Film Review – Guardians of the Galaxy (Second Take)
Guardians of the Galaxy
The best thing about Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is the amount of new faces now entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After years of seeing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and other Avengers take multiple turns at the movie theater, seeing these characters introduced for the first time is like a breath of fresh air. Even better, we leave the confines of Earth and go galactic, visiting different worlds and encountering all types of various life forms. Now, I never read the comic this is based off of, so I came at it not knowing what to expect. Suffice to say, director James Gunn – who co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman – does a good job providing enough information to prevent newcomers from falling behind.
Maintaining a consistent tone is crucial here; especially given that two of the main characters are a talking raccoon and a walking plant monster. This is another one of the film’s strengths. Gunn knows not to take the material too seriously, that a fun space adventure such as this should be exactly that: fun and adventurous. We get that sense immediately, as the human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – who likes to go by the moniker “Starlord” – explores an alien planet while dancing around listening to music from an old 1980s tape player. Quill is a self-appointed outlaw who gets disappointed when enemies don’t recognize his name. This is a nice relief. Where past Marvel characters were great heroes fighting the good fight, here we have a guy who’s clearly trying to sell himself, but no one’s buying.
Things really start to work once Quill is introduced to the rest of the Guardians. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a green-skinned assassin with allegiances we are not so sure of. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is a tough, cigar chewing raccoon whose existence is the result of a science experiment gone awry. Rocket’s sidekick and personal bodyguard is Groot (Vin Diesel) whose vocabulary is relegated to the phrase “I am Groot.” And rounding out the team is Drax (Dave Bautista), a muscular creature with strange markings all over his body. Drax’s sole purpose is to seek revenge against those that hurt his family.
The most fun we get is when these characters bump heads. They are obviously a dysfunctional group, who would rather go at each other instead of their common enemy. Each one has their own distinction, but it’s Bradley Cooper’s Rocket that steals the show. Rocket has the best lines, cracks the most jokes, and…well…he’s a talking raccoon! There are times where Rocket will provide direction without any real purpose other than his own personal amusement. And although WWE wrestler Dave Bautista is the least experienced when it comes to acting, he does a suitable job playing the way too literal Drax. Drax is a tough and strong guy, but he wouldn’t know what a metaphor was if it hit him on the head. There a ton other notable names that show up (John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro), but the characters we attach to the most are the Guardians themselves.
The characterizations maybe strong and the tone playful, but the story itself is rather familiar. We are introduced to the antagonist Ronan (Lee Pace) and his first in command Nebula (Karen Gillan). Both are dangerous baddies, albeit one-dimensional. Yeah, yeah, they want to conquer the universe and annihilate anyone that stands in their way, just like every other villain. If anything, Michael Rooker is more memorable as Yondu, a blue-skinned warrior on the hunt for Quill, and who kills using an arrow he controls by whistling. I’d rather see more of that guy. The MacGuffin here is an Infinity Stone, an object so powerful that only characters inhibiting a certain amount of strength can wield it. And if they do, they will become so mighty they can destroy entire planets. If Ronan and Nebula get a hold of the Infinity Stone, well, you know what’ll happen.
It seems the main point of narrative tension is one we’ve already seen. There is a cycle going on that’s becoming more pronounced as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on. We have an object that can unleash untold power, and a huge battle waged for it. Sure, we visit brand new places and meet new people, but the climactic scene here mirrors the climactic scene of almost any other Marvel movie. Granted, the special effects were good, and Gunn excels at injecting old-school energy into the story (I’m sure there will be more than one Star Wars reference made). But do we need our protagonists to once again fight a generic army with the fate of an entire civilization at stake? There’s no other creative way to display their teamwork and resourcefulness?
Don’t get me wrong; I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s lively, joyous, and never has a dull moment. I just wish there was more going on here. For a film that has such unique and eccentric characters, it deserves a unique and eccentric story.