I know Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest installment into the Marvel universe, but if I didn’t know that going in, you could have fooled me. Guardians had all the originality and freshness not seen in that universe in some time, and for that, I am grateful. It may be part of the Marvel universe, but it fits better as an original science fiction film if you ask me.
Marvel has been building up their world for years. Precisely scheduling their films and interweaving easter eggs and references to the other movies. Guardians, however, is its own entity. It is not stuffed with tie-ins or links to the already existing superheroes and there were no references to “New York.” And most surprisingly, Guardians wasn’t your usual Marvel origin story. It followed a slew of already established characters who, through intertwining circumstances, ended up arrested and in the same prison.
Who are these characters though? Well, there’s Peter Quill, the cassette-wheeling protagonist, who is played by the charismatic Chris Pratt. Quill is a human who was taken off of earth by a group of space pirates called the Ravagers. Then there’s Gamora, an emotionally damaged alien orphan. She is also a professional assassin who has the looks that kill. Gamora is played by self-proclaimed geek Zoe Saldana, who may be green but is still smokin’. There’s Rocket, a genetically mutated raccoon who talks – in the voice of Bradley Cooper – and can turn a pile of scraps into a deadly weapon, and Groot, a giant humanoid tree voiced by Vin Diesel. Vin really shows his acting range in this one. Groot only says three words: “I am Groot.” He is the Hodor of the Marvel world. Last, but definitely not least, is Drax, played by MMA fighter Dave Baustista. He has great strength and nothing goes over his head, literally. Because of his reflexes, of course.
The collection of characters who make up the guardians of the galaxy leads me to what I loved most about the film: The existing world. We are dropped into a world with a wide array of characters, creatures, and beings, without getting an explanation as to how the world works. All the characters are familiar with the inner workings of each planet. It is us, the audience, who are getting filled in.
James Gunn, the director who clearly had a distinct vision for the film, did outstanding work. My jaw dropped from the stirring action sequences and stunning visual effects. The visual look and feel of Guardians was wholly original. It had a comic book feel, best exemplified when Peter Quill moved through space after he broke out of prison. It is reminiscent of Sin City, with its darker shade and accentuated features. There is also Knowhere, a criminal outpost where you won’t find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Our “heroes” head into a gambling establishment that is dark, dirty, and gritty and full of miscreants.
This darker shade is consistent through much of the film, which is unlike the usual colorfulness of the other Marvel flicks. That’s not to say that this movie is bereft of color though. From the shades of skin of the beings, to the nebula of space, Gunn expertly contrasts light and dark colors, which sets up for some aesthetically pleasing scenes. The backdrop of space is something out of Gravity and the colorful beings, normally reserved to Star Trek, combined to give Guardians its own unique feel.
Continuing on the James Gunn love, his script ran through a gammet of emotions. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed again. I have to qualify that as unexpectedly crying. The film opens with a heart-wreching moment between Quill and his ailing mother, which subsequently sets the tone for the rest of the film. Its dark look is seemingly through the heartbreak of Quill’s loss, which came full circle at the end of the film, neatly wrapping up the inner struggle he faced.
The one fault with the script is the cliché villain Ronan. He is the classic bad guy with the incredible strength, the immortality, and the unrelenting bad streak. His goal is essentially to give the middle finger to peace. Not very deep, which all of the other characters, or should I say the good guys, were. A complicated villain always makes for a stronger plot. Looking towards the next film, that’s something I would love to see enhanced.
However, the cliché villain is offset by Gunn’s recognition of clichés. He incorporated a goofy kind of humor which added to the zany nature of the film. You know how when a group of people agree t0 a task and stand up to show their unity? How about that tech guy who needs that one piece to make a plan work? Oh, and the bomb in the bag. Who puts a bomb in a bag!? It’s totally unsafe!
But probably the most glaring cliché is the bad guy who talks too much before actually doing something. This is something that becomes unintentionally funny sometimes, but Gunn makes it intentionally funny not once, but twice in Guardians. For a movie that has a talking raccoon and a walking tree, it can’t take itself too seriously anyway and Gunn takes every chance he gets to make light of the “guardians of the galaxy,” – who are ironically named by the bad guy – the “losers” who have a chance to give a shit and make a difference for once.
Franchise movies become redundant and played out. You see one, you can start guessing what happens. That’s why Guardians of the Galaxy is so refreshing to watch. Yeah, it’s also pretty predictable, but it has more heart than your standard summer blockbuster and packs a surplus of laughs to go with the great special effects and fun action sequences.