Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Arguably one of Marvel's biggest risks yet has finally come to theaters. Before any semblance of marketing on Guardians of the Galaxy came out, some thought that this could be Marvel's first huge disappointment. First off, the Guardians of the Galaxy comics aren't very well known at all; second, its a much different tone than any other Marvel movie. This meant that if this movie were to be successful, it would all come down to Marvel's name brand and their marketing. And, well, you know the end of this story. The marketing for this movie was a grand slam. Marvel's large fan base was going to show up no matter what. Being a part of that, I can tell you that I am completely sold and excited for every single movie they will make. As of today, there's seven movies on the docket that have release dates, but don't have titles yet. And yet I am still excited for those just because it's Marvel. However, the Guardians of the Galaxy marketing made this movie appeal to all audiences, not just people like me. Add onto that the stellar reviews and suddenly Marvel's huge risk has has gone the huge reward route as Marvel has conjured up one of their most successful films yet in multiple areas. And let me tell you, if you have not yet journeyed out to the theaters to see this film, you need to get on that because this movie is fantastic!

Being that this is an origin story for a group of unknown superheroes, the movie was forced to spend much of the time introducing the characters and letting the audience get to know them. This isn't a bad thing. Just a necessary thing that all superhero origin stories have to deal with. This usually means that the plot and the villain are somewhat limited as compared to what sequels are able to do. You don't want to throw out the huge arch-nemesis right at the beginning. And you don't want to spend the majority of the movie with your superhero fighting that arch-nemesis because if a connection isn't established, the audience isn't going to be as emotionally invested in this huge moment of the franchise. Just look at all the best superhero franchises and you will see that this is the case the majority of the time. The big fight and the big villain are always saved for later, thus often making for a more liked movie. And even if we branch out to other non-superhero franchises, this is the case. The Dark Knight, Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers are classic examples of this.

I bring all of this up because most people are claiming that Guardians of the Galaxy is the best movie of the year, the best movie of the summer and/or the best Marvel movie made yet. My claim is that it isn't. It's not better than The LEGO Movie (my movie of the year); it's not better than Edge of Tomorrow (my movie of the summer); and it's not better than The Avengers (my favorite Marvel movie) or Captain America: The Winter Soldier (My favorite Phase 2 movie).  And thus I feel like a grinch by saying this because anything short of me saying this is the best movie ever will be seen as disappointing. I hope this isn't seen as a negative review, because I did love this movie, but if me not claiming it's the best is disappointing in your eyes, then I want to make sure you understand why. The story isn't epic like the S.H.I.E.L.D. civil war in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It isn't as deep and psychological as what Tony Stark went through in Iron Man 3. And it certainly isn't as huge as the amazing novelty of bringing together four major superheroes, plus a handful of side superheros, into one epic battle like is the case with The Avengers. It's a simple story where Star-Lord has stolen a valuable orb and is thus being chased down by the villain Ronan. One thing leads to another and suddenly it's not just Star-Lord, but a group of quirky outcasts that also include Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax. The point of the movie is not to tell an epic story, but rather to help us get to know this awesome group of quirky heroes. It's necessary, but at the same time I can't put it ahead of all the epicness that Marvel has already produced.

Also, the villain conundrum of not having the huge arch-nemesis as your very first villain hurts this movie a bit. Ronan is a decent villain, but he's not a memorable one. In five or ten years from now, we will look back at all the movies that have been made up to that point and we will probably forget that Ronan even existed at that point. Ronan might not be the worst villain that Marvel has introduced, but if I were to rank all of the current Marvel villains, he'd already be towards the bottom and we haven't even gotten to Ultron or Thanos.

But enough is enough. No, this isn't the best movie ever, but it's certainly a great movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. And what made this work is the brilliant chemistry between our five guardians. Chris Pratt is amazing as Star-Lord and with this, The LEGO Movie and next year's Jurassic World, it's certainly a great time in his career. Zoe Saldana is awesome as Gamora. It seems like she's just great when you change her skin color (she's blue in Avatar and green in this -- her two biggest roles). Dave Bautista isn't the best actor, but him as Drax works rather well. And finally, the two characters that totally steal the show are Bradley Cooper's Rocket and Vin Diesel's Groot. Rocket is absolutely hilarious. Groot is both adorable and awesome. I'm really quite impressed that he could be that awesome with only saying three words the entire movie, "I am Groot." Not only were these characters awesome and hilarious, but they had a surprising amount of depth and character growth as the movie went.

Finally, I want to talk about the tone of this movie. Yes, there has been plenty of movies with hilarious one-liners throughout -- anything with Iron Man or Thor is this way -- but Guardians is different because the movie is essentially an outright tongue-in-cheek comedy that is not really meant to be taken seriously at all. That is very unique for any superhero movie, Marvel Cinematic Universe or not, but it works fantastically. I was laughing out loud for the entire movie. But what was more impressive is that movie also had plenty of emotional drama to go along with it and it was the perfect balance. Also, the comedy and the drama didn't over-step one another's grounds, which often happens in comedies. Movies can be ruined by trying to be funny when they should be serious or trying to be serious when they should be funny. Guardians doesn't do this and is thus super impressive.

Overall I did love this movie. No, I didn't think it was the best ever, but that doesn't matter. If you did think it was the best ever, we really don't disagree all that much. It was limited by the fact that it needed to spend a lot of time helping us as an audience get to know these instead of telling an epic story. It was also limited by the fact that it couldn't introduce their best villain in this show. However, that's not an excuse because even if they couldn't introduce the franchise's main villain, they could've done better than what they did. Despite that though, Guradians of the Galaxy is a hilarious movie with great drama and great chemistry. I think that the sequel that was already announced at Comic-Con has the potential to be bigger and better, and thus I am super excited for the direction of this franchise. And I also look forward to a potential teaming-up of the Guardians and the Avengers (Avengers 3?). I give Guardians of the Galaxy an 8.5/10.

P.S.- Any thoughts on the purpose of that end credits scene?

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