Audiences have learned to put their faith in Marvel over these last six years. The studio has consistently put out entertaining films that center on the like of a narcissist playboy in an iron suit, an eighty-year old super soldier with the looks of a thirty-year-old thanks to being frozen, and a Norse God who doesn’t know how to drink coffee. Because of all that success Marvel is not only able to make a movie like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but they can make it one of the better films in their catalog.
“Guardians” immediately belongs in the top echelon of Marvel movies, as it is a funny, action-packed joyride throughout the galaxy with a bunch of endearing misfits. The team aspect of the film, a simple but easy to follow plot that includes a simple but satisfying villain, and one of the best performances by any of Marvel’s stable of actors culminated into some great summer entertainment.
“The Avengers” is still the best Marvel film, and a main reason that film worked so well was because it brought together all of these unique characters together and let them work with, or at times against, each other. It’s that same team dynamic that works so well in “Guardians.” The best scenes in “Guardians” are when Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, Dave Bautista’s Drax and Vin Diesel’s Groot are together and bickering. The dialogue comes fast and furious, one zinger after the other. We’re not worried about each character’s backstory; we’re simply focused on how this group of bumbling misfits can come together and actually save the galaxy.
The same formula, more or less, was what worked so well with “The Avengers” and what separates these two films from most of the solo outings Marvel has made. Just making a movie about Thor or the Hulk is flat, we just have to wait until they figure out some minute detail and then they swing their hammer really hard or smash. Last spring’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” had to change the genre up a little bit to a political thriller to keep things interesting. But the team dynamic makes them not only learn how to defeat their advisory, but also how to overcome any petty differences.
Looking at the make-up of the actual Guardians of the Galaxy, none of them would probably be able to carry a movie on their own. None of the characters’ origins are original enough to make a full investigation of how they came to be something worthy of a stand-alone film. Maybe a solo film for Quill or Rocket and Groot could be fun, but that may be stretching these characters a little thin.
Credit must also be given to the fact that Marvel has been able to ship out easy to swallow plots like an assembly line. Despite all the different alien species, planets and such, “Guardians” has a simple plot – a madman wanting to destroy an entire planet, then quite possibly the galaxy. No intradimensonial portals, no limb regenerating baddies, simple and focused. The same can be said for Lee Pace’s Ronan, the main villain in the film. His point-of-view is explained and easy to understand, more than can be said for some past Marvel villains. He may not be in the same league as Loki, but he checks off the necessary boxes to get the job done.
The breakout star of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” however, is Pratt. The "Parks and Rec” star shines as Quill, aka Starlord, the witty, bad boy with a heart of gold. Hmm, that sounds pretty similar to a fellow Marvel standout. Pratt’s performance is right up there with Robert Downey Jr.’s as Tony Stark, not only because they are similar characters, but because each actor brings a great charisma and strong comedic sensibilities while also being able to kick-ass. If the Guardians and the Avengers ever make an on-screen appearance together, can’t wait to see how Stark and Quill interact.
The main issues with “Guardians” I kind of mentioned above; with the building of the team being the most interesting part of the story, pretty much everything else going on is pretty bare, but at least tolerable. Save for a strong climactic battle, the action sequences are standard and there’s nothing that makes you drop your jaw. The supporting characters are fine, but outside of Michael Rooker’s Yondu, all incredibly uninteresting.
Still, director James Gunn’s space romp is a fun time at the cinema, with a great soundtrack and laughs a plenty. Not spoiling anything here, but it also has one of more enjoyable post credit scenes. Marvel spent four years churning out movies so it all could lead up to “The Avengers,” but “Guardians of the Galaxy” took the same thing that “Avengers” had, that team aspect overcoming a incredible threat, and made it work with a bunch of no-name misfits rather than Earth’s mightiest heroes, but in the end they get the job done.