Chris Pratt - Peter Quill/ Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana - Gamora
Dave Bautista - Drax the Destroyer
Vin Diesel - Groot
Bradley Cooper - Rocket
Lee Pace - Ronan the Accuser
Michael Rooker - Yondu
Karen Gillan - Nebula
Djimon Hounsou - Korath
John C. Reilly - Rhomann Dey
Glenn Close - Nova Prime Irani Rael
Benicio del Toro - Taneleer Tivan / Collector
Genre - Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic Books
Running Time - 122 Minutes
After his mother passes away, Peter Quill is kidnapped from Earth as a young boy. 26 years later, Peter (Chris Pratt) is now a rogue for a group of Ravagers looking for a sphere that has a huge bounty on it. Now calling himself Star-Lord, even though it doesn't really stick, Peter ruins into the soldiers of the villainous Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) - a force who wants the sphere in order to destroy planets to get vengeance for his Kree race. After being captured by Nova Corps, Peter is sent to prison with Ronan traitor and Thanos' adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Ronan hater Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and tree-like humanoid named Groot (voice of Vin Diesel). Realizing they share similar goals, while all having different reasons, they decide to team up and stop Ronan the Accuser's plans for galactic destruction.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is probably Marvel Studios' biggest risk. The characters aren't as well known as their other properties, probably being presented for the first time in front of a mainstream audience. Comic book nerds, including myself, may have heard of the group or know them pretty well, never thinking they would receive the big screen treatment over other Marvel characters. Even myself, who has heard of these characters and where their arcs will probably go within the Cinematic Universe, is pretty surprised that they've been given the spotlight since the group isn't everyone's cup of tea. This film could have really blown up in Marvel's faces due to their lack of notoriety. But judging by how well it's done on its first day of release in the United States [almost $40 million!], I think it's safe to say that Marvel made the right choice. Not only that, but GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the opposite of anything they've done thus far. It's goofy, bright, fun, and has the feel of a B-movie space opera with finances behind the project. Whether it's timing, or folks just wanted to watch something different in their superheroes, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a massive success for many reasons.
I think the main reason why GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY resonates is the characters. They all have different personalities, and all have different motivations - but they click together so well, you really do believe these five could be friends and a great team. Peter Quill is such a douchebag character, with his womanizing ways and immaturity towards serious situations. But from the prologue, you get why Peter acts like he does. He never really grew up and needed this mission in order for that to happen. I think Chris Pratt, who is a loveable man-child in many of his roles, really captures the character. Pratt is just a really likeable guy with a ton of charisma, making the Star-Lord feel legit. We want him to succeed in this world. We want him to finally get the girl. We want him to realize that everything happens for a reason and he should embrace it. Pratt brings a ton of a layers to the role. Goofy, sentimental, serious - Pratt is Star-Lord. I don't think they could have cast anyone better for the role.
Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos, is a total badass and stoic, only freeing her emotions when she starts to admire Peter for more than his heroism. Zoe Saldana is great in the role, as she seems to succeed well in these sci-fi roles. She has great facial expressions and body language, making her look and feel totally alien to Peter's human ways. I wish her betrayal of Thanos and Ronan was done in a different way, since it felt like exposition when she explained her reasons. But it doesn't really ruin the film or the flow of the character. She's the typical tough chick in the group, which more than works with the other characters.
Drax the Destroyer is another alien being, who is hungry for revenge against Ronan for murdering his wife and daughter on his home planet. He doesn't understand metaphors or euphemisms, as he's totally literal in anything he says or does. Dave Bautista, a well known WWE World Champion many times over, is so perfect for the role that it isn't funny. He has this quiet charisma and way of carrying himself that makes him a guy you can't take your eyes off. It doesn't even feel like he's acting. He's so natural in front of the camera, making things that shouldn't be funny sound genuinely funny. I know he returned to WWE for one last run, but I don't think he needed to. I think he'll have a decent acting career if he continues to pick roles like this one. I don't think he'll achieve what The Rock has, but Bautista is definitely on the right path. I look forward to seeing him face Josh Brolin's Thanos down the line.
I think the two best characters in the film aren't even human. Rocket and Groot are just awesome in this - more than I ever thought they would be. Rocket is a genetically engineered raccoon who has a foul mouth and a sarcastic [or sadistic] sense of humor. But he's also the strategist of the team, displaying a high level of intelligence and fighting combat. In a lot of ways, he's the backbone of the team whether or not he wants it. I thought Bradley Cooper's voice was really good for the character, bringing the funny and even loneliness of a CGI character we probably shouldn't care so much about. But we do, because Rocket is treated like a real person with real emotions. He's not a mascot. He's fully fleshed out and doesn't even feel like a CGI character by the end of the film. As for Groot, he doesn't express himself very eloquently. But then again, he's a talking tree who can do a lot with his humanoid body to take on opponents, or protect his teammates. Vin Diesel's voice acting was perfect for Groot, as his "I am Groot" dialogue kept changing to express his emotions during a scene. Even though it was three simple words, we still understood him through the motion capture and the tone of his voice. I think of all the characters, Groot was the one who pulled the heartstrings of the audience. He made us smile. He made us tear a bit. Who knew a talking tree could do that to a person? I just thought the CGI heroes were handled so, so well.
As for the villains, Ronan the Accuser and Nebula are well written within the context of the story. They're pretty typical villains - wanting power through destruction, or feeling jealousy towards another character in order to prove they're better. Anyone expecting someone like Loki will be severely disappointed. But I thought Lee Pace had a very commanding performance and presence as Ronan. Was he fleshed out a ton? No, not at all. But I think we understood him pretty easily. And Karen Gillan looked kind of hot as Nebula, and I dug her powers. I wish she were able to do more, but I thought she was fine in the role with what she was given. And I dug Josh Brolin's Thanos as well. He isn't in the film a whole lot, but you know the Infinity Stones are involved. Comic book fans know exactly where this is going and where Thanos will fit into future Marvel films. Can't wait.
I also can't forget Michael Rooker as Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers. I thought he was funny, threatening, and just an overall badass. Glenn Close and John C. Reilly are underused, but play their roles perfectly. It's just a great cast bringing great characters to life.
That's a credit to James Gunn, who has had an interesting trip towards the A-list. He started out working for Troma [don't miss a Lloyd Kaufman cameo during the prison scenes], wrote and directed the very underrated SLITHER, wrote the 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, was a judge on a reality show for VH1, and then got to write and direct Marvel's newest success. His writing for GUARDIANS is so well done, as every character feels real even though they're traveling through the universe. The humor never feels forced. The situations being set up feel natural. The characters are all complex individuals. Even the use of the great music, which I'll get into shortly, feels like it belongs within each scene they're in. Gunn could have really gone overboard with the story, making it feel like a joke. But you can tell he really cares about these characters and wants to write them with a sense of justice to the source material. There's a lot of heart and soul in the film, creating a different kind of superhero film. It's not a gritty, serious revenge story. Nor is it a fish-out-of-water origin that's made to set up future installments. GUARDIANS is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it also feels like its own film, its own world. This is like a modern version of STAR WARS, feeling fresh while still having connections to other films within the franchise. The tone and presentation is so unique compared to other films like it. You can miss the other films, or not even read the comics, to still find some enjoyment in GUARDIANS. It's that well written.
As for Gunn's direction, I loved every second of it. It's like a mix of STAR WARS and THE FIFTH ELEMENT, feeling like a brightly colorful space opera that's odd, yet endearing. Gunn's world is absolutely stunning, grand, and spectacular. This world is so large, you can have many films involving these characters having missions on different planets, or even different galaxies. The action sequences are shot so well, especially that tense scene where the Nova Corps are blockading Ronan's ship in the sky to stop him from landing on their planet. Just the way that was presented was awe-dropping. I loved how Groot was presented, from how he changed his tree-form by creating branches to fight or as defense. And that firefly scene - just beautifully framed and used. The pacing was fantastic, as it never felt 2 hours long. The editing was perfect, and the framing was inspired. I just loved the hell out of Gunn's direction here. You can tell he wanted to make this film look and feel right. And he succeeded probably more than many thought he would. I'm so glad he's on board to direct the second film, because I feel Gunn breathed a ton of life into this movie. You can't make a film about misfits without a misfit leading them. He deserves all the success in the world for proving himself.
As for the soundtrack, I thought it was just a great tracklist of really awesome music. Songs like The Runaways "Cherry Bomb", "Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky", Jackson 5's "I Want You Back", Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love", and so on was just frosting on the cake. And it wasn't shoehorned in to sound retro or cool. The music meant a lot to Star-Lord, due to his mother, which made the film meaningful to us. I could listen to that Awesome Mix Vol. 1 all day.
THE FINAL HOWL