Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Birthed from the clever yet outrageous minds of the people at Marvel Studios, and led by the crazy director that is James Gunn, this film was born into a world where we already had great space epics, exciting adventure films, and weird-looking aliens on-screen...but all that doesn't matter now. Breaking the barrier, and delivering something new and fresh for the eyes of fans, Guardians of the Galaxy is a home-run. Giving the fans nearly everything they could ask for, from tongue-to-cheek comedy to stunning action and special effects, Guardians is a breath of fresh air for Marvel Studios, and a great homage to some classic films and some even more classic music. If you want the ride of your life right before the summer ends, this is the film you must see.

Following the death of his mother in 1988, a young boy is suddenly abducted and brought into the dark reaches of space, leaving behind his past and his short-lived life on Earth. Twenty-six years later, scavenger/adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) intercepts a mysterious orb in a temple in ruins. Suddenly, an alien, Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou), and his army of Kree soldiers trap Quill in order to retrieve the orb from him. Escaping, Quill travels to Xandar, home world of the sort-of intergalactic S.H.I.E.L.D agency called the Nova Corps. Once there, he is quickly apprehended by an assassin of Ronan (Lee Pace) named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), also the daughter of the Mad Titan, Thanos (Josh Brolin). Also on Quill's trail are Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel), a pair of unusual outlaws out to sell Quill for a bounty. When the group is suddenly arrested, they end up in a high-security prison in space, leaving them with only one option: Join together, or die. With a rather rocky start, and some gun-fighting along the way, the team of outlaws and mercenaries quickly realize there's a much larger foe in the galaxy, other than one another. With endless adventure, comedy, and 80's references, the Guardians of the Galaxy kicks major intergalactic ass. 

Rounding out the last of the Marvel films this year, Guardians of the Galaxy takes us to a place where Marvel has never gone before. With a year of X-Men time-travel, another moderately-amazing Spidey film, and a bad-ass, hard-to-beat Captain America sequel, Marvel never ceases to amaze its massive fan-base, and deliver something great and entertaining to watch. However, while it still amazes the fans like any other Marvel film, Guardians has done something completely revolutionary, trading in the normal Earth landscape and the usual man-in-suit, super-soldier, thunder-god basis, for a more unusual talking-raccoon, ass-kicking-tree, and bad-ass-assassin (who's an alien) thing, which was exactly what we needed. While that may have not made a whole lot of sense, what I'm talking about is the amount of calculated risks Marvel is taking now. Bringing in fresh storylines, new landscapes, and odd characters to the big screen, Marvel is putting everything on the line...and that's not a bad thing at all. The reason people go to the movies is to see something they've never seen before, and while it may correlate with elements of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and even other Marvel projects like The Avengers, Guardians is something very, very new, that we haven't seen in any superhero film before. Even in the hardest of times, Marvel manages to produce a great amount of films per year, bringing joy to the fans, and also expanding their massive universe at the same time. With Guardians, Marvel travels further into the vast Marvel Comics universe, and brings us something we never expected from a superhero film, and also brought us a team that would never be right for a movie. We were wrong. This film ended up being the most risky, mind-blowing, and daring project Marvel has ever released, stepping away from the Avengers for a while, and focusing on a whole new team that deserved their shot in the spotlight.

The cast of the film was very unique, something Marvel films are usually known for having. From a loud-mouthed comedy guy from Parks and Rec to a big-shot known for racing stolen cars through Brazil, Guardians of the Galaxy brought together the most unexpected team that you've ever seen. Rounding out the Guardians, we have loner-outlaw Peter Quill, played by the bumbling softy Chris Pratt. Known for his role as Andy Dwyer in NBC's Parks and Recreation, Pratt seemed like the last person you'd want to play a bad-ass outlaw touting dual blasters in a trench coat. However, with some experience in more serious roles like a Navy SEAL in 2012's Zero Dark Thirty, Pratt altered himself both physically and mentally to play the perfect role as a bad-ass outlaw with a six pack...and a sense of humor. As the leader of the team, Pratt brought a new light to this team of dangerous mercenaries, bringing in his trademark comedy, and also a brand-new look that was perfect for his role. At his side, there's one of the deadliest assassins in the galaxy, played by one of the deadliest actresses in the world: I'm talking about Gamora, played by the sinister seductress known as Zoe Saldana. Coming off roles from a teasing crew member in 2009's Star Trek (and its sequel) to another (human) assassin in 2011's Colombiana, Saldana has lots of experience playing bad-ass characters who can kick ass, and also seduce any male character in the room, making her role as alien assassin Gamora nearly perfect. The only thing that I could ask for is that we see a lot more bad-assery from her character in the future, making her live up to her role as the galaxy's deadliest daughter of Thanos. Next on the roster there's Drax the Destroyer, played by the unexpected WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. Mocked up in tons of green-grey make-up, with red tattoos covering his whole body, Bautista looks almost unrecognizable as the menacing mercenary who's hell-bent on revenge when he joins the team. Even with this surprising casting of a TV wrestler, Bautista manages to perform greatly as both a big-as-hell brute, and a comic relief as his character struggles to understand metaphors and other phrases that go over his head. Finishing off the team, we have two of the weirdest characters Marvel has ever put on-screen: a talking tree and a gun-touting raccoon with an attitude. First there's Groot, voiced by the Fast and Furious star Vin Diesel. While it may seem like an easy-enough role for the actor, saying Groot's infamous line "I am Groot" a thousand times, Vin also did the motion-capture for the role as the sweet yet deadly walking tree, making his role even more personalized. In the end, Groot ended up being a fan-favorite, for me included, bring sincerity and comedy to his deadly character. Always at the talking tree's side, is his accomplice Rocket, voiced perfectly by Bradley Cooper. Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon with a taste for adventure and easy cash, was again another great character Marvel needed to display, bring in something unlike anything else, that could crack a joke, and crack a neck at the same time. Cooper brings life into the character, acting as the Joe Pesci in Goodfellas guy, giving both heart and comedy to the bad-ass raccoon. Against the Guardians, there's a vast range of villainous scum hot on their trail in the film, led by the moderately-menacing Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace. Acting as the main antagonist in the film, Pace brings a psychotic and brooding nature into his role as the angry Kree radical out to gain the great power of the mysterious orb Quill gets his hands on. While he may have been somewhat convincing as a brooding force to be reckoned with, in the end Ronan doesn't seem all that accusing, yelling around and blasting people with his hammer, but not completely selling me on his main villain role. At his side, however, was a villain I found much more menacing: Gamora's evil adopted sister (sound familiar, Loki?), Nebula, who's loyalty lies with Ronan, but only for the moment. Played by the beautiful Karen Gillian, who's appeared on the BBC's Doctor Who, Nebula acts as a hench(wo)man to Ronan, but also kicks major ass as a trained assassin equal to her sister. I loved Gillian's character for many reasons, from her bad-ass cyborg-like voice and look to her ass-kicking girl-fight with Gamora. I'd love to see Nebula return in another Guardians film, bringing back her sweet high-tech look and her menacing fighting abilities. Another interesting character in the film was Peter Quill's 'guardian' after he's abducting from Earth, Yondu, played by The Walking Dead star Micheal Rooker. Playing a blue-skinned, mohawk-rocking, Southern-bred alien bandit, Micheal Rooker is great in this role, acting as neither a bad guy nor a good guy, but as a guy who just wants his money and doesn't care who he goes through to get it. When I first saw Rooker's character, I didn't expect much, other than that he would show up for a few seconds and never be seen again. However, Yondu actually ends up being quite important in the film, and also ends up being completely bad-ass and comedic, on a similar level to Rocket. Overall, the characters in the film were all unique, strange, and funny all at the same time, making them all quite enjoyable.

The music in the film was amazing, blending together classic songs from the '70s and '80s with a great score by Tyler Bates. With music like we've never heard in any Marvel film before (besides the amazing Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past), Guardians has turned into something even more special, bringing back the songs of people's youth and applying them to something out of people's imagination. With fun tones like "Hooked on a Feeling" and classic songs that you know and love, James Gunn brought more life to this film than we had ever thought. Accompanying the classic tones, Gunn also throws in great cultural references from the two decades, from Kevin Bacon in Footloose to legendary outlaws like John Stamos (who lived in a very Full House at the time). In the end, both the score and the soundtrack worked excellently together, and made the film twenty-times more fun than it already was. I might have to pick up this "mixtape" in stores when I get around to it.

Like always, the science-fiction genre never ceased to hook me on any one its films. From classics like Star Wars to the most recent films about either aliens or robots (or Scarlett Johansson kicking ass with the power of her brain), sci-fi films always have me in the theater seats, or at least picking them up at Redbox, simply for their amazing visual aspects, their mind-blowing plotlines, or just their promise of a future where talking robots and flying cars are real. Nevertheless, the sci-fi genre is still my favorite, not because I'm a nerd or a geek, but because I love seeing things that blow me away. From space epics to alien invasions, science fiction paves the way to a new world, a world like no other, where things are not what they always appear to be. With Guardians, I'm again taken to a place like no other, where people are green, blue, and pink, and raccoons and trees can speak. With every sci-fi film, whether it sucks or not, I'm always astonished with what some directors can do with their films, bringing them to new heights and breaking the barrier to create something unique, fun, and like nothing else.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy was a ride I'll never forget. With similar excitement and team-up greatness as The Avengers, even better space-traveling outlaw high jinks than Star Wars, and some spectacular music from the greatest of decades, Guardians is a fun-filled adventure that will bring you both to the past and to the future, with fun tones and amazing spectacles. James Gunn has created one of the most unique and exciting films on the year, and I can't wait for the Guardians to return (on their own, and with the Avengers one day...hopefully). In the end, if you want to relive the classic films of your childhood, like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, or you just want another round of Avengers excitement without the Avengers (but still just as awesome), go check out the space epic of comedy and fun called the Guardians of the Friggin' Galaxy! 

I gave this film a 9 out of 10 for its great story of cat and mouse, its amazing introduction into a whole new universe of odd characters and unknown worlds, and its fun music that held the film together perfectly in a cement of awesomeness. Make sure to stay after the credits for this one because it's...well, it's okay, I guess.                                  


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