a critiQal film review Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Plot: A brash adventurer, Peter Quill (Pratt), finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan (Pace), 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 (Cooper), a gun-toting raccoon, Groot (Diesel), a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora (Saldana) and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer (Batista).

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  • ...an irreverent sense of humor, a smart story line and a solid cast of characters help make this another gem from Marvel.

After a long hiatus, we have come back to critiQal, and, as loyal readers may have noticed, we’ve been publishing new previews for the past few weeks. This weekend, we’ve finally decided to sit down and get back to something we haven’t done in awhile: reviews. Feeling a bit rusty even while overwhelmed by the choice of films out there, we settled on one we have been dying to check out again: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel has been going gung-ho at the theaters the past few years, blowing up the screen with such new favorites like Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). But, there were still doubters when Guardians of the Galaxy was planned for release. Would this band of misfits garner box office success like the previous films, or was this destined to be Marvel’s low point? While many “experts” were saying a flop was in the works, fans blew away the naysayers, giving Guardians of the Galaxy a huge box office return.

Even so, we were wary. While the movie looked good in previews, we’d never heard of the Guardians before, so didn’t know what to expect. Would this be one of our new favorites, or was Guardians of the Galaxy go into our pile of disappointments (along with previous fan favorites like Spider-Man (2002))?

The cast was a treat. With Chris Pratt leading a cast that included recent fave Bradley Cooper (The Hangover (2009)) as the voice of Rocket Raccoon, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek (2009)), and ex-wrestler Dave Bautista (not to mention Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot), every casting choice seemed surprisingly spot-on. Working separately they shine, but when they come together for some hilarious argument sequences, their timing and dialogue really helps to bond them together in the viewer’s mind.

While the secondary characters are memorable as well (and include familiar faces like Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Djimon Hounsou and Michael Rooker), it’s this main cast that makes Guardians of the Galaxy so fun to watch. Each character in this band of misfits brings their own style to the table, and they mesh together fantastically.

While the actors should take some credit for this, it’s the storyline and directing that should really be thanked. With any team-up film, the introduction of each member of the team is paramount, and usually predictable. With Guardians of the Galaxy, we get a bit of a backstory on Chris Pratt’s character, Starlord, and meet the other Guardians as we follow him on his journey. The majority of the team is first stumbled upon during a fight sequence with three different sides that winds up with the combatants in prison, and John C. Reilly’s character fills us in on the background of the others during a line-up (similar to the introductions in The Usual Suspects (1995), just a bit more high-tech).

Guardians of the Galaxy sets up it’s style during the title sequence, as a masked stranger fends off small aliens while listening to a Sony Walkman blasting a 70’s hit. From that quirky lead, the film blends the 70’s hits in with it’s super-powered special effects and high-tech gadgets into one quirky whole. Add in a lot more humor than viewers may have expected, and Guardians of the Galaxy becomes a lot more fun than the average action blockbuster.

Marvel’s continuing success at bringing comic book heroes to life (and raking in the dough at the box office) is largely due to their ability to cast these characters so well. While some of their choices may seem odd at first, the actors manage to exceed expectation time and again, bringing the characters to life so vibrantly, it’s hard imaging anyone else in the role. Add in smart storylines and a surprisingly good sense of humor, and Marvel seems to have discovered the knack for creating superhero films that are both larger-than-life and character-driven – something many others have tried at and failed.

With an irreverent sense of humor, another smart storyline and a solid cast of characters, it’s no wonder Guardians of the Galaxy did so well at the box office. Even after repeated viewings, this new gem from Marvel is still an experience we haven’t gotten tired of.

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