Anyone who pays attention to such things will tell you the summer of 2014 blockbuster season has been a bit of a dud. Hits have been few and far between and even the more original fair has been criticized negatively. In a surprising turn, it seems as though sequels and big name studios are picking up the slack, and offering some of the greatest films this year (well, except for one big, loud, idiotic, cynical, shoddy, sexist, Michael Bay directed exception). Marvel already had a big win in April with the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and waited on how their biggest gamble yet, an adaptation of the series Guardians of the Galaxy would pan out.
Fortunately, it is a smashing success and may be Marvel's best movie yet.
In 1988, Peter Quill is abducted by a gang of extraterrestrials called the Ravagers, 26 years later, the adult Quill (Chris Pratt) steals an orb to sell to a fence for the Ravagers. This orb also has others pursuing it, especially the Kree demagogue Ronan (Lee Pace) who sends operatives to retrieve it, including a master assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The leader of the Ravagers, Yondu (Michael Rooker) puts a bounty on Quill's head to get the orb for himself as well, which piques the interest of anthropomorphic raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree-like muscle Groot (Vin Diesel). Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot fight it out in a public square and get arrested, in prison they meet Drax (Dave Bautista) who has his own personal ax to grind with Ronan. Together they hatch a plan to escape, and keep the orb out of Ronan's clutches...
The characters and performances of these characters really make the movie, and they are all very well done. Pratt proves his movie star potential by playing the Indiana Jones/Marty McFly hybrid that is Quill. Saldana kicks butt as Gamora, who has her own issues and nuances that she pulls off perfectly. Cooper and Diesel also turn in great performances even through a microphone in a studio. The biggest surprise is Bautista, who proves his acting chops with great comic timing and smooth action skills, they are all truly remarkable.
Pace, Karen Gillan, and Djimon Hounsou are all also good as the villains in this picture, they all have their motivations, and they add a more serious tone to the goofiness sometimes displayed by the Guardians.
The nest great thing was the CGI, make-up and direction. James Gunn throws so much into this picture and implemented many great set pieces that pop in every scene. I may see this movie again in 3D to fully appreciated all Gunn offered. He keeps the movie going and never comes down from high flying, Lucas-esque sci fi over the top-ness.
The script, co-written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman, is also very good. It weaves between goofiness, action, science fiction, character moments, comedy and a lot of heart deftly. The plot may have been overstuffed to explain a lot, and some of the expository dialogue could of been cut out, but I really can't complain when looking at how well the bigger picture turned out.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy was a major risk that pays off big time. With a satisfying blend of action, humor and heart bolstered by great performances and impressive set pieces. This movie rocks on so many levels, and might even impress non-Marvel fans and devotees alike.