Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro
Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language)
A group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.
Guardians of the Galaxy
By Matt Greene
Marvel films have crispness, like a newly opened can of tennis balls. GotG may be its freshest, leaning heavily on Whedon’s Avengers to create a cowboy-space opera strongly harkening “Firefly”. The effects are impressive and humor is sidesplitting. Unfortunately, Gunn seems more concerned with being cool than coherent. For all its originality, GotG falls prey to the treaded and dreaded ground of melodrama and over-extended action sequences, made more apparent because of how good it is otherwise. Despite the sloppiness, the positives mostly win out.
The plot is extremely convoluted. Essentially there is a mysteriously powerful object that some bad people want, and a band of misfit anti-heroes must keep it from them. Fortunately the actual film experience is better than the story. Whenever our five heroes are together, it’s truly magical. Pratt charms by delivering great dialogue, Saldana continues her queendom of scifi franchises (this, Avatar, Star Trek), and Batista is surprisingly hilarious. Most notably, Diesel and Cooper as Groot and Rocket have the kind of comedic chemistry we haven’t seen in the Marvel universe yet. The team aspects are a blast, even if they are a bit unbelievably familial.
GotG is Marvel’s first comedy, full of pop culture references, trope disassembling and a hilariously effective soundtrack. Its comedy is its jewel. However, when it falls into the rote destruction porn ending, indistinct action and short moments of sentimentality, I can’t help but wish it would’ve kept its tongue more firmly in its cheek. Maybe I’m just suffering from blockbuster fatigue. At least GotG offers more than the normal summertime fare.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Guardians of the Galaxy
By Cole Schneider
I have to applaud Marvel Studios for what they’ve done with “Guardians of the Galaxy”. I’ve been occasionally critical of their safer choices in the past, not really treading any new water in favor of recycling what has worked before. “Guardians” is bold, taking the Marvel machine into the most fresh territory it has known since 2008’s “Ironman”. Really, it’s far edgier than even that film was. It was a remarkable feat from its conception.
In execution it succeeds as well. The film is not only funnier than its Marvel predecessors, it ranks among the funniest films of the year. The dialogue is fresh and subverts expectations at almost every turn, and the camerawork has subtle invention and uses it’s frame to interesting ends. However, it’s the characters that are the star of the show. The Guardians are Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket played respectively by Chris Pratt (“The Lego Movie”), Zoe Saldana (“Avatar”), Dave Bautista (of wrestling fame), Vin Deisel (“The Iron Giant”), and Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”).
These five characters have a terrific collective charisma. In each case the performance meets the writing to make something special. It’s only when it strays from these characters that the film falters. Gamora and her sister Nebula, for instance, have a relationship that doesn’t make much sense; Ronan, the film’s bad guy, is a cardboard cutout.
The real star of the show may actually be writer/director James Gunn wholooked coldly into his future audience and dared to take more risks than directors ever take on their first big movie. “Guardians” may not be Marvel’s best film, but it certainly belongs in the top-tier of their releases.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars