Movie Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' — A spiritual successor to 'Star Wars'
Perhaps it was a foregone conclusion that I would like this movie. It’s like it was made for me, or at least for my demographic anyway. It’s got spaceships, heists, a prison break, awesome action sequences, space dogfights, all with jokes, gags, and humor up the wazoo. This is the kind of movie that gets made just under the radar, doesn’t do too well because it has trouble finding that initial audience, and then becomes a beloved cult classic. What immediately came to mind was how much movies like Joss Whedon’s "Serenity" and Gunn’s earlier work like "Sliver" and how those seemed like perfect films, but they struggled to find that big audience.
This is where Marvel as a production company has worked wonders. They have successfully built an audience, one that’s seen superheroes and alien invasions, and as a result, one that is sufficiently ready for a movie like "Guardians of the Galaxy." The anticipation is so high, the trailers have been amazing, the marketing campaign just about perfect in setting the tone and expectations for the movie.
And it delivers. Boy, does it deliver. It’s the space action flick that you want. It’s a spiritual successor to "Star Wars," and I would go so far as to say that if I were a kid in this generation, it would be my "Star Wars" (at least until the new movies come out, and then we will have to talk again). It’s so much fun. It hits all those things you want, with action and excitement, but also great character moments and loads of laughs.
We get the charming rogue, Peter Quill aka Starlord at the start. He is trying to obtain a relic which also has the interest of the movie’s big bad, Ronan the Accuser. Quill is played perfectly by Chris Pratt, who has won over many hearts as Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation and has been bubbling up in film roles. It’s another master stroke in casting. Hard to think that before this film anyone would have considered him to play a lead in a Marvel movie (take note, not necessarily a superhero, but a comic book hero), and now it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the lead.
As the story expands we are introduced to new characters who will become his accomplices. You probably know them already, but there’s Gamora, Drax, and the amazingly well-executed Rocket and Groot. Zoe Saldana and Dave Batista give good performances as expected.
But it’s with Rocket and Groot that we get a good surprise. Sure, we know they’re CGI. But there’s no uncanny valley weirdness. They move so naturally, speak so naturally, that we just accept them. It helps that the human actors’ interactions with them are genuine. And by the end, we are feeling for them just as much as we would human actors and performances. It’s a credit to all the things that bring those characters together, the visual effect, but also the great writing and the performances.
The scale of this film is epic, with worlds and civilisations at stake. It builds in connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while functioning as a great standalone film. Even with all of these seemingly impossible demands: introduce characters that most people don’t know, tie into the Marvel U, establish the cosmic scale, appeal to an audience; it never becomes overwhelmed. And it accomplishes all these things and more as it meets its primary goal, which is to entertain.
A great deal of its success has to do with how the movie is both self-aware and it does not take itself too seriously. Sure it can deal with evil villains set to blow up planets, but it isn’t above a quip or a visual gag either. Finding that balance is a challenge, but one that director James Gunn has struck perfectly. If you’re looking for that fun popcorn film of the Hollywood summer season, this is it.
Guardians of the Galaxy transports you to an exciting new corner of the universe. It’s a place I want to revisit in sequels, and in repeated screenings of this film. — JST, GMA News
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