Friday, August 1, 2014

Film Friday: Guardians of the Galaxy

I saw a Thursday-evening showing of "Guardians of the Galaxy" yesterday and will share my basically spoiler-free thoughts. First off, I just wanted to remark that it is nice that more movies are having debuts-of-sorts on Thursday nights lately instead of people having to go to a Midnight showing. Some say it provides less of a fun experience or dedicated fan-base for whatever movie is being attended, but I'd always rather be able to get back home by 10 than not even be tucking myself in till 3AM with work the next day (although maybe I'm just an old fogey). Whatever the case, I was glad there were evening-showings of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and am now pleased to get to tell you all why I liked it quite a lot, but wouldn't say it is my new favorite Marvel-film as some folk are doing.

It isn't spoiling anything to say a lot of the movie centers-around a mysterious orb that Star-Lord steals at the start of the movie, and which previews for the film have shown scenes of. This orb leads to a lot of characters coming into conflict, working together, and variations between those two options. The characters that are the "Guardians" are all well-fleshed out and interesting, with Gamora maybe getting the least amount of a back-story, instead mostly coming off as a slightly-generic "bad-ass lady". Despite previews for the movie showing Rocket Raccoon and Groot as being more of a comedic relief, they actually get some strongly emotional scenes in the movie and much of the praise for that goes to Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel for using their voices so well to give these characters immense life--with the rest of the praise going to the amazing animators who make you really believe a raccoon and talking tree are present in the scenes with everyone else.

We also get Drax who goes from being a dull killing-machine to surprisingly well-developed and the main hero of the movie, Star-Lord. Chris Pratt does a great job as Star-Lord, providing a good mixture of being a skeevy-jerk yet also having just enough humanity to not be someone the viewers hate. Sure, he's a mostly-dishonorable thief and horn-dog, but he still is at heart a kind and caring person.

Star-Lord and the Guardians get most of the screen-time of course, but there is in fact a delightful supporting cast, from the galactic peace-keeping force known as the Nova Corps having such superb talent as John C. Reily and Glenn Close, to Benicio Del Toro as the mysterious Collector. Probably the only characters that I found myself mostly unimpressed with were the more villainous ones. Ronan is a Kree who hates a whole planet enough to want to destroy it, but we never learn too much of his motivations, resulting in another Marvel-movie villain who seems to be full of rage and a desire to destroy everything, but with little reason for the audience to care. This is a problem that the 2nd Thor movie had with its villain being nowhere near as interesting as the sorta-evil Loki, and while "Captain America: the Winter Solider" had a cool antagonist in the form of now-evil Bucky, the closing of that movie made it clear that Bucky may end up being a good-guy too. Still, even if Ronan isn't that great as a villain isn't there the much talked-about Thanos? Eh, kind of.
Ronan is just not that interesting a villain.
In "Guardians of the Galaxy" we finally get to spend a little more time with Thanos, whom we last briefly glimpsed during the end-credits of "The Avengers". While it is good to see him finally speak, he mostly comes off as just an imposing and scary force without actually doing anything. Based on the past movies and some of the events of this one it is clear we are building to Thanos as some sort of ultimate big-bad guy, but for now all "Guardians of the Galaxy" can really do is have his character be tangentially involved in the events of the movie and give off a feeling of, "Hoo boy, this guy sure is scary and might cause issues later on." Still, for now Thanos seems like a huge dog that barks loudly but has no teeth to back-up its supposed threats. As more Marvel movies continue however this may change, but at the moment Thanos is a bit intimidating, but mostly unimpressive.

I've talked a lot about the characters, but what of the plot? Well, as I said I don't want to spoil the movie, so all I can really do is re-state how the orb at the beginning of the movie is important and leads to a lot of the adventuring, fighting, and joking that our heroes engage in. It also provides an excuse for our protagonists to team-up, as without the orb it would feel forced for these individuals to be working together, at least until awhile after first meeting as they start to bond. By having the strange orb there is a plot, making it a bit of a macguffin, but a bit more than that once we learn its true potential.

One aspect of the movie I really enjoyed and which others have commented on is how music plays an important part in the movie. This is because at the start of our movie, Star-Lord goes into space when it is 1988, so he always has his cassette tape with quality jams from the past by his side. This allows the movie to take place in a fantastical galaxy yet provide a grounded feel by having some good ol' Earth-tunes blaring while our heroes are fighting incredible space-battles. It almost seems counter-intuitive to have a song from the 1970's or mid-80's playing while special-effects that wouldn't have even been possible a few year ago fill the screen, but it somehow works and makes the movie all the better for it.

Speaking of things that make the movie better, the amount of humor in this flick is delightful. This is by no means a space-comedy, as there are plenty of serious moments, but Marvel cleverly advertised the movie well by playing-up the funny aspects. People out there who may enjoy Marvel movies but have no familiarity with the comics would basically be seeing this movie without any knowledge, but by having it be made clear this movie was fun and not an overly-dramatic space-opera (not that anything is wrong with the dramatic space operas of "Star Wars" or "Star Trek") people could go into the theater a bit more comfortably who otherwise might be intimidated by a big space-movie.
Quite the motley crew.
It is interesting to think how this film is in the same universe as the rest of the Marvel films, as other than the short-look at Thanos at the end of "Avengers" and a momentary appearance by the Collector at the end of "Thor: The Dark World" we haven't really seen much of space in the Marvel cinematic universe. That makes this movie quite the risk for Marvel, probably their biggest monetary leap-of-faith since the first "Iron Man" movie where they didn't know if their new effort to do movies on their own would succeed or fail. As this movie is quite the quirky delight I do hope it succeeds and encourages Marvel to take more creative and financial risks going forward.

There is a great cast, a solid plot, and some good humor. Basically, the only thing keeping this movie from being one of my favorite Marvel films is that Ronan is just kind of a dull villain compared to the much-more interesting Bucky of "Winter Soldier" or Loki in "The Avengers". Still, this is a fantastic movie and one I recommend fans of the Marvel flicks or outer-space movies go see. Because I said I won't spoil things I lack the ability to tell you why I feel certain plot elements of this movie will be important in future Marvel movies. However, considering how big a bad-guy everyone says Thanos will be in future flicks, and taking into the account the secrets the orb holds, I would say that while this "Guardians" movie only ties in with the main Marvel Universe a little right now, the Marvel Universe in the future will be building off of  this movie quite a bit. Regardless of all that though, this is just a solid movie all on its own and one you ought to see.
4 out of 5 stars.


  1. Galaxy's great fun but its biggest creative gamble is featuring untested heroes. If that's cause for celebration then risk ain't what it used to be.

  2. This really is a marvelous film, space opera at its very best. And it's an enormous amount of fun, the kind of film that you can watch over and over again and will probably end up setting the standard for others that follow.

    Highly, highly recommended.

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