From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team – the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits-Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand-with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.
My Opinion: With Marvel’s most well-known characters either already part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or controlled by another company (Fox has X-Men, while Sony has Spider-Man), it makes sense that they’d start to dip a little deeper into their vast catalog of characters eventually. But talk about going deep: the Guardians of the Galaxy have existed in various forms for years, as have the individual characters that make up the team in this film, but they’ve only really been a bigger part of Marvel’s brand in the last few years.
Fortunately, Guardians of the Galaxy is poised to be the biggest introduction to a new Marvel franchise since Iron Man, while resembling very little in the MCU. Outside of the film’s opening sequence, this film avoids Earth; only the appearances of Thanos and The Collector provide some character connection to previous MCU entries. Instead, a whole new slate of characters are introduced, and they’re not your standard superheroes. Actually, I’d argue that this isn’t a superhero film. It’s a space epic, with more in common with Star Wars than other parts of the MCU.
Guardians doesn’t just span space – it spans genres. The most notable, as seen in the film’s trailers, is comedy. Credit writer/director James Gunn with creating a sense of humor about this world. Our heroes’ clashing personalities generate a lot of the humor; one line in particular is sure to create headaches for parents with their children. This is balanced out by hints of a romantic epic, mostly through Star-Lord and Gamora, and the obvious action/adventure typical of Marvel movies.
The MCU has a solid record when it comes to casting (just ignore Terrence Howard and Ed Norton), but they’ve outdone themselves here. With five leads to promote instead of the standard one, each manages to stand out. First among equals, though, is Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord. Think Han Solo for the 21st century. Pratt’s already demonstrated an ability to steal the show in supporting roles, most notably on Parks and Recreation, and he shifts over to leading a major film with ease.
He’s joined by Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista. Saldana has done the sci-fi alien role before – both in Avatar and Star Trek – but her Gamora is by far a bigger bad-ass than either of those previous characters. Bautista is mostly known for being a pro wrestler, but he flexes some surprising skills as an actor with Drax’s inability to understand sarcasm.
Of course the two biggest names of the main cast appear on-screen in different forms. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is the most outrageous of the five, which makes his more dramatic scenes all the more tragic. And Groot? Vin Diesel may only be able to say “I am Groot,” but he manages to make this sentence mean something different each time he says it.
Is Guardians perfect? No. Like any villain in the MCU not named Loki, the villains get short shrift here. The third act also gets a touch too warm and fuzzy. But the film has more humor and heart than any other entry in this series. Gunn and the cast are returning for a sequel in 2017, and I know I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next.