Movie Review – “Guardians of the Galaxy”

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.

9 replies on “Movie Review – “Guardians of the Galaxy””

  1. hussein says:

    True that about Karen Gillan. I was expecting Nebula to sound like a bald, blue, Scottish girl but she was fully _Nebula_. Great actress.

    I wonder how quotable this movie will be in the future! I can already remember most of the funniest lines.

    • “They got my dick message!”

    • Matt says:

      I didn’t even realise it was her. I saw her name on the opening and thought “oh I didn’t know she was in it” then I promptly forgot all about her. Now I understand why I thought Nebula looked vaguely familiar.

      I loved this movie, although I also noticed the prop mistake. You’d’ve thought they could’ve removed that in post, but maybe it slipped by or the voiceover was redone very late. Maybe they can fix it for the home releases.

      Anyway, it was fabulous and I loved all of it except the post-credits scene. If you’re going to get a reputation for putting interesting scenes on the end of the credits and thus making me stay in order to see them, you’d better keep them interesting, Marvel. That’s now two movies with pointless ones at the end, and this was even worse than the previous one.

  2. JD DeLuzio says:

    I agree with most of this review. Guardians makes a fun summer movie with engaging characters. But I have to disagree (strongly) with the Originality score. It’s an adaptation of an existing property that follows fairly closely the action-movie version of the Save the Cat Beat Sheet, and owes more than its fair share to Star Wars and Raiders and their too-numerous imitators.* Ragtag band of heroes assemble in a world remarkably like ours except it has FTL and bigger guns and way too many things overseen by Red Shirts. They go after the MacGuffin and save the universe.

    Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed this film and I liked the characters, It succeeds in being the Summer Movie it wants to be. But it’s a step down from the (for the genre) maturity of Winter Soldier.

    *I know that both of those films were imitating old serials and myths and such, but they remain incredibly fresh in their use of their influences, and stood apart in their historical context.

  3. Fez says:

    Going into this I had only a vague idea who the Guardians of the Galaxy were, mostly from bits and pieces done about the movie. I’ve not read any of their comics.

    My wife, son, and I managed to get tickets to a Thursday evening show and we loved every minute of it. Granted it’s difficult to judge a general audience reaction from such an early show since it’s overloaded with people inclined to like the movie, but everyone was laughing and cheering along the whole time.

    The pace never truly let up, even in the “slower” moments it was still humorous (“Who put the sticks up their butts?”) and everyone seemed to work together and play off each other really well. It will definitely take repeated viewing to take it all in and catch everything properly.

    The only place I might knock is in the originality department but even then it was unique enough compared to everything else I find it hard to ding it much. There was a really Firefly-like vibe off the group toward the end. The intonation of Groot’s big “We are Groot” line reminded me of an earlier Vin Diesel animated character of few words: The Iron Giant’s “Su-per man” line.

    Chris Pratt has been great in everything I’ve seen of his, from Everwood to Parks and Recreation to The Lego Movie, it’s no surprise to me that he knocked this out of the park.

    I would love to see the character from the post-credits sequence get a larger role in a future Marvel movie, but I’m one of the very few who actually enjoyed his previous movie.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things but it was a lot to take in. If we didn’t have a lot of other stuff going on this weekend we might have tried to see it again.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      I would love to see the character from the post-credits sequence get a larger role in a future Marvel movie, but I’m one of the very few who actually enjoyed his previous movie.

      We got their duck message.

      While I didn’t like that character’s previous movie appearance, I understand why he might be included here. Steve Gerber, who created Howard, did a lot of work with the 1970s Guardians and helped shape the sensibility we see in this film. It would be interesting to see if Marvel can make this character work in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if they’ll even try.

    • Fez says:

      Finally realized what it was I was forgetting after seeing a reference elsewhere.

      Guy from Earth flying around space making lots of funny Earth-based pop culture references to people who don’t understand, with a bunch of interesting characters with their own motivations, prison escape, Female warrior-type who turned on those with whom she used to be aligned… Reminded me of Farscape. In a good way, not taking anything away from how awesome either of them are.

  4. Karrde712 says:

    Nathan Fillion was the blue guy that challenged them in the prison and got beat up by Groot.

    Seth Green voiced the post-credits character.

  5. Jethro says:

    I finally made it out there. You know, I’d give the effects 8 out of 6. You heard me.

    After watching Days of Future Past in 3D at a small theatre and being very disappointed, it’s almost eye-opening to go back to a really /good/ IMAX 3D theatre.

    Yeah, I know reviews on this site often include “I saw it in 2D and I didn’t see anything I thought would be improved by 3D”. Well, I don’t think anything in this movie /required/ 3D, but 3D /definitely/ added a lot to the experience. It was fantastic and they avoided all common 3D pitfalls (being dark, “toy” effect, etc). This is exactly why I venture forth from my house to watch stuff on a really big screen with a really good sound-system.

    Well worth the experience.

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