Guardians of the Galaxy,
directed by James Gunn
(Walt Disney, 2013)

Anything that has The Runaways' song "Cherry Bomb" in it has already got one good thing going for it. Marvel arrives right on time with another breakout hit of the summer, Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly nontraditional superhero movie. Given that it has no characters familiar to anyone who hasn't followed the comic since it was launched in 1969, it's definitely the charm and verve, not to mention great casting and lots of adrenaline, that help this charming movie overcome its formula-following plot. It's a space opera -- and a grand, lovely opera it is.

Somewhere in 1988, 10-year-old Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star Lord (no one really calls him that) witnesses his mother dying of cancer in the hospital. Minutes later, while grieving on a small hill nearby, he is kidnapped via flying saucer teleportation and press-ganged into a crew of "salvagers," aka thieves. Thirty-six years later, he's planet-hopping to the music of the mixtape his mother left for him, her last gift to him before dying and his only connection to her memory and his lost home. It's why he dances around, rather poorly but with much enthusiasm, to the awesome hits of the '80s while "liberating" an apparently useless orb from a dead planet.

Of course it's not just a hunk of old junk: it's an object that contains a vast amount of world-destroying power, a sort of mini-Death Star that is also very much desired by an evil Kree overlord by the name of Ronan the Accuser. Ronan's agents turn Quill over to space cops/peacekeepers, the Nova Corps. The would-be Star Lord lands in jail with two bounty hunters, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a human-like raccoon and a sentient tree; an assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana); and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who is very purple and very strong and whose family were murdered by Ronan.

Faster than you can say Great Escape, they have. Cue the showdown with an angry Ronan who wants his orb back so he can use it to destroy the world of Xandar, because he's an evil overlord and that's the way it goes.

Director James Gunn gets back to comic-book basics, reminding us why we love comics in the first place: because they are fun. All of the characters are united by loss and need, but their backgrounds are only minor players in the world-hopping adventure that propels them from action set piece to action set piece. Humor is the most important element, wonderfully cheesy and anarchic humor that warms the movie up and speeds it past its tendency to hit the plot points rather clumsily. Constantly stopping to affirm why everything is happening gives the narrative a herky-jerky feel takes just a bit of polish off a very good film.

Aside from the need to be somewhat expository, GotG is good, slightly risque fun that's good for everyone, as long as they follow the fun. Pratt is note-perfect as Quill, a goofy, lovable, overgrown boy of a man who remains likable throughout the film. Cooper has an ace of a time with being the voice of a tiny terror of a gun-toting animal, and Vin Diesel somehow manages to make a lovable character out of a tree that has one line throughout the story. Bautista is good as Drax, but Saldana is the only one who doesn't actually seem comfortable in her role. There's little to no chemistry with Pratt, who in many places is about the only one carrying the film besides Rocket.

Lee Pace's Ronan isn't terribly interesting, either, going for lots of one-note screaming that's so overdone it's almost satire. But that's more than made up for with the cool side characters played by John C. Reilly as a Nova Corps guard with a heart and Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael (who has two of the best futuristic space queen wigs I have ever seen outside of either RuPaul's Drag Race or a Tina Turner concert).

With this being the start of a new franchise there's time to work off freshman kinks like plotting and characterization. The ensemble cast may grow more cohesive over time, but apart from that, GotG is off to a great start with a firm foundation of humor and heart.

by Mary Harvey
13 September 2014

Going into Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it would be a good movie -- it seemed clever, funny and smart, and boy, was I right. This movie is the most unique comic movie I've seen outside of The Dark Knight. While most comic movies are action with a dose of humor, this movie is equal parts humor and action, and that is what makes it unique and great. Director James Gunn also managed to accomplish this balance without sacrificing any action.

The movie is about a group of losers who get serendipitously stuck together by needs that depend on each other. The heroes are Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, a human abducted from Earth who now works as a thief for a gang of thieves; he is chasing a legendary and powerful orb for the payday it will bring. Gamora is an alien who is helping a genocidal alien leader, only to reveal she has hidden motivations. Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon, and Groot, his lovable tree companion, are chasing Star Lord for the bounty on his head. Drax the Destroyer, meanwhile, is focused on vengeance, as Ronan, the genocidal alien leader who commands Gamora, killed Drax's wife and child.

While all of the performances in this movie were phenomenal, I thought Chris Pratt has finally found a break-out role for himself. In the past, he was the chubby goofball in Parks & Recreation; here, he is still a goofball, but his sentimental scenes are done wonderfully and you really feel for him. He also lost 60 pounds for this role in a short time period, which shows an enormous amount of dedication to his role. Look for Pratt to become a hot commodity in movies for the near future.

Watching superhero movies can be enjoyable; however, they can also be sort of boring, I mean, I can only watch so many paper henchmen get destroyed followed by the hero failing/falling from grace, followed by the final victory and a lesson. This movie, on the other hand, is a fresh take on a genre that is sadly getting over-saturated. While the structure stays basically the same, the extra parts of the story are so good that it allows you to forget it and just enjoy. The jokes are almost always funny, the relationships between the characters are the perfect amount of sentimentality and they never feel cheesy or stupid. The whole movie is a perfect mix of action, hilarity and sweetness, and you grow to actually like the characters.

This is one of the best superhero movies I've ever seen, and one of the better movies I've seen in a long time. I cannot find any weaknesses, and I would recommend this movie to anyone.

by Vlady Kozubnyak
13 September 2014