Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted on August 2, 2014 by


Guardians of the Galaxy

There are relatively few good arguments for actually going to a theater. The crowds are noisy. Cell phones too often pierce the cloak of darkness. The concessions require a credit check. And, to be frank, most movies aren’t worth paying the premium price to see.

But still, I persist. Why? There are two reasons. First, some films belong on a big screen and small screens too often translate into small films. Second, when seen communally, films amplify and bind together those who view them. So, technology and community create the necessity to, at least occasionally, spend a few dollars.

I am happy to say that I spent more than a few dollars this past Thursday. I, along with my fellow familial cinephiles, sauntered into the IMAX about 30 minutes early and the open seats were already scarce. The audience chattered expectantly, easily drowning the audio wrapped around the interminable commercials. When the lights dimmed and the actual previews began, and mercifully ended, we got our first glimpse at what should end up being the most successful film of this summer.

Guardians of the Galaxy is not a great film. Little awards buzz will surround it, the plot is thin and sometimes contradictory, and the villain is not developed enough to understand or fear. Those weaknesses, however, cannot obscure the giddiness that flows in and through Director James Gunn’s jaunty vision.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a snarky thief who often borders on the ludicrous. He is also our portal into the story since he is human, unlike the other characters we begin to know. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a walking weapon covered in green skin. Drax (Dave Bautista) is a tattooed boulder with a neck. He yearns to serve a cold dish of revenge, but given his literal nature, he would strain to understand that metaphor. Our quintet is rounded out by two exotics. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a genetically modified raccoon with a smart mouth and a technical streak deeper than his fur. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is Groot as he reminds us throughout the film. He is a tree, in a sense, but with more skills than Treebeard, yet a smaller vocabulary. These five are brought together by an orb and their eventual common enemy, Ronan (Lee Pace).

The plot is a bit contrived, with the Guardians eventually overcoming their differences and motives to defend a planet none of them are from, Xandar, from Ronan, who wishes to lay it to waste. The details of how they go about it are, for the most part, insignificant. The movie is held together by its consistent humor and impressive special effects. The humor spans across all of the characters save Gamora, who is largely the straight alien. I laughed regularly. The humor is sometimes sophomoric and occasionally derivative, but it is thorough. The special effects are remarkable. Though I watched it in 3-D, which frequently blurs effects, the images were crisp and vivid and they hang around chases and fights that are well-crafted and firmly-paced. Guardians of the Galaxy is a cinematic spectacle, but in service of the characters instead of overwhelming them. Unlike the Star Wars prequels or the Transformers series, Guardians holds together because our heroic quintet is interesting and funny and compelling.

Chris Pratt steals nearly every frame as Quill. The character is a difficult blend of martial skill and rampant silliness. He is heroic, but he never manages his heroism with anything more than a sneer. As viewers, it is never clear whether his tone is due to vapidity or if it functions as a mask for those who surround him. Quill’s tone becomes Guardians‘ tone, and that tone will be what, if anything, divides audiences. If Guardians fails to break outside of its comic book roots and appeal to a mass audience, like The Avengers and The Dark Knight, it will likely be due to Pratt’s uniqueness. I enjoyed both Pratt’s take on Quill and Guardians‘ irreverence, but not everyone will.

Unlike most films, Guardians‘ most famous actors do only voice work (like Cooper and Diesel) or make little more than cameos. Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, and Djimon Hounsou strengthen the film in minor roles, while Michael Rooker’s Yondu is both meatier and more memorable. Karen Gillan, a Dr. Who companion in a different galaxy, is hard to recognize as Nebula, but I think we may see her character more fully developed at a later time.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a hoot, though it earns the PG-13 rating. The film is not suitable for younger children for a host of reasons, but if you love movies and don’t mind the occasional swearing procyon, by all means, see this film.

Final Grade: 2.5/3 Eggheads

Posted in: Movie Review