Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), PG-13, 121 minutes - After being fairly successful at avoiding spoilers on the internet (or from others who beat me to seeing it), I was able to check out Guardians of the Galaxy yesterday afternoon.  Most people are probably wondering 'who the hell are they?' or 'what on Earth is going on with a talking raccoon and tree?'.  To be honest, my previous exposure to these characters is lower than normal when it comes to the Marvel films.  What I do know is that what little I've read was well written and very entertaining.  From the time Marvel announced that Guardians of the Galaxy would be joining their Cinematic Universe (MCU), I've been very excited (it landed on my Most Anticipated Films of 2014 list).  Since the Guardians have never been even remotely mainstream (until the last year or so), a theatrical adaptation of their adventures posed the biggest question mark of any Marvel project to date and rightfully so.  But before I get on with my review, let me assure you that there are no questions about the enjoyment level of Guardians of the Galaxy.  It's a ton of fun and is well worth the price of admission.

Guardians of the Galaxy takes the MCU way beyond Earth to the far reaches of space.  We're introduced to a group of misfits comprised of Peter Quill, a thief and self-proclaimed Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora, an assassin and adopted daughter of Thanos (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Groot (a tree creature voiced by Vin Diesel), and Rocket (a genetic experiment appearing like a raccoon from Earth voiced by Bradley Cooper), who, after being incarcerated for fighting over a highly coveted orb in public on the planet Xandar, join together to keep said orb out of the hands of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a known associate of the cosmicly feared Thanos (Josh Brolin).  During a meet with The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) in which the Guardians plan to sell the orb, they learn its true purpose: it protects one of the Infinity Stones (cosmic stones of immense power that can cause untold destruction if in the wrong hands). The deal goes bad and the orb ends up in the hands of Ronan.  Shortly thereafter he also learns the orb's secret, after which he betrays Thanos and keeps the stone for his own purpose: the obliteration of Xandar.  In their efforts to reclaim the stone and save Xandar and beyond, The Guardians find both opposition and help from a number of characters including Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his Ravagers, and the Nova Corps including Nova Prime (Glenn Close) and Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly).  They also find them themselves on the bad side of Ronan's muscle, Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and Nebula (Karen Gillen), another daughter of Thanos.

This film adds a multitude of characters to the MCU, but none of them get lost in the shuffle.  Many of them have ties to one another and for the most part those relationships and basic back stories are touched on in a quick but informative manner.  With this film, Marvel proved that they can make a highly entertaining film adaptation out of any of their properties.  Not only does it succeed in adding a space opera to the growing compilation of genre's in the Marvel stable, but it is also the most charming and endearing film from the MCU to date.  Chris Pratt is the perfect lead for a film with a tone such as this, and Zoe Saldana portrays the assassin with a heart pretty well.  Dave Bautista was a pleasant surprise as his acting experience has been fairly limited and Cooper's Rocket was everything I had envisioned from the comics.  He may only speak three words throughout the entire film, but the various inflections in the delivery of Groot's words by Vin Diesel prove that he put in long hours recording.  I really shouldn't neglect to mention Lee Pace's turn as Ronan.  He provided a very determined villain, making him more threatening than we sometimes see in comic book films.

Guardians blends great action with a pretty good dose of drama and humor.  Being set in space and on alien worlds, the visual effects, costume, make up and CG work are all quite good.  Both Rocket and Groot turned out great and really looked like they belonged.  I'd love to see it again as there were a number of occasions that I missed something because the theater was full of laughter.  Sure the trailer looks a little campy, and parts of the film are, but it's all part of the charm.  Guardians of the Galaxy has more than enough heart to suck you in and kill two hours of your time before you even know it.  Don't just take my word for it, check it out and expose yourself to another corner of the MCU.  You'll be glad you did!












*****SPOILERS*****

- For anyone interested in checking out Guardians of the Galaxy in comic book form, they have had a relatively spotty history in print.  The current volume of Guardians of the Galaxy began last year and is written by Brian Michael Bendis.  It's a pretty good place to start.  The most recent issue was just released this past Wednesday but is the middle of a story arc.  I would recommend starting at the beginning of this run as it revolves around the same cast of characters (there is a 0.1 numbered issue that takes place before the first issue that is basically a prologue for the series).  I would also recommend the volume that began in 2008 and ran for twenty five issues.  It was written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning who have written some of the best Marvel cosmic stories ever told (although the team line up varies a little).

- Two solo series have also begun within the last couple of months: Rocket Raccoon and Legendary Star-Lord.  I haven't had a chance to check out the Star-Lord book yet (by Sam Humphries and Paco Medina), but Rocket Raccoon (written/drawn by Skottie Young) really is wonderful.  The second issue of Rocket Raccoon is scheduled to come out this coming Wednesday.

- At San Diego Comic Con last weekend they announced that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is being scheduled for a 2017 release.  It is to be written/directed by James Gunn as this one was.

- I love, love, love the fact that Marvel pulled in a big name like Vin Diesel to voice Groot and that they stayed true to the comics in that he only speaks three words.

- Other Infinity Stones have been seen in Captain America: The First Avenger (The Tesseract), The Avengers (the gem in Loki's staff), and Thor: The Dark World (The Aether).

- Thanos first appeared in the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, but this was the first time he was actually portrayed by Josh Brolin (albeit still heavily CG'd), who has been cast as Thanos moving forward.

- The Chitauri (as they are known in the comics from Marvel's Ultimate Universe - also known as Skrulls in the regular Marvel U) played a huge role in The Avengers.  In this film, another big time Marvel alien race takes center stage: the Kree (Ronan).

- Dave Bautista who portrays Drax is also known as Batista, the wrestler from the WWE. 

- Stan Lee has his usual Marvel Studios cameo.  This time as a 'Xandarian Ladies' Man' who is mocked by Rocket just before the dust-up over the orb between Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot.

- You won't recognize him, but Nathan Fillion has a cameo.  He is credited as 'Monstrous Inmate' and is (or at least voices) the prisoner who threatens Quill when they arrive at the Kyln.  He subsequently gets beat up by Groot.

- Rob Zombie provides the voice of the Ravager Navigator.

- I only know this from the credit list on imdb.com,  but director James Gunn cameos as a Maskless Sakaaran (the planet of Sakaar played a vital role in the Planet Hulk story arc in the comics).

- Gunn's brother Sean provided the motion capture for Rocket's movements and also played Kraglin, one of Yondu's Ravagers.

- The Ravagers all wear the same emblem that appeared on Star-Lord's uniform during the 2008 volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic.

- We see the Nova Corps, an intergalactic law enforcement agency from the comics although there is no mention of either Richard Rider or Sam Alexander, who have both held the title of Nova in the comics.

- In the comics, Yondu was a member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy lineup that first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 in 1969.

- It is a bit different than it appears in the comics, but Knowhere is included.  In the comics it is a sort of base of operations for the Guardians whereas in the film it is a mining colony which doubles as a locale for under-the-table dealings.

- Knowhere is located inside the skull of a dead Celestial, but we also see a live Celestial in action during the sequence explaining the Infinity Stones.  Celestials were a creation of comics legend Jack Kirby and first appeared in Eternals #1 in 1976).

- Cosmo the Space Dog (a Russian dog who was Knowhere's head of security in the comics) makes an appearance in The Collector's collection and again in the post credits scene. 

- There is one pre-credit scene and one post-credit scene.  The pre-credit scene shows a potted and regrowing Groot dancing to the Jackson 5 as Drax sharpens his knives.  The post-credit scene shows The Collector, Cosmo, and Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green), who had been freed from one of The Collector's display cases.  One of the stranger characters in Marvel's catalog, there was actually a live action Howard the Duck movie starring Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins back in 1986.

- A Dark Elf (Thor: The Dark World) and a Chitauri (The Avengers) can also be seen on display by The Collector.  I'm sure there's more there that I didn't catch.  I've read that a space slug from director James Gunn's film Slither (which I have not seen) is visible.  A cocoon that could potentially be a regenerating Adam Warlock's cocoon could be seen in one of The Collector's cases in the mid-credits scene of Thor: The Dark World.  I missed it, but I hear that you can see the cocoon broken open during the post-credits Howard the Duck scene. Warlock played a large role in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Annihilation Conquest and Guardians of the Galaxy runs in the comics.  Hopefully he'll pop up in a sequel. 

- The track list for Star-Lord's from Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is as follows (and can be purchased here):

1. Blue Swede – Hooked on a Feeling
2. Raspberries – Go All the Way
3. Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky
4. David Bowie – Moonage Daydream
5. Elvin Bishop – Fooled Around and Fell in Love
6. 10Cc – I’m Not in Love
7. Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
8. Redbone – Come and Get Your Love
9. The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
10. Rupert Holmes – Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
11. The Five Stairsteps – O-O-H Child
12. Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

- Quill makes a number of references to his youth on Earth in the 1980's including Raiders of the Lost Ark (the scene in which he steals the orb is reminiscent of this as well), Footloose and Kevin Bacon, John Stamos, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ranger Rick, and Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree.  According to director James Gunn, Quill also named his ship The Milano after his childhood crush on Alyssa Milano.  Quill's childhood Walkman plays a fairly important role, as does a fuzzy haired troll doll.  He also has an old ALF trading card on his ship.

- Quill's half human-half alien lineage is mentioned towards the end of the film.  In the comics, Quill's father is J'son, Emperor of the Spartoi Empire.

- My wife and I have been working on watching the television series Bones recently.  Brandan Fehr plays Corpsman Dey's Partner and will look familiar to Bones fans as he also portrayed Booth's brother Jared.

Comments

  1. I hope to see it sometime this weekend or next weekend - just having trouble finding the time...

    ReplyDelete

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