REVIEWS

Review: Ain't No Thing Like James Gunn's 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

by
August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

"Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me." So says Rocket Racoon, a genetically modified racoon with a bad attitude and a fair point. The same can be said for the movie he's in, Guardians of the Galaxy, the cosmic superhero epic that continues the Marvel cinematic universe. For that matter, you can lay that dialogue and its meaning at the feet of the film's writer/director, James Gunn, who has spent his days since Troma delivering hard-edged horror and unbelievably cool superhero stories. This is his first chance at a big comic book story, and the sci-fi action, comedy extraveganza within Guardians of the Galaxy is cool, comical, and a cracking great time. One could almost be inclined to call it the best Marvel Studios film yet. More below!

But it's difficult to claim any, one Marvel movie as better than the rest. Each comic book adaptation brings with it a slight switch on the superhero sub-genre. Captain America: Winter Soldier, while also holding the throne by many as the biggest and best Marvel has to offer (myself included, still), is a conspiracy thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is a different beast entirely, an action team origin story kickstarted by a sci-fi, prison-break movie wrapped in a space opera of gigantic scope. Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman have a fun time playing in all of these fields.

That team, by the way, is made up of the following: Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a young space explorer and smuggler who was abducted from his Missouri home as a boy (this was 1988, and the boy's only item from home is a cassette tape labelled "Awesome Mix Tape #1" that is...awesome); Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an alien assassin whose adopted family seeks control of the whole Universe; Rocket, that unique raccoon whose voice sounds an awful lot like Bradley Cooper; Groot, an alien tree-being who has recently become Rocket's travelling companion, voice provided by Vin Diesel; and Drax the Destroyer, whose name implies a lot and the fact that he's played by former WWE pro wrestler Dave Bautista backs those implications up. These are the Guardians of the Galaxy, and they are unbelievably cool.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Gunn's film doesn't waste any time, not even a second, the story of young Peter Quill's abduction beginning even before the Marvel logo splashes across the screen. It's not necessarily a broken rule that begins Gunn's film, rather the first in the assortment of eccentricities with which he loves to line his work. Like the characters that inhabit it, Guardians is an odd bird, a tongue-in-cheek adventure that is as awesome as it is hilariously entertaining. How else are you going to work a Lloyd Kaufman cameo into a Marvel movie?

As eccentric as it is, Guardians is also the most purely entertaining Marvel film to come along. Serious drama comes up here and there, Gamora's family issues, mainly those regarding her psychotic brother, Ronan (Lee Pace), and his wicked plans for the universe, being the primary example. Yet, nothing in Guardians ever reaches past a certain level of seriousness. We're never that far removed from a humorously cynical line from Rocket, a goofy face and a charming line from Star-Lord, or even an instance of Groot uttering the only line he has in the movie, "I am Groot." Be prepared for kids to fall head-over-heels in love with the big, wooden lug.

That is what's most surprising about Guardians, how well the adventure and all that comes with it work for any demographic that might choose to see the film. Kids will love Groot, adults will laugh at Rocket, Star-Lord is a classicly goofy "straight-man", Gamora is an ass-kicking alien that will spur on the female audience members, and Drax is basically the same thing for the pro wrestling, testosterone crowd. Add to all of that the impressively huge-scale and incredibly fun adventure Gunn and company have pulled together, and there's really not much here that isn't working at top-notch levels.

The team coming together is probably the only area where Gunn and Perlman's screenplay slips up, just a bit. It's as if the five of them are predestined to join sides even when, at first, they're going up against each other. But what the hell, right? How it all plays out is so enjoyable to watch you can't help but forgive it for such a minor flaw. Beyond that, the adventure, the worlds Gunn creates, and the delightfully odd characters who fill those worlds are all superbly executed.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Even that main cast is firing up perfect execution through-and-through. Pratt and Saldana make a fine one-two punch to lead the team. Bautista is not only impressive to look at, those years delivering goofy, pro wrestling lines have given him the courage to make a fool of himself, but I wouldn't say that to his face. Cooper and Diesel are another satisfying pair, comic relief for different generations 0f viewers whose timing and delivery are so spot-on they effortlessly cross those demographic lines. Diesel's "I am Groot" delivery works as well for adults as it does for kids, and Cooper's lines hit just on the right side of lewd, like a fine Looney Tunes short. Some of the raccoon's lines might be a little racy for kids, but it's not like they're going to understand what's being said anyway.

Pace leads a heavy charge of first-rate villains, Karen Gillan as his other sister, Nebula, dropping a finely villainous performance. Other supporting players like Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, and Peter Serafinowicz fill roles that are as amusing as they are genuine, especially in this world. Likewise, Benicio Del Toro as a collector of interstellar oddities and Glenn Close as head of an intergalactic military force are welcome additions to the Marvel pool of talent and extremely interesting characters to boot.

Guardians of the Galaxy is loaded down with sci-fi adventure and rip-roaring, superhero fun, so much that it's two-hour running time seems almost impossibly short. How can they fit so much in such a decently-sized package? In that regard, it fits in nicely with some of the best adventures put to film, and not just those from Marvel, either. In time, Guardians will surely be as admired as the best adventures from the likes of Lucas and, yes, Spielberg. 8-year-olds will remember this film 20 years from now exactly as those of us coming into adulthood in 2014 remember Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, or whatever cinematic milestone in your life jumpstarted your movie-loving brain, and feeds your taste for nostalgia even now. Gunn can certainly pat himself on the back for that and for giving us an awesome comic book movie that is, say it with me, as unbelievably cool as Guardians of the Galaxy.

Jeremy's Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk

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  • Avi
    10 out of 10? It's got to be damn perfect if you give such a rating? Is that possible and are you not to much a fanboy who is seeing it through subjective eyes? What will you give classics like heat, et, the godfather 11 out of 11? Yes it is fun, great music, great cgi and effects so I hear, but realy come on!!
    • nate
      OK, why would you compare this to Heat or the Godfather? I would give Dumb and Dumber a 10 too because I consider it one of the best comedy movies ever, that doesn't mean that it's the same masterpiece as the Godfather...
      • Avi
        Because you have standards in everything and 10 out of 10 means absolute perfect! It leaves no room for doubt! So when interstellar is good you give it also a ten? And then you compare them to each other and then will the other be forgotten as a funny movie and the other as a classic! But they have both a ten? Feel the difference?
        • Enola
          Oh, You again....
          • Avi
            hahahahaha! Yes me again!
    • Fidel Reyes
      I think the scale should be seen as fitting in a certain genre, I mean there are films that score higher than some other films but that doesn't mean they are better it simply means that they are good/perfect in the particular genre. To compare this film to the Godfather(while I agree with this review for Guardians of The Galaxy) would be unwise/pointless, I believe that it is in its genre. I don't believe you should compare ratings when it comes to different genre films it's simply bad business you'll underwhelm yourself, it's like comparing 2001 A Space Odyssey to The Lego Movie, in the end your just affecting your own point of view and you will feel underwhelmed by a movie that is actually good in its own unique way/genre.
      • Avi
        I understand your point ofcourse but that also means every movie is a classic because it's always subjective and objectivity doesn't count. So let's wait ten years and than we will see which movie is on our collective awareness. I bet no Guardians, but the matrix, avatar etc! Let's wait!
        • Fidel Reyes
          If you haven't watched it you should watch it before you judge it, I honestly loved it and I do admit its small faults, but it's a very unique movie and the characters and content are all very well presented. I think it's one of those films that will come out and be very popular and then as time goes by people will look back and appreciate it, it's a great sci-fi/comedy film with a surprising amount of heart. I honestly think it's a throwback to fun 1970s/80s films, it doesn't take itself too seriously but it is serious in a way in which the comedy aspect doesn't feel idiotic but like actual character development and narrative based. I mean when the Empire Strikes Back people didn't like it too much, including critics, and we see how that turned out; in the end I think you should only judge the film until you watch it maybe you won't like it as much as other people but at least you'll get to see what people are talking/raving about.
          • Avi
            I realy have no doubt I will like it and love it, I like all marvel movies and think captain america the wintersoldier is the best action movie of this year together with the raid 2. But that's besides the point I am making! 10 out of 10 leaves no room for doubt, and makes future reviews nearly impossible. What if interstellar just and 8?
        • Dotpols
          Avatar? Really? God that was just awful... such transparent, plagiarised and preachy crap... I suppose the logical question is why do you have such a beef with the guy giving the movie a 10 out of 10? Seems to me you're looking to compare apples with oranges and find reasons to get annoyed. The dude loved it... why be such a kill joy snob by bringing up the God Father?
    • daneforst
      Spoken like someone who wouldn't even give something like this a chance. Heat is not a classic, by the way. It's just really really good. Also, there can be perfect movies in any genre and this one is a 10 or close to it. Get outta here with this gunk.
      • Avi
        Hello Mr old wise mister danefrost! It's my opinion so just as valid as yours and yes I do like marvel movies but I don't get a boner like you when your favorite marvel comic is getting his own movie. That's what's different between us. You are looking trough marvel glasses and not seeing the mistakes of it because you like boners. Grow up man, and get rid of your oedipus complex!
        • daneforst
          I only get boners for YOUR mother. You got it wrong, fella.
      • Steven Burgas
        What formula did you use to determine that Heat isn't a classic? Oh that's right it's an opinion...well here's another one...you're an idiot
        • Avi
          Yes and you must learn to read and read and read read before you give a comment. O wait your emotions take over when someone critizises the marvel universe! Go back to school before you use your I phone with a iron man wallpaper!
          • daneforst
            First off, look at Rotten Tomatoes right now, asshole. Heat is at 86% approval and Guardians at 92%. Is that enough evidence for you that this movie isn't just some flash-in-the-pan popcorn flick ala Transformers? My issue is that you just judge this movie against 2 older gangster movies. Where is the fucking comparison? One is a charming throwback to serial pulp action movies of the past and the others are obviously revered crime dramas. It's silly really to bring it up. It's the same as saying modern art in all forms sucks simply because The Sistine Chapel exists and is better because... well just because.
        • daneforst
          Ok, so you assume I'm an idiot for disagreeing with throwing Heat and Godfather in the same category? Sorry, I guess I would have chosen Goodfellas over Heat. Better movie, in my opinion. It's not worth being a typical, combative internet troll over. I even said I like that movie, for fuck's sake. You can kindly kiss off now.
      • Avi
        Heat no classic??? Haha fool and spongebob watcher!
        • Sky
          You really think HEAT is a classic? Bwahaha, we will see what movie kids are loving in 30 years... Heat or Guardians of the Galaxy. I bet you can guess what im thinking.
          • Avi
            You are spot on with this one! It's exactly what your saying! KIDS WILL REMEMBER it! Guess now what I am thinking? hahahahaha
          • Sky
            You thinking, you were wrong? yep... ur wrong and im right. Your a smart guy for thinking that.
    • Dotpols
      Surely you have to review the film in the context of its genre. God Father is a classic, but you just can't compare them. For what GoG attempts to do in its broad genre, it earns perfect marks in each category. I'd never heard of the comic until I saw the movie until last night, but I gotta admit I came out saying "that's the most fun I've had at the movies in forever".
      • Avi
        The strangest thing is happening right now. I am getting al these upset emails of fans of the Guardians that I don't see it in a right way but I am convinced that the Guardians is a great movie! Onley to give it a ten out of ten as a journalist is must be absolute perfect, flawless and a game changer in the movie industry. Is it a game changer like jurassic Park, the matrix or something very special like boyhood or 2001from Kubrick? You see my point? It's not about the movie but the review and it lacks in my opinion objectivity...
  • Chris
    The movie was as good as this review indicates. My only complaint, albeit a small one, is that it had a bit more language in it than the other Marvel films. The MPAA rating indicated as much, but having children who want to go see these movies, Marvel should keep that in mind going forward. I am in no way a prude, but some of the profanity, while effective for the sake of humor at times, probably could have been avoided. James Gunn crafted a heck of a movie, with a fine balance of action, character development, story line, and humor.
    • davidshaw
      I really don't see why "language" should be an issue with kids. Just tell them not to say those words. It's not like they don't hear it every day at school anyways, almost regardless of their age. Kids are cursing younger and younger every day. It's not a big deal.
      • Eric Weik
        Why are kids cussing younger and younger? Because of movies? Some, but most of it is because parents and such do not care. I did think about the cussing factor for a minute and there were a time or two I was like really...But still a good movie and the cussing wasn't bad.
    • Fidel Reyes
      To be honest language should not be a problem, I was a kid about a decade ago and I would always hear bad words but never say them, I think it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children not to say them. I mean profanity is everywhere, there is probably more profanity in music and video games in a much higher level than in this film, plus while these movies are family friendly they are also movies that are made to entertain adults as well, they are not cartoons they are films and they have the freedom to say profanity, I mean as long as it's not too much or too profane like other things out there like Family Guy, which kids watch since they have access to it; the profanity in this film is not that bad, but I understand where you are coming from and I respect the fact that you didn't undermine the actual film's plot/characters or the director for your concerns.
  • mooreworthy
    Marvel is continuing its stride as not only the best comic based movie, but also as one of the best movie studios when it comes to blockbusters. I loved it more than any other marvel so far that they have created.
  • Tuomas Lassila
    BEST FILM 2014!
  • Randall Miller
    Pretty damn close to a 10.
  • theslayer5150
    So Vin Diesel has one line in the whole movie??? I remember his Tweet about having a meeting with Marvel, about being cast an so forth. For one line??? I admit Vin is far from high caliber acting talent, but you could have hired some struggling voice actor who provides background voices on Spongebob cartoons to say "I am Groot!" several times in a movie. That must have taken Vin about 3 hours worth of work time. "No Vin, it's 'I am GROOT', not I AM Groot'" we're gonna be here all day until you get it right"
    • Chris Groves
      Well, one line in the sense of 'the same line repeated numerous times' not one line as in 'He speaks only once the entire film'. And in truth, he has two unique lines. Vin Diesel does more with 3 words in this movie than some actors can do with an entire page of dialogue. But he also did performance capture for the character, if I recall. So it wasn't all about 'Oh he just came in and did the voice, big whoop'. Groot could either be a throwaway voice role that they farmed out to anyone, or it could be a very interesting acting challenge that someone decided to own and play with just as much effort as any other role. Diesel is the latter, and it shows in the film. There is a reason Groot is coming away as many people's favorite character.
      • KDV
        I feel the same way. If anyone has any doubts about Vin Diesel's acting abilities, please watch his short film, Multi Facial - he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in it. It's amazing. Also, watch him in Saving Private Ryan.
        • Chris Groves
          Exactly. He's perfectly comfortable(and awesome) in his action niche of the Fast and Furious and Riddick franchises...and he has loyalty to those series and the fan-base of those series. But when it comes down to it, he DOES have solid acting chops. He's no Daniel Day-Lewis, but he isn't like a Kellan Lutz or something.
  • Enola
    Loved it from start to finish. The End Credits scene is so out there, but in the best kind of way :-)
  • Chris Groves
    Marvel Studios is to blockbusters what Pixar is to animated films.
  • DAVIDPD
    I loved everything except for Thanos. Who I found to look way too cartoon-like. I would have thought they would have done a mix of practical and CG, but the fakeness through for a loop. My favorite character has to be Rocket. He was so cute carrying around the Groot-stick.
  • Payne by name
    I was so jacked after seeing it. It was fabulous. Entertaining, action packed, genuinely funny, touching and hugely enjoyable. I can't wait to see it again.
  • http://mysite.verizon.net/vzepr1xp/index.html unsean
    Ronan wasn't related to Gamora or Thanos.
  • http://colormebacon.com/ Nick Sears
    Totally agree with the biology of the movie; how it's own individuality shines so damn well among the rest of the Marvel films. I'd give Drax more credit than just a catered WWF grunt but more of that's too much of that devote Shakespearean knight / tank-like warrior for his own good. When he claims his reflexes are too fast to have metaphors go over his head - Felt a bit like Monty Python and I was in stitches. Fun dialog for each one
  • TheOct8pus
    ....I can't wait to see this....
  • Qrious
    Loved it. Fun, fun, fun.
  • dawko
    How can you get 10/10 to a movie with a terrible villain?

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