I made a prediction before Guardians of the Galaxy was released. I thought that it would be the best of the Marvel movies, but would also make the least amount of money. Its heroes are, after all, largely unknown quantities. While someone like Iron Man is a household name — or at least, was closer to one than anyone in this branch of the comics — Drax the Destroyer is not. I no longer think that. I think it will make lots and lots of money. Oh, and it is the best Marvel movie so far. I wanted to watch it again right away.
The film takes place in space, and follows a rag-tag team of criminals who just happen to find themselves caught in a plot involving one of those Infinity Stones with which the last Thor movie was so concerned. Their leader, if you can call him that, is Peter “Star Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt). He’s a thief who was contracted to steal an orb containing the stone. A human-like raccoon named Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and its accomplice, a tree creature named Groot (Vin Diesel), found a bounty with Peter’s name on it. So they try to capture him. Meanwhile, the adoptive daugter of Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) also wants the stone (to betray her “family”). They all wind up in a prison, by slightly convoluted means, with a literal-minded man named Drax (Dave Bautista), who wants revenge on the man who killed his family, Ronan (Lee Pace).
Ronan wants the stone so that he can destroy an entire planet containing billions of people. Also, he’s working for Thanos. Thanos, in case you don’t know, is really evil. After a thrilling prison escape, these five individuals team up to get the stone. They want to sell it, but eventually learn of its powers and decide that, well, they don’t know what to do. But it can’t fall into the hands of Ronan, until it does and they have to get it back.
The plot is thin and the stone is a device to drive it forward. It is effective enough at this task. It is the MacGuffin the heroes and villains both want, and the object over which they often fight. The battle is also personal for a couple of the characters. Drax wants to kill Ronan — he doesn’t even care about the money — while Gamora, we learn, has a tragic back story and taking down Ronan and eventually Thanos means a great deal for her.
The rest of the characters gain reasons to care over the course of Guardians of the Galaxy. The team develops a nice rapport, the script is absolutely hilarious, and while there isn’t much actual development to the characters, you do genuinely begin to care about them. They’re all interesting, they’re “good,” and — heck — they’re a lot of fun to watch.
Sometimes that’s enough. The characters might not be deep but watching them just interact is enjoyable. When it comes to the action, that enjoyment is ramped up even further. The actors playing or voicing them all seem to be having a great time, and bring something unique to the roles. Pratt, for example, reminds us of a Han Solo/Luke Skywalker cross. Saldana brings great physicality to her performance. Bautista is used perfectly in this role. He’ll never be a great dramatic actor; his character is reminiscent of the one he played in The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption — and I don’t make those comparisons lightly — only taken a couple of notches up and given a more prominent role. He gets some of the funniest moments in the whole movie. Many humorous moments are enhanced by the ’70s-themed soundtrack. You’ll be hearing some of these tracks on the radio again after this film’s opening weekend.
Much of Guardians of the Galaxy is hilarious, though. Funnier than most comedies, filled with a great number of jokes, one-liners, and silly situations. I laughed for a good chunk of the movie. For the rest, I had a smile on my face. It was that enjoyable. My favorite actor in the whole series was killed off (spoiler alert?) and I didn’t even care (no, I won’t tell you who). I was having that good of a time.
The action is fantastic. If you loved what The Avengers had to offer, much of the action is similar but improved upon. The “aliens descend on a city” scene is here but is better. Even that now-infamous “Hulk smash” scene gets a spiritual successor. It’s funnier here. There are smaller action scenes, too, scattered throughout. Many are played off for laughs, but when the dramatic heft behind them is required, it’s present. You’ll care about the fate of everyone involved.
Perhaps most importantly, Guardians of the Galaxy feels sufficiently different from previous Marvel outings. It’s easy to get fatigued when many of the studio’s offerings feel similar, and after almost a dozen entries, they were starting to feel same-y. Guardians, for the most part, feels nothing like previous entries. It comes across as fresh. Having heroes most of us know much less about helps.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel film to-date. It has great action — CGI overloaded or not — it’s absolutely hilarious, and despite its weird but interesting cast of characters, you’ll care about them and their fates by the point when things begin to get serious. It’s different from previous Marvel outings, and that’s a good thing. It has a great cast, a light plot — that keeps things moving and little else — and is one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had watching a movie.