Guardians of the Galaxy is written and directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, and Karen Gillan.
Might I trouble you for a moment to take a step back and look at just what the hell Marvel Studios has built? Since 2008’s Iron Man and one of the first real attempts at a cinematic universe of films, unknown names have since rocketed into billion dollar franchises, and these Marvel films have become some of the best superhero films ever made, bringing in hard-hitting talents to capture our heroes and bring them to life. But above the notion of household names alone selling a film such as Iron Man and Spiderman and the Hulk, director James Gunn’s task at hand with this film and its characters looked to biggest of them all. Prior to this film’s release, not many moviegoers or any even moderate comic fans could name a single Guardian, and just about everyone I had asked was a million percent certain this film was gonna flop right on into obscurity, snapping the near-perfect Marvel Studios record.
Boy, were they wrong.
This film, surprising the hell out of everyone, transcends all doubt and radiates as a hilariously fun oddball space rhapsody that to this day remains one of my favorite films in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film tells the story of Peter Quill (Pratt), a lovably arrogant space pirate known only to himself as Star-Lord, and how Quill comes across a precious artifact coveted by those who would use its power for evil. Thrust into a quest to save the galaxy from a tyrannical war fanatic (Pace), Star-Lord must now unite with four outcasts and criminals, among the likes of which are a seductress and assassin Gamora (Saldana), a crazed and incredibly literal warrior Drax (Bautista), an anthropomorphic and foul-mouthed raccoon named Rocket (Cooper), and a walking tree monster with a heart of gold and a limited vocabulary named Groot (Diesel). Together, these five form a rag-tag group known in Marvel history as The Guardians of the Galaxy.
From the premise and range of characters alone, it’s a little insane that this film is as good as it is. Yet Gunn and company deliver a film that not only hits all the right notes of a standard superhero flick but also revels in being its own different entity. This film is a load of fun right from the opening credits (which to this day is one of my favorite movie openings) and is a nonstop furious wind of laughs, action, heart, and walkman music all the way to the end. Pratt personifies goofy and huggable wit with his performance, and Bautista and Cooper are comedic aces, with Drax’s cold delivery and Rocket’s crude insults. Saldana’s cool and calm demeanor brings a sense of humanity to an otherwise somber performance, and Diesel’s voice acting as Groot makes for the most genuinely heartwarming performance I’ve ever seen in a superhero film. Every personality on display fits itself right into the other four like a warped yet beautiful jigsaw puzzle.
The film’s writing is an easy standout amidst a sea of delightful things all in simultaneous motion, and has since created some of the most memorable lines in the entire array of Marvel films (‘cuz, ya know…. I am Groot). The film’s soundtrack is yet another element that defies normal superhero flick standards, and has since become one of the most popular film soundtracks of all time, with its callback hits and smooth transition into various scenes in the film.
I have only one true issue with this film, that being one of Marvel’s biggest cinematic vices, which would be in the case of the film’s villains. Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser is given a seemingly interesting motivation and does a decent job in his performance, but is never truly given any finite development to be explored, other than the fact that he’s just a really angry guy that wants to kill stuff. Karen Gillan’s Nebula is also given an origin and motivation that, in reality, is super interesting, even going so far as to intertwine with one of the Guardians. But again, the true development to explore her motives isn’t actually there, and her role in this film also falls short of something great, in addition to the fact that Gillan is trying a little too hard and slightly oversells her performance.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a film with love and effort stuffed into it at every turn, as everyone involved had their hearts set on one goal: to have a good time. That sentence is quintessentially what Guardians of the Galaxy is; a good time. As a matter of fact, it’s a friggin blast, one of my favorite superhero films ever made, and gets an A.