Although a peace treaty has been signed between the Kree and the Xandarians, the fanatic Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) intends to wipe out Xandar with the help of a highly-coveted Infinity Stone, which was unknowingly stolen by Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord (Chris Pratt). When Ronan learns that Quill has the Infinity Stone, he sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana), one of his most trusted assassins, after him. But Gamora is thwarted by gun-wielding raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree muscle, Groot (Vin Diesel), who want to collect Quill’s bounty. When all four are arrested and taken to prison, they learn that Gamora planned to betray Ronan in order to protect Xandar. With the help of Drax the Destroyer (Dave Batista), who wants nothing more than to kill Ronan, the unlikely heroes team up to recover the Infinity Stone and save the galaxy.
Marvel Studios took a huge gamble when they decided to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. For one, the Guardians aren’t exactly “superheroes” in the same sense as Captain America or Iron Man. They’re just a bunch of criminals having space adventures. Also, there’s a space raccoon and a talking tree, which, for some people, is kind of a turn-off. But they had faith in director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman, and you can tell it paid off.
From the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, I knew this movie would be amazing. The combination of Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” the sarcasm, the charm of Chris Pratt, and the “What a bunch of a-holes” line—it was beautiful, hilarious, and weird. And that’s exactly what the movie is like. Beautiful, hilarious, and weird. It takes a little bit of comedy, a little bit of action, a little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of fantasy, and a little bit of drama and mixes them all into a movie for everyone. This, my friends, is a solid blockbuster.
It should be noted, too, that we’re still in the same universe as our favorite Avengers (the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that is), yet we’re given new conflicts, new locations, and new characters. This is where Star Wars and Star Trek succeeded in mainstreaming the sci-fi/fantasy genre as well. It’s all about the slow dip.
Marvel introduced new concepts, locations, and non-human characters to movie-only fans slowly (like Thor, the alien god from Asgard). They gave them time to accept this as reality over a few movies, and then boom. Talking space raccoon and tree don’t seem that weird anymore. It’s brilliant, really. It’s kind of like slowly letting your significant other see how crazy you are over the years without going full-crazy from date one…
Every element of this movie works for me. Like, shit…the soundtrack, itself, is freaking awesome. It’s all ’70s music (which just happens to be my favorite era for music), which gives the movie an old-school feel. Then, of course, there’s Chris Pratt, who’s going to breakout after this movie (even though he’s been killing it on Parks & Recreation for years). Hearing the audience in my theater laugh-cry as he lip-synced and danced (and kicked alien rats) through the Infinity Stone stealing scene proved exactly that. Oh, and later, he does the same thing in the movie’s climax to The Five Stairsteps’s “O-o-h Child,” and it’s effing perfect because he interrupts Lee Pace’s big villain moment.
Also, if you told me a few months ago that I would get choked up during a tender moment between a talking space raccoon and tree, I would’ve been like, “Uh, yeah, right.” And boy would I have been wrong. Because Rocket and Groot are easily the best characters of the movie (thanks to great CGI and voice work by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). They’re consistently funny, mainly because Rocket is the only Guardian who understands what Groot is saying when he relays his signature “I am Groot.” That’s probably what makes Groot’s sacrifice to protect the other Guardians so touching. And it didn’t help that Groot wiped away one of Rocket’s tears as Rocket (who’s normally a hardass) begged him to reconsider. Just beautiful.
And I bet you’re wondering about Guardians of the Galaxy‘s post-credit scenes. Well, the first one isn’t really a surprise. It’s just Groot (who survived and regrows in a flower pot) dancing to The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” while Drax the Destroyer sharpens a blade in the background. It’s both funny and cute, and kids will love it. Hell, I loved it! The real post-credits scene shows Benicio Del Toro’s Collector (God, I would bone the Collector so hard) having a drink after his shop was destroyed, and Howard the Duck makes an appearance. All of us ’80s and ’90s kids loved that. Thanks, Marvel.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy felt like a shiny reward at the end of a summer blockbuster season that has been somewhat disappointing. It was just a great movie. With a perfect balance of comedy, sci-fi, action, drama, and fantasy, as well as great actors playing likable characters, it really appeals to a mass audience. And you probably didn’t expect that from a movie with a talking space raccoon and tree, did you? Seriously, if you have any doubts about this movie, I ask you to reconsider. Because it’s fantastic. Adults, kids, comic book fans, non-comic book readers—everybody will enjoy it. And if you’d please excuse me, I’m going to go download the soundtrack right now.
Guardians of the Galaxy: A+
For my radio review of Guardians of the Galaxy on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 29:25 mark).