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New Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro
After two thoughtful and exhilarating Marvel action spectacles this year (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past), Guardians of the Galaxy feels like a lesser entry. Yes, it's a fun movie with terrific special-effects and a good sense of humor about itself. Yes, the actors are well cast and play their parts well. It's not an unpleasant way to spend two hours, and if you go to see it, you're sure to have a good time. All I'm saying is that after two very memorable Marvel movies this year, this one gets the job done, but it just isn't as compelling (although it's certainly better than The Amazing Spider-Man 2).
The movie opens up in 1988, where a young boy named Peter Quill is kidnapped by aliens only moments after his mother dies from cancer. Twenty six years later, Quill grows up to be a womanizing intergalactic thief who goes by the name of Star Lord, and is now played by Chris Pratt. The scene where we first meet him as a man is a riot. He's on an alien planet to steal a mysterious orb that everyone seems to want to get their hands on. On his way to the lair where the orb is kept, he turns on his cassette player and listens to the Redbone classic Come Get Your Love, kicking the planet's rat-like creatures as he dances, and even using one of them as a microphone to sing along.
He's been sent to retrieve the orb for his blue skinned Ravager leader Yondu (Michael Rooker), but Quill betrays him, and decides to head over to the planet Xandar, where he plans to sell it and keep the profits for himself. There, he's sabotaged by the green skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the "adopted daughter" of the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin), and bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Rocket's Ent-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who's only capable of speaking one line: "I am Groot." They cause a scene (which leads to a well-staged action sequence) and are arrested by the local authorities.
While in prison, they encounter the literal-minded hulk of an alien named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who initially makes an attempt to kill Gamora because of her association with the evil Kree terrorist Ronan (Lee Pace), who killed his family many years ago. Once Quill persuades him to spare her, Drax ends up joining their group. They escape from prison, and set out on a mission to keep the orb away from Ronan, who plans to use the power of the orb to destroy the planet Xandar.
The villains of the movie are a disappointing bunch. Lee Pace is so nondescript that, thinking back on the movie, I can't even remember what the guy even looked like. He's not threating, charming, or menacing. The guy is just dull. The beautiful and talented Karen Gillan (who was seen in this year's terrific horror show Oculus) is certainly fetching as the leather-clad, purple-skin killer Nebula, but she is given almost nothing to do here. Her Nebula is given one scene where she engages in a sword fight with Gamora (her stepsister), but even this scene is criminally unexciting, because it's given so little attention.
The heroes, on the other hand, are a winning bunch. Pratt is charismatic and likable as the Han Solo-esque Peter Quill, and his discussion of the 1984 movie Footloose with Gamora leads to one of the movie's biggest laughs. Zoe Saldana turns a convincingly tough and complex performance as the conflicted Gamora, and Bautista is certainly a commanding prescence as the hulking Drax. Cooper is enormously entertaining playing a cynical and genetically altered raccoon, and although Diesel has only one line to say over and over, his Groot is such a lovable and sweet character that he brings a touch of warmth to the material (there's an uncommonly lovely scene where he grows a flower and gives it to a little girl).
It's fun watching these characters interact and work together, and the film's visually extravagent climax is enough to justify a trip to the theaters. As a straight-up entertainment, the movie works just fine. It just doesn't do much more than that. Unlike the aforementioned Marvel films this year, Guardians of the Galaxy doesn't have a brain in its head. Whereas the other movies were able to balance action and ideas, this movie is all about the action. That isn't a complaint; it's simply an observation. The other movies stayed with you longer because they were motivated and directed with passion. Guardians of the Galaxy stays strictly on the surface, and with the exception of a character who's a talking raccoon, it doesn't really have anything to distinguish it from other Marvel movies.
The special-effects are at times very good; I especially liked the scene where a fleet of fighter ships creates a forcefield to prevent a larger enemy ship from entering their planet. The movie is also carried by a number of strong supporting performances, including Benicio Del Toro as the puzzling, bleached-haired The Collector, John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey, leader of the Nova Corps on Xandar, and Glenn Close as Irani Rael, the female leader of Xandar.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a good movie, a fun, simple, and fast-paced adventure, directed with skill and energy by James Gunn (whose last foray in the superhero genre was the depressingly awful Super), and featuring a handful of heroes we can really get behind. That's all it is, and that's all it really wants to be. If you go in expecting more than that, then the joke's on you. Guardians of the Galaxy is the sort of movie that doesn't take itself seriously, so why should you? Just shut your brain off, grab the popcorn, and enjoy the ride.
Rated PG-13 for violence and language
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
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- The Films of James Gunn - Reviews by David Nusair
- Movie review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' breaks the Marvel mold | The Salt Lake Tri
Compared with Iron Man, Captain America and the other earthbound heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the maniacally entertaining “Guardians of the Galaxy” is definitely a wild child. Director James Gunn (“Slither,” “Super”) tosses together ...