematography is clean, well communicated, and makes some fantastic visual gags.
It feels strange to call this film a genuine masterpiece, but it really is. There is a certain confident magic to the execution that makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” the best Marvel movie to date. The script is incredibly tight and features fantastic dialogue. You’ll laugh until your jaw hurts. You’ll feel pangs in your heart when you understand the significance of the 80’s pop songs. You’ll jump out of your seat with some of the action set pieces near the end, and hell you’ll probably be ready to see it all again.
I can only compare the experience to the first time I sat down as a child to take in Star Wars. There is something about a band of misfits who save the day against all odds. Everyone is a force of antagonism here, and the ride couldn’t be more exhilarating. This is the type of film we’ll still love thirty years in the future and the type of excellence JJ Abrams has to strive for when he releases Star Wars VII, although I doubt he’ll touch this.
The film did have some minor nuisances. Ronin The Accuser is often a villain of circumstance in the comics. Sometimes an ally as much as a villain, but the film makes no effort to humanize him. In fact he’s so far removed from anything that there is no real reason to understand his motivation other than the sheer will to destroy and conquer. He’s pretty one-dimensional but still manages to steal the scenes he’s in out of sheer intensity. It’s a shame though because he could have been so much more had he been given more depth.
While Gamora feels like a weak link in the team. She could have had the strongest story. She’s the “daughter” of Thanos and really owes a lot of her development to her complicated history with the mad titan. Yet, a lot of it feels glossed over here, she’s a badass fighter, but doesn’t really get any time to develop her character. I’m on the fence about a scene mid way though the movie with her, and still don’t find it a convincing change for the character.
Everyone else is incredible. Chris Pratt was born to be a leading man. He owns the film as Star Lord. He’s got so much charisma and heart while still being able to snap back to a scumbag at any given moment. Dave Batista actually blew me away with his subtle performance. Drax’s early lines are all hilarious and his character motivation amounts too much more than a fighting brute. He’s an absolute standout among much more seasoned actors. Bradley Cooper does a fantastic job as the voice of Rocket, and Groot has a lot more heart than you’d expect for a tree that can only say it’s name.
This is so much more than a comic book movie. It’s a return to form for the space opera. It’s a smart and stylish blockbuster that tells a great story with a cast of relatively small actors leading the charge. It proves that blockbuster and tentpole films don’t have to be hollow experiences. In fact it proves that we should demand more as audiences. Guardians of the Galaxy is the best summer movie in years, the best Marvel movie ever, and an instant classic.
Get to the cinema and see it now.