Captain America, Groot, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, — did one of those names seem like an outlier to you? If names like Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Star-Lord, and Drax the Destroyer seem overly foreign, Marvel Studios hopes to familiarize you with the introduction of its newest batch of heroes in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
In terms of Marvel’s properties, Guardians seemed to be the riskiest choice for the studio to pull into their movie line-up, considering the public’s general lack of familiarity with the characters–but guys… Marvel’s gamble paid off. Guardians of the Galaxy is a blow-out film and may even be the best of all of Marvel’s films to date.
Yes, including The Avengers.
Yes, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Yeah, I agree that Iron Man 2 was kind of a let-down.
Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have the luxury of featuring any established characters, and as such, the movie wastes no time introducing you to them. As an audience, we’re lucky to have Peter Quill–AKA “Star-Lord” as our protagonist. Marvel Studios’ executive producer described Quill as “Half-Han Solo–half-Marty McFly”, channel that formula through the boyish energy of actor Chris Pratt and you’ve got one helluva likable main character. With a really bad-ass jacket. And a super-cool helmet. And nice hair.
Quill serves as our story’s vehicle (or space cruiser, hehe) wherein he delivers on his puckish rogue persona by swindling, stealing, and sucker-punching foes before his cash-grab journey eventually lands him in jail, where all of our Guardians –Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer–meet. Within seconds of meeting, each character cements their very specific personality within the context of the group: Quill, well–I’ve already described him quite a bit… Gamora is the take-no-prisoners, honor-driven femme fatale, Drax the Destroyer is a broken warrior, fuelled by the core desire to end those responsible for his family’s demise, Rocket is a two-foot tall, upright-standing raccoon with a quick temper and a grisly background, and Groot is Rocket’s tree-humanoid buddy. Or, as he likes to remind everybody, he’s Groot.
Even more impressive than the visual aesthetics of the characters themselves is how skillfully Gunn and their respective actors create not only specific standout personalities, but how they also display specific talents and skills that blend together in supremely entertaining ways during the film’s many action set-pieces. However, while the action scenes of the film may be the most creative and kinetic of the Marvel films so far, I think that I enjoyed the dialogue-based scenes between our main characters even more. Once again, Gunn’s comedic sensability is on display in the many scenes wherein these misfit characters discuss absurd battle strategies, shed light to their background, or share cultural anecdotes (a particular earth-based legend will cause you to cut-loose some laughter)–but these hilarious scenes wouldn’t have had nearly as strong of an impact if they weren’t contrasted by several dramatically impactful scenes that Gunn places throughout the film which show the soft hearts of these otherwise cynical characters.
(Groot excluded from the cynical label. Groot’s consistently lovable.)
It’s unfortunate that while our film’s main protagonists are so interesting, the two main antagonists of the film end up being fairly bland. The two big-bads of the film, Nebula and Ronan the Accuser, while both very visually stunning, are otherwise robotic and simple in their actions and dialog. Regrettably, this continues the trend of Marvel creating no memorable villains aside from fan-favorite, Loki.
A final note of praise must be given to the movie’s soundtrack. Gunn very smartly decided to both ground the sci-fi of this movie while distancing it from its contemporaries by making Quill’s “’80s-based earth nostalgia a core aspect of his character by making him consistently reliant on his “Awesome Mix” cassette tape–which is loaded with the tunes of “The Runaways”, “David Bowie”, and “The Jackson Five” among others. In turn, Quill’s “Awesome Mix” serves as the soundtrack for the film, and highlights the fun, original tone of the movie that much more while also producing the hands-down most memorable title sequence of any of the Marvel films thus far.
Guardians of the Galaxy stands as a love letter to not only sci-fi films, and not only the Marvel universe, but also the light-hearted action films of the ’80s and early ’90s. If you want a movie that reintroduces you to the wonder, joy and fun of films such as Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, or Ghostbusters that made you fall in love with movies as a kid–go see Guardians, and celebrate your childhood nostalgia alongside Star-Lord.
BONUS: For your listening pleasure, I’ve attached the uber groove-worthy tunes of Mr. Quill’s “Awesome Mix” below via Spotify playlist. Enjoy!