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.
Marvel Studios has been highly successful in every sense of the word, but especially in its consistent ability to make blockbusters out of lesser-known characters. Characters like Thor, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange are the stars of several big hits. Marvel’s biggest test in this area came in 2014 with Guardians of the Galaxy, which adapts the then-obscure team of intergalactic heroes. (I’ve been a fan of Marvel characters since childhood, and even I never heard of this team until the movie was announced.)
Despite the obscurity of its source material, Guardians of the Galaxy is an indisputable success. The film greatly expands the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while it introduces many lovable characters to audiences. It also plays a big role in the MCU’s exploration of Thanos and the Infinity Stones, which will come full circle in Avengers: Infinity War.
From the opening title sequence set to “Come and Get Your Love,” you know you’re in for a good time. Guardians of the Galaxy is colorful, ambitious, and just plain fun. Director-writer James Gunn does a phenomenal job with the world building, and you can tell that he genuinely cares about these characters (something even more obvious in the sequel, Vol. 2). The action is exhilarating, while the visuals are jaw-dropping.
One thing that helps Guardians of the Galaxy stand out from other comic book movies is its soundtrack. “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” is a compilation of hit songs from the 1970s and 1980s, such as “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 and “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. Each song fits incredibly well into the film, and the album is even part of the actual plot. Simply put, it’s a fantastic record.
Also elevating Guardians of the Galaxy is its cast. Marvel tends to nail casting, and this movie is no exception. Chris Pratt is perfect as Star-Lord in a star-making (pun not intended) role, Zoe Saldana is terrific as Gamora, and Dave Bautista is on point as Drax the Destroyer. Filling voice and mo-cap roles are Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot. Both actors are flawless in those roles; Groot is arguably the most lovable character in the entire franchise.
It’s hard to nitpick too many specific flaws with Guardians of the Galaxy, but there are still some. Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser is yet another MCU villain who is less than great. He’s not terrible, but he suffers from a generic motivation. Korath is another underwhelming character, and a real waste of Djimon Hounsou’s acting chops. Fortunately, both characters will appear in Captain Marvel, so hopefully they’ll be improved there. And finally, the film continues Marvel’s trend of big CGI third acts. It’s not bad here, but when every other movie does the same thing, it becomes noticeable.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly fantastic piece of cinema. It’s interesting to look back at how the Guardians got their start four years later, just as they’re getting ready to meet the Avengers. The film went on to spawn a sequel that’s just as good, if not better. And I can’t wait for Vol. 3.