REVIEW: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Guardians poster

I don’t know if anyone expected Marvel’s cinematic universe to be the humongous global success that it has become. The comic book giant’s first wave of films brought most of its heavy hitters to the big screen and millions of people to the theaters to watch them. Most critics have responded positively to these films while also showing signs of growing weary of them. But Marvel has started their second wave of movies which will feature some of their more obscure characters. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is one such film and I truly felt Marvel was overreaching. But an over $90 million opening weekend proved me wrong. But as the Transformers franchise has proven, a big box office take doesn’t always represent the quality of the movie.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a very different installment into Marvel’s movie world. It stands apart in a variety of ways including its tone, its setting, and the characters it brings to the table. It’s overall different feel may have been one of the things that has attracted audiences to it. That being said, it won’t take you long to recognize some pretty familiar plot points wrapped in the film’s shiny, CGI-heavy packaging.

At its core “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a story that you’ve seen before. A ragtag group of misfits must overcome their criminal pasts and personal animosities and join together to quell a cosmic threat. It’s that basic and you can see many of the plot angles coming a mile away. But for me a familiar story can be overcome if its centered around good characters. As luck would have it, good characters are one of the film’s greater strengths.

Guardians 1

Chris Pratt continues to deservedly catch people’s attention. Here he buffs up but maintains that lovable goofiness that seems inherent in every character he portrays. He plays a petty space pirate named Peter Quill, a.k.a.Star-Lord. After swiping a mysterious orb, he finds himself being pursued by the henchman of an alien fanatic known as Ronan (Lee Pace). Ronan has made a deal with the ominous Thanos (Josh Brolin) to retrieve the orb in exchange for power to destroy a rival planet.

Peter gets in way over his head and as his circumstances worsen he finds himself joined by a raccoon bounty hunter named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel), an alien assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana,), and a revenge-fueled warrior named Drax (Dave Bautista). The dysfunctional team begin working together each for their own personal reasons, but as you can probably guess, a proper bond begins to form between them as things move along.

Guardians 2

For me the characters are what anchors this film. Each are unique in their own way and each contribute to the undeniable personality of the movie. There are times when the script does them no favors. There are some corny lines and there are times when the jokes fall flat or feel forced. But there are other times where the chemistry between the characters and between the performers just clicks. These are the moments when the jokes work and the camaraderie is entertaining. I also loved the 70s and 80s culture references sprinkled throughout the film. I did find myself wanting more in terms of backstory from the group (aside from Peter). I also thought Ronan, while extremely cool, was an incredibly bland villain who won’t be remembered past the end credits. But ultimately I liked the characters and am interested enough to see them together again (something that is certain to happen).

The effects and makeup are genuinely good particularly with Rocket and Groot as well as the host of alien side characters three of which are played by Djimon Houndou, Karen Gillan, and one of my favorite character actors Michael Rooker. I do wish Marvel would shake up their standard formula for big action endings. It seems that every film ends with a huge 20 minute CGI blowout that leans more on chaos than coherency. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the ending of “Guardians” doesn’t work. It just felt a bit generic and almost what I’m starting to expect out of every Marvel movie.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” marks Marvel’s first real foray into their rich cosmic universe. It is in the same universe as the other Marvel pictures yet it feels strikingly different. That is part of the charm the movie possesses. It aims to be unique and features characters that I’m not that familiar with. But how that unfamiliarity influenced my response to the movie compared to other Marvel films is hard to figure out. In fact my response to the film as a whole may seem confusing. There are some glaring flaws and shortcomings but at the same time I was entertained enough through the film’s 2 hours. In that respect “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a success. Yet I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it just barely missed true greatness.


22 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

  1. Think I’ve found the review I could not possibly agree more with. While I was bowled over by gorgeous visuals, the camaraderie and the soundtrack (what a great revival for Blue Swede!) I felt like something was missing too. I felt I had missed that *one* thing that apparently made this a phenomenon. 92% critical rating and a 95% audience approval on Rotten Tomatoes? Wow. Seemed to suggest one of the greatest films of the year. Did not play out like so. Not to me.

    • The first comment agrees with me? I am surprised. 😉

      I know what you mean. I really had fun with it but it had a few flaws that I’m surprised people gave it passes on. I don’t know, it’s a movie in wrestling with because I had a good time and I was entertained. That’s a huge factor. But there are some little things that I just couldn’t shake.

  2. Great review Keith. For me one of the strengths of the movie is the character interactions, I also left the theatre wanting to see these people again. It’s a highly entertaining movie though it’s not Marvel’s best movie, and not Marvel’s best of the year either. 🙂

    • You hit on two of my big points in the review. I’m with you there. I also totally agree that this wasn’t there best of the year. I still LOVE Winter Soldier.

  3. Another top notch review. I’m also getting weary of the same plot in many of these Marvel films and wondered if this was distinct enough to give it a watch, it appears it is.

    • Thanks so much! This one is different yet it ends in almost the exact same way as all the rest of them. Good movie but nowhere near as good as Winter Soldier from earlier this year.

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  5. Hey Keith, I missed your review somehow. Hey finally someone who also isn’t in love w/ this movie!! I also gave it the same rating. It’s fun yes but it’s really not the greatest superhero movie out there. I still much prefer The Winter Soldier from last year and I know you agree w/ me on that one 😀 Here’s my review if you’re interested:

    • Right you are! I mean Guardians was fun and it had its moments. But it wasn’t THAT ground-breaking and fresh. And what a flat and underdeveloped villain.

      • I think people have the misconception that Guardians is a superhero movie. It doesn’t strike me as one. The tone feels more akin to something like Serenity, but I think this is the Marvel version of Star Wars. While the film isn’t perfect, I had a heck of a time with it. Music is one of the most important parts of a movie, I feel, and the music in this movie is not only important to the story, but I think it also gives the film a unique sense of identity. This is the first in a new franchise, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

      • I get what you’re saying. The tone, the music, the approach – all of that sets it apart from other Marvel movies. That’s what I liked most about it.

        I think my bigger problems with it actually had little to do with its standing in the Marvel universe. It was basic things that bothered me. I found it very obvious and predictable. It had one of the worst villains of the year. Ronan is cool but ridiculously underdeveloped. And even though it does separate itself from the other Marvel superhero movies, it basically uses their same story structure.

        But I don’t want to just talk about the negatives. As I say I had a lot of fun with it. I really appreciate it taking new strides. And it certainly has good music and some funny moments. I guess I just don’t see it as amazing as many others do.

  6. Pingback: 3rd Annual Random Movie Awards | Keith & the Movies

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