Does Guardians of the Galaxy live up to the hype I’ve been running into online? Is it, as some claim, the best movie Marvel has made to date? Read on to find out.

Cast and Crew Information

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill / Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Dave Bautista as Drax
Vin Diesel as Groot
Bradley Cooper as Rocket
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer
John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey
Glenn Close as Nova Prime
Benicio Del Toro as The Collector
Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill
Christopher Fairbank as The Broker
Stan Lee as… well, I won’t spoil, but you’ll spot him early and easily.
Josh Brolin as Thanos
Fred as Cosmo the Space Dog
Nathan Fillion as the voice of the character introduced in the post-credits scene.

Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Directed by James Gunn

Premise

A rag tag bunch of criminals are all that stands between Ronan the Accuser and the total destruction of Xander, possibly the rest of the Universe.

High Point

“You said it yourself.”

Low Point

At one point, a voiceover covers the contents of a note that shows on screen before the voiceover start. Unfortunately, the script on the prop does NOT match the voiceover.

The Review

You want originality? When Iron Man was announced, the general public said “who?” and Marvel comics readers reacted with pleasure. When Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, Marvel comics readers said “really? Them? Why?” There are people I see in my local comic shop every week who didn’t even know who these guys are. They used them as a starting point, altered some individual character backstories, and told a new story with them. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are pervasive. I doubt that there’s a single frame of film beyond the five minute mark that doesn’t have some type of visual effect. A number of these characters don’t physically exist, and the same goes for many of their environments. At no time are the seams between digital and practical effects visible. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is very, very tightly packed. We understand the backstory and motivations of five leads, two villains, the Nova Corps, the Broker, and more with teases of Thanos. Heck, we even get to care about Rhomann Dey, and he’s got about five minutes of screen time. In the words of professional writer Howard Taylor, “This is one of those films I want to watch again, only with a notebook. I want to to study it and figure out how they did what they did.” Everything matters. How they fit it all into 121 minutes is a mystery I intend to solve. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is very well done. I went in with a lot of reservations. We’re talking about a movie with two CGI creations and a wrestler making up 60% of the core cast. My concerns were largely unfounded. I don’t know how much range Dave Bautista has as an actor in general, but he nailed this role. Chris Pratt makes us care about Peter within seconds of meeting him. Zoe Saldana is even more impressive when you learn that she insisted on training and doing her fighting live, rather than with CGI models. Sure, the visual effects people change the speed and range of her leaps (with accurate parabolas!), and they adjusted the timing of some of the actions, but they based it all on photographic frames rather than a completely CGI creation. Vin Diesel’s work depends entirely on bringing expression to his voice, as his dialogue is limited by the very nature of his character, and he pulls that off. Bradley Cooper doesn’t sound like Bradley Cooper; I hear only Rocket. Karen Gillan plays Nebula without a hint of Amelia Pond. (Well, except for the great legs, but there’s only so much she can do about that.) I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is a well oiled machine. Seriously, the prop in the low point is the only issue I have in the finished product, which clearly went through multiple iterations given the differences between this and the dialogue and footage in the trailers. They put a lot of thought into what footage should and should not be kept, and cut this film to the bone. Not past the bone, damaging films as was done with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Green Lantern, but trimming every ounce of fat. The 3D here is not only nice, but additive, probably to a greater degree than any other film I’ve seen in 3D, including Day of the Doctor, Avengers and the Amazing Spider-Man movies. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is wonderful. Long time readers will know I loved the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning run in Marvel’s cosmic Universe, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Annihilation, War of Kings and The Thanos Imperative. This more than lives up to that legacy. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is probably the most fun movie I’ve seen this year. I would estimate that, upon repeated viewings, I’ll put it second only to Captain America: Winter Soldier in Marvel’s complete film roster. That said, I haven’t had this much fun the first time through anything in theatres since The Day of the Doctor last year, and probably Ghostbusters before that, way back in 1984. I was honestly tempted before watching this movie to write this entire review with “I am Groot” as the only text in each paragraph followed by a score, but doing that wouldn’t have done this film justice. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Guardians of the Galaxy receives 40 out of 42.