4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)
Marvel has saved the summer once again. They had “X-Men: Days of Future Past” back in May and now, they bring us “Guardians of the Galaxy”, that now-rare superhero movie that doesn’t have a brooding, depressed main character, a grave tone, or a dark score. Marvel became solemn in the last film in its cinematic universe with “Captain America the Winter Soldier”. I admire a series that matures with its audience, but that film was too gritty for my liking, an issue I never thought I would have with a Marvel film. Thankfully, “Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving us a funny, action-packed sci-fi flick that is reminiscent of the original “Star Wars”. In all honesty, this summer has (with a few exceptions), not been all that great at the movies, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” has swooped in to save us when (nearly) all hope was lost, for me anyway, of there being one more memorable blockbuster of 2014.
The film follows a ragtag group of misfits: Starlord (Chris Pratt giving a surprisingly good performance), Gamora (Zoe Saldana giving the best performance I’ve seen of hers), and Rocket Raccoon (voiced energetically by Bradley Cooper). Vin Diesel voices Groot with not a trace of normal wooden performances, and Drax (Dave Bautista) as they race to defeat an enemy that wishes to destroy the galaxy. The dialogue is wickedly clever with laugh-out-loud one-liners throughout. This is the first Marvel film that I could almost call a comedy as well as a great action film. The comedic dialogue is much more ingenious than suggested by the previews.`
What separates “Guardians of the Galaxy” from the other Marvel superhero movies is its unique approach to the superhero origin story. While most Marvel films open with narration or a cool action scene, this one opens on possibly the saddest note I’ve ever seen for a Marvel film. I thought it was a trailer for another movie, but it turned out to be a character setup. To add to the uniqueness, the characters don’t technically have superpowers, they are just individuals who are gifted in one way or another. The character relationships are extremely entertaining to watch, especially that of Rocket and Groot. Rocket is able to translate what Groot is saying even though all we hear is “I am Groot”, similar to Lassie barking at Billy and Billy knowing that some kid is trapped in a well. Pratt and Saldana have good chemistry, making their interactions equally as enjoyable. That said, one of the greatest personal joys was watching Glenn Close take a small role very seriously, as if she were in a regular movie. The same applies to John C. Reilly’s cameos; but he gets more funny lines than she does.
The music in this film is a blast, using 70’s rock tunes throughout the film to set the tone for scenes in just the right way. I don’t think I’ve tapped my toes in an action movie this much in my entire film reviewing career. The older crowd (those who grew up in the 70’s) will certainly enjoy this aspect, while some (my mom) might argue that younger viewers will learn what good music is.
The 3D in this movie is actually worth the money, something that surprised me. Those who read my reviews know my opinion on the use of 3D, and I was very skeptical about it, but nearly every action scene has something pop out at you in an effective way. For once, the cost of the ticket is worth it for the 3D version, so see it if you can.
The film is not without problems, unfortunately. The climax scene has characters engaged in both hand-to-hand combat and in space vehicles, a common occurrence in modern sci-fi. The problem is that the scene feels overly long when in the vehicles (an issue thankfully avoided by the other action scenes in the movie), as if writer/director James Gunn briefly ran out of interesting ideas and just went generic for a few minutes. Thankfully, the combat is engaging to watch and well-filmed. Honestly, had the flight sequence been shorter and better-shot, this film would have gotten a four and a half star rating.
There is one other problem, this one more personal. Marvel has always avoided having a large amount of profanity in their films, choosing instead to get their PG-13 ratings for violence (AKA an element that is required for the film to work). Marvel films are generally pretty clean when it comes to language, and that is something I have always admired. Sadly, that trend did not follow in this movie. This film unexpectedly has the most swearing I’ve heard in a PG-13 Marvel movie, instead of the company’s normally classy handling of that specific area. I know that they’ve been endlessly advertising this movie on TV for some time now, and that kids love superhero movies, but think carefully before letting young ones see this. The language is saltier then I felt comfortable hearing with my 9 year old buddy Colin. I hope this is specific to this franchise (yes, a release date for the sequel has been set for July 2017) and not for future installments of their popular heroes.
Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-fi, Violence and Action, and Some Language