A Totally Biased Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

A very safe, but solid, entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This was a movie experience like no other. And not entirely because of the movie. After seeing a preview for Dracula Untold, The Equalizer, and Guardians of the Galaxy… yes, read it again, we saw a preview for Guardians of the Galaxy… We were treated to the opening minutes of Hercules. Sigh. It took the crew a minute to get it sorted, and we were treated to a whole new set of previews… SIGH… and then, finally, the movie which this review will cover.

Marvel went out on a limb in producing a franchise like Guardians, easily one of the lesser known comic series they’re known for, and the gamble paid off in big dividends, though not quite in the manner which I was expecting. Alth0ugh some of the characters aren’t fully utilized, it’s still a great first entry for a strong and diverse team of heroes.

Dave Bautista fully capitalizes on the chance of a lifetime, completely embodying Drax' character

Dave Bautista fully capitalizes on the chance of a lifetime, completely embodying Drax’ character

Not the least of which is Peter Quill, who calls himself “Starlord,” a semi-bumbling, womanizing idiot who aspires to be something more. Having been abducted after a traumatic moment in his youth, he’s grown up amongst the stars, planet-hopping as a thief and “outlaw” and scraping a living however he can, and it’s this man the story closely follows. My unfamiliarity of the source material means I have no bias to the characters beyond the performances, and they are impressive nearly across the board, with notable exceptions. The story itself is also quite good and briskly paced, if not a little predictable. It also, liberally, adheres to the idea that it’s easier to invest in a character when they’re funny, and I found myself laughing to the point that I felt it was too much, and that some of the film’s jokes overshadowed more than a single tender or emotional moment. These moments may have benefited from a more thoughtful and straightforward approach, and although there were several poignantly emotional scenes, more than a handful were less effective than they could have been because of a poorly placed, sometimes even tasteless, joke. The overabundance of humor, however, serves to lambaste common tropes and cliches to films like this and, more often than not, hits the mark.

It is without any hesitation that I say the standout performances come from the lesser human characters of the Guardians. Rocket and Groot, as a pair, have tremendous chemistry and behave as partners with years of companionship. Cooper, as Rocket, turns in the surprise performance of the flick and adds a great deal of emotional depth to a character that could have been very cliche. Groot is surprisingly expressive for a CGI-piece of talking wood, and easily avoids the Ent-like comparisons that could have been inevitable. It is, however, with great satisfaction I type these words: David Bautista is the films standout character, and, as a wrestler trying his hand at acting, he is entirely convincing and effective as the group’s resident maniac. His delivery and comedic timing is perfection, and his “softer” scenes have emotional depth lacking from the other major characters, Rocket notwithstanding, and as his performance continues to unfold, he is easily forgotten as Bautista, and entirely accepted as Drax the Destroyer. I was very happy he won the role (he admitted to breaking down and crying out of joy), a very high profile role on top of that, and now very pleased with his performance. In fact, congrats to all three performances, because they completely stole the show.

The surgically and cybernetically enhanced and tortured soul of Rocket Raccoon is the surprise of the film.

The surgically and cybernetically enhanced and tortured soul of Rocket Raccoon is the surprise of the film.

Starlord himself is also quite deceptively complex, having been an emotionally broken boy raised by marauding space bandits and whose heroism comes out in brief, but brilliant, flashes, though the better part of his twisted ideals and greedy nature is allowed to shine quite naturally. Whether or not it’s fitting with the comic hero, Pratt’s performance is remarkable in both its radiant humor and concealed depth. In contrast, Gamora feels relatively flat in her arc, but as an orphan-turned-assassin, she’s a wonderful foil to the light-hearted Starlord.

Even less impressive is the film’s arbitrary villain. Lee Pace is outstanding in a role that is decidedly not outstanding. It’s a simple fact that once a bigger bad showed their face, I simply lost interest in Ronan, who comes across as imposing and intimidating, but rather flat, none-the-less. Wanting-to-destroy-the-universe-just-because-you-can has gotten to be a pretty boring reason for wanting to destroy the universe for me. The fact that other, greater villains are teased only adds to the dismissive feeling I had for Ronan, who I would have found fairly threatening otherwise. If you see a pitbull running towards you while it’s being chased by a tiger which is being followed by a T-rex, which are you going to be more afraid of? This lack of focus with the films antagonists, as well as several villaincameos,” served only to distract from Ronan the Accuser.

The jokes are relentless, and although sometimes misplaced, are consistently hysterical.

The jokes are relentless, and although sometimes misplaced, are consistently hysterical.

 The films production is among the best Marvel has served up to date, and from the wonderful set and creature design, the film is an absolute treat to behold. One of the more brilliant filmmaking devices I’ve seen in a while is the use of a mixtape as a soundtrack, and for a film set in outer space, as Marvel’s version of Star Wars, the classic rock and pop hits that populate the soundtrack feel completely at home, fading in and out from soundtrack to plot device seamlessly.

 So, while it was a bit of a gamble for the new powerhouse of filmmaking (move over, Pixar), and the Guardians were always a bit of a wildcard, Marvel played it smart and kept the gamble to a minimum by playing it safe with both characterizations and exciting, but relatively unremarkable, action. The film’s gratuitous humor and a lack of focus with its villains do little in the way of slowing down the machine, and despite how entertaining of a film it really is, I can’t help but feel even 15 extra minutes would’ve benefited the film greatly and kept it from feeling like such a stepping stone to something greater.

Still, it’s a Marvel movie, and one of the best ones yet.

PROs and CONs+ Great first entry for the Guardians of the Galaxy
+ Fantastic production and brilliant soundtrack
+ Sets up, revisits and introduces cool characters…

– …but mostly just teases them
– Ronan is mostly underwhelming

– Humor borders on excessive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: