Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Despite a quintet of heroes that includes a talking raccoon, an arboreal humanoid, an azure barbarian and a green huntress, Guardians of the Galaxy is rather familiar, allowing for easy consumption amid the seemingly chaotic and bizarre.
The fate of the galaxy is indeed hanging in the balance, as a lunatic threatens destruction, but our heroes begrudgingly accept the challenge thrust upon them. They would much prefer to bicker, crack wise, and make money however.
Thus, this latest Marvel comic book adaption is certainly more bonkers and ambitious than what has become standard fare with the assembly of Avengers, but Guardians genuinely wants to have fun on a galactic lark.
Closer to Star Wars than it is to Spaceballs, though certainly with elements of the latter, this much-anticipated James Gunn-helmed project opens on a somber note, and then quickly and confidently goes for the humourous and spectacular, even if it involves the sophomoric and absurd. One of the best of such moments comes ahead of the climax where we get our typical slow-motion hero shot, though it’s presented here with far less self-seriousness.
Massive in scope and light in tone, Guardians introduces us first to misfit Peter Quill, an interstellar scavenger and loner played by comic buddy turned fit warrior Chris Pratt. He’s got a fast tongue, faster gadgets, a timeless mixtape and some semblance of a heart. Abducted as a child immediately following the death of his mother, Quill still holds on the past while embracing the present, which mainly involves traveling around making money off scavenging.
On one of his Indiana Jones-esque jaunts, he discovers an orb that unbeknownst to him has some planet-killing power, and soon both he and his new toy become targets of governments, evildoers, and a sideshow of a bandit tandem. They are Rocket and Groot, an angry raccoon with a penchant for gunfire and his massive plant-based bodyguard, respectively voiced by an exuberant Bradley Cooper and let’s say a more reserved Vin Diesel.
A spurned assassin with familial issues named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is also interested in this powerful sphere, as are her powerful father Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and her equally mad sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Oh, there is also another vindictive killer (Michael Rooker) curious about this booty, and a pair of white-haired leaders (Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro) who may have the resources to secure such power.
A blue hulk with red tattoos (Dave Bautista) is interested in the orb, but only in so much as it will lead him to Ronan and the chance to avenge his family’s death.
It all sort of makes sense in a convoluted way, though throwing in the fact that there is a tenuous peace between warring factions the Cree and the Zandarians, an ominous Emperor Palpatine-like figurehead, and something or someone called Nova Prime doesn’t simplify matters.
The details are engrossing for fans for sure, but they aren’t necessary for the average moviegoer to enjoy the ride. Our five heroes eventually meet up and align while in prison, united by a common goal even if they still get on each other’s nerves. We end up rooting for them specifically as opposed to the greater good.
The action comes early and often – gun fights, chases, some hand-to-hand combat – but Guardians never gets too baggy and bloated, save when it opts for the serious, which is does quite awkwardly. A bombastic finish of course awaits in a finale that channels Star Wars again as well as Independence Day, and once more like other summer spectacles, many, many people die without regard as explosions cover the ground and air. The film half-heartedly tries and ultimately fails to humanize such masses.
It’s because strangely, there is something less bothersome and even refreshing about the galaxy being in peril as opposed to Earth. Sure, the specific planet in question at the end is made to resemble what the film refers to as Terra, but as the entirely of the story plays out with sarcastic joke after personal jab after winking snicker, it’s hard to take the peril seriously – and thank goodness.
At times outlandish, this whip-smart, exceptionally well constructed sci-fi adventure entry into the cinematic Marvel universe is absurd joy and endless fun. And if you’re going to fight aliens, fly spaceships, and hang out with a anthropomorphic collection of roots, it helps to have a good soundtrack to lighten the mood.