Guardians Of The Galaxy Review: Marvel At Its Very Best

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those comic book properties that is kind of “out there.” Like in way out there. As in way-out-in-outer-space out there. After carefully crafting a compelling cinematic universe, Marvel Studios took a gamble on the property, one that, on paper, could make for an incredible movie experience if done right. I’ve been a huge fan of the Marvel cosmic universe for decades, and Abnett and Lanning’s run on the Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite comic stories ever. But could it truly make for a decent film, or a long-term franchise? I’m ecstatic to report that Marvel has completely delivered. Guardians of the Galaxy is not only a good movie, it’s one of the best of all of the Marvel Studios films, and is as good as, if not better than, The Avengers. Seriously.

Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt (The Lego MovieZero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, TVs Parks and Recreation) as Peter Quill, a terran (human) who, as a young boy, was picked up on earth by the Ravagers, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker), a band of bounty hunters and for-hire types that do the dirty work in the galaxy. We first meet the adult Quill as he is trying to locate a mystical sphere–one that others are also searching for. Others such as Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace)–a Kree outcast who despises the Xandarians and the Nova Corps and seeks to eradicate them all due to an uneven peace treaty signed between the Kree and Xandar–and even the Mad Titan himself, Thanos (Josh Brolin), who wants his hands on the sphere for other nefarious reasons.

Quill, after securing the artifact, decides to keep it and collect the reward for himself, and this choice leads to half the galaxy hunting him. In so doing, he comes across trouble in the guise of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful warrior who was raised by Thanos, and who wants the artifact to ensure that Thanos doesn’t get his hands on it. Quill also meets Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), a raccoon and his partner, Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), a living tree from Planet X who are trying to collect the bounty on Quill’s head.

After a ruckus on Xandar, all four are arrested by the Nova Corps and thrown into prison where they meet up with Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), an angry, comically literal fellow who hates Ronan and plots to kill him in revenge for murdering Drax’s wife and kids. It is in this prison, which is full of enough scum and villainy–and Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Entertainment Studiosto rival Star Wars, that the group meets up and decides to work together to break out, which in turn leads to the entire group being hunted, and forcing them into an uneasy alliance as events around the galaxy dictate that they become a team.

Guardians of the Galaxy takes the best of what Marvel has done before and amps it up. These are unique, flawed, and wonderfully colorful characters forced to work together not only for themselves, but for the safety of the entire galaxy. It’s the classic hero story, told with humor and spectacle, thanks to James Gunn (Super, Slither) who knows how to inject comedy where needed to break up the incredible action. Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman’s script has nods to the obscure elements of the Marvel universe, all without losing that already established feel that we’ve seen previously in Thor, Iron Man, and The Avengers. Plus it fills in some of the story regarding the Infinity Gems and Thanos, last seen in the end-credit stinger of The Avengers. This makes Guardians of the Galaxy the perfect Marvel movie. It has something for everyone.

Even with a galaxy-spanning tale unfolding before us, a wisecracking, gun-toting Raccoon and his walking tree partner completely steal the show. These two CGI characters have more heart and generate more emotion than any of the living breathing human characters. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, Gunn is able to develop each specific character, and the bond between all of the Guardians, in his limited 121 minute run time, and the audience feels like they have known these characters for years. That speaks volumes to James Gunn’s storytelling ability.

I also want to single out Lee Pace’s (TVs Pushing Daisies) Ronan the Accuser. In a universe where we’ve seen trickster gods, frost giants, red-skulled fascists, dark elves, and technology run awry, Ronan is by far one of the scariest Marvel villains to date. He’s a villain with an almost noble purpose. His motivations are not to control the universe, but for the betterment of his people. He hates Xandar, hates it enough to completely eradicate it. In comparison, The Red Skull only wanted to rule the world. I loved Ronan in this. He has a A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader vibe. You know, when Vader was a mysterious all-powerful badass? And if Ronan wasn’t enough, Karen Gillan’s (Doctor Who) Nebula is equally as twisted and evil. Imagine if Darth Vader had Darth Maul as an apprentice. Yeah, let that sentence sink in for a second. That’s what this villain duo feels like in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The soundtrack that James Gunn has assembled here is truly sublime. It’s a collection of soft rock hits from the 70s and 80s and each time a song is played, the audience can’t help but smile. This soundtrack may be one of the best ever crafted for a film. That almost makes Guardians of the Galaxy this generation’s The Big Chill, based on soundtrack alone.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best Marvel movies so far. Heck, it’s better than five of the Star Wars films. It’s a humorous, action-packed film with heart and soul and a near-perfect cast that you can’t help to root for. If the galaxy was ever in true danger, I for one, would be content knowing that this bunch of mismatched “A-Holes” were guarding it. With a killer soundtrack and more than enough eye-candy of all kinds, this movie is easily one the best films of the summer and will go down as a game-changer in how we all view comic based movies going forward. Kudos to James Gunn and Nicole Perlman and all involved for doing the near impossible: make me reflect back on what I thought of The Avengers–a film I gave a perfect score–and question which is better. At this point, I can’t choose. But I’m happy to have that debate.

Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG-13 and opens nationwide on August 1st. The soundtrack is available on July 29th.

Guardians of the Galaxy
out of 5

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