- Directed by James Gunn
- July 21, 2014 (Dolby Theatre) / August 1, 2014 (US)
- Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
A human outlaw and an eclectic group of (mostly) alien criminals go on the run after stealing a powerful artifact.
When I first heard about Guardians of the Galaxy, I was excited. Why? Because I was familiar with a completely different version of Guardians of the Galaxy from the comics which consisted of characters Vance Astro, Martinex T’Naga, Captain Charlie-27, Yondu Udonta (not the one in this movie, Stakar Ogord, Aleta Ogord, and Nikki who were characters from the distant future of Marvel Comics. What we get here is a version that currently appears in the comics and is from the present but was made for the movies.
The version I am thinking of is a bit of a space opera remnant left over from the early days of comics. That’s not to say the characters that we get here are not Marvel Comics characters but rather they are not the oldest comic book version of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They are the current, most marketed version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
As alluded to earlier, they in one case repurposed the character of Yondu (Michael Rooker) from the original concept. At least large portions of the character. The rest of the characters here are taken from the more unusual corners of Marvel mythology with some getting a character makeover. That there caused me to go in with more than a bit of apprehension. I had no familiarity with what they were attempting to do as they had picked characters that were obscure even to me.
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is a human thief abducted from Earth and the leader of the group. Gamora (Zoe Saldaña) is the adopted daughter of the mad Titan Thanos and seeks redemption for her past. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) seeks revenge on the movie’s villain (and Thanos lackey until he isn’t) Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Groot (Vin Diesel in the easiest voiceover paycheck ever) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) are just your generally shady pair that run astray of the law.
You care about these characters. Each is an individual and their lines are not intercjangeable. These are not two dimensional creations who exist as an excuse to get cool stuff up on the screen. They have points of view and proceed logically from them without inexplicable actions just to make something happen in the story.
And it smoothly and casually introduces all the major players of the story. They enter into the narrative in perhaps the most natural way of any of the newer MCU films. And the same can be said of all the supporting players. In an assortment of roles we have an intriguing cast beyond the aforementioned Lee Pace and Michael Rooker. Karen Gillan is Thanos’s other daughter Nebula. An extremely underused Djimon Hounsou is Korath. John C. Reilly is Nova Corps officer Rhomann Dey. Glenn Close is Nova Corps leader Irani Rael. And Benicio del Toro is The Collector.
This movie does a great job of diving into portions of the Marvel Comics Universe that extend beyond Earth. Much of this came about in the ‘60s and ‘70s and has that weird tinge and odd general vibe that you would only find from that era. An intergalactic police force (a bit of a rip off of Green Lantern to be sure). Sentient plants. And it does a good job of embodying that and making it more palatable to the broader audience without moving it too far from the source material.
Visually Guardians of the Galaxy is a cross between the first two Alien films and anything from Star Wars. Narratively it definitely embraces a Star Wars feel. It’s a fun adventure film with grand visuals and great escapes. There are imaginative alien designs and great sets. This is a space opera that the people behind it took seriously-at least seriously enough. While there is comedy to relieve the tension, it’s not one joke after another.
While connected to the larger MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy is its own story. You don’t need to be fully versed in every Marvel film in order to fully get the narrative. Why Marvel doesn’t do that more these days I don’t know. I understand the push to get people to watch more Marvel stuff and corner the market. Maybe it’s just me but not everything that Marvel puts out is worth watching, nor does it excite me enough to watch it. And that includes stuff connected to other films or shows someone may want to view.
This movie has a heart. It is about characters that step up to the challenge and succeed by trying. Actual victory is a bonus. It’s about character and doing the right thing. It’s about coming to terms with the crap life has dealt you rather than succumbing to it. This is not just a rousing space adventure, but it has stuff below the surface.
A big battle at the end of a Marvel movie is not uncommon and is almost a necessity of the genre. Sometimes they occur because of events of the story. Others are rather forced because the credits are about to role. Here the epic battle is a natural outgrowth of events in the film. It’s a necessity of the story. Given the stakes of the Infinity Stone and the plans of the main villain there was no other option.
Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely spectacle but it’s well-done spectacle. That’s not an easy thing to do when you’re gifted with a ton of money and a fantastic marketing machine. It is easy to get lazy with such resources available. And this movie had both courtesy of Marvel productions. James Gunn managed to deliver something very special here without getting lazy.
And the music is just some of the best. It is absolutely amazing stuff. Each song is perfectly chosen for the moment when it is used. It’s not randomly slammed in. And each and every one is a classic. The music itself comes into this film because they were gifted to Peter by his mother on a cassette tape before she passed away from cancer. Not only a great story element but a good excuse for great music.
Despite really wanting the original Guardians of the Galaxy team on screen, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s exciting and funny with plenty of heart and great characters. It has tons of highlights in it. Guardians of the Galaxy is a must see. Not because it’s connected to the larger MCU but it’s just a great film that stands on its own. It’s a fun space opera adventure that is very entertaining each time you watch it!