I’ve put off writing this review for a long time, because, even though I enjoyed this movie, I was kind of mad at it. It reminded me an awful lot of “Serenity,” and the whole “Firefly” series, since both are about a ragtag group of losers who take on a much more powerful enemy, and succeed because they’re scrappy and well, on the right side. The fact that this movie was almost twenty times more successful than “Serenity” (“Guardians” made $773 million; “Serenity” made $40 million) simply because it was made by Marvel and exists in the same universe as the Avengers just kind of ticks me off, and makes me feel all bitter and cynical about Hollywood.
So I gave it a rest, and came back to it this week. I watched it intentionally looking for ways it was different from “Serenity,” and found quite a few. “Serenity” is essentially a Western set in space; “Guardians” isn’t. “Serenity is infused with a spirit of melancholy, a sense of a dying way of life as the romance and poetry of the Browncoats gives way to the glossy, inhuman efficiency of the Alliance. “Guardians” is much snarkier than that. If “Serenity” is about outcasts mourning the loss of a society where they fit, “Guardians” is about outcasts who have never fit anywhere.
They are led (though none of them would admit it) by Peter Quill, played with just the right mix of sliminess and heroism by Chris Pratt. This is Pratt’s breakout performance, but he’s the kind of actor you think you’ve never seen before until you look him up on IMDB – he was in “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Her,” and “Moneyball,” and even looking back on those films, I see nothing that indicated he had this kind of performance in him. Joining him are Zoe Saldana as Gomorrah, pro wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax (his performance suggests Bautista could be the next Dwayne Johnson) Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket Raccoon (who isn’t a raccoon, just looks like one,) and tree-thing Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel.
(OK, just stop for a moment and imagine that recording session. All Groot ever says is “I Am Groot.” Which means the director had to ask Diesel to say that, a hundred different ways. “Now can you say it, sounding sympathetic? Now sound angry. Awesome. Can you say it again, inquisitive? Dreamy? Sad, but hopeful? Perfect. Great work, Vin.”)
This ragtag band finds themselves in possession of an Infinity Stone, which are going to be super important in some upcoming Marvel Universe movie. (There’s another one at the heart of the Tesseract, in the first Avengers movie.) Super bad guy Thanos wants it for his infinity gauntlet, but for some reason sends less-super bad guy Ronan to get it for him. Of course Ronan figures out what it is, and keeps it for himself, and tries to destroy a planet with it. It’s up to our ragtag bunch of losers and outcasts to save him. (Spoiler: they do.)
I really, really hate the big action setpiece that is at the climax of this movie, because it is stupid in so many ways. But if I set that 20 minute sequence aside, and if I quit comparing it to “Serenity,” I really do enjoy this movie. It’s funny and clever, it’s energetic and fun to look at, it introduces fun side characters like the Collector and Yondu. The Guardians have a chemistry that works. It’s a fun movie, and a fun team, and I will certainly watch “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” whenever that happens. It’s a solid, enjoyable entry into the Marvel canon, probably in the top third of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I guess that’s good enough.
-Zoe Saldana was in “Avatar,” “Star Trek” and now this. What is it about her that makes directors want to cast her in sci-fi flicks? I don’t know. It’s a mystery.
-I enjoy comic books, and so love the way Marvel has really expanded into an entire universe (they’ve certainly done it better than DC.) It’s fun to see plenty of elements here that have their own storylines – Nova Prime, and Nowhere, and the Kree all have very developed stories that will probably never make it into a Marvel movie.
–Ok, here’s a short list of things I hate about that action sequence.
- Yondo’s plan is to fly straight at Ronan’s ship, then detonate a smoke bomb, and in the smoke, launch a surprise attack by flying under the ship. This assumes that Ronan’s ship has exactly one window through which its entire crew can see the world around them. No radar, no other windows. Fog up that one window, and they’re completely blind.
- Ronan launches a kamikaze attack at the city below the ship. Fighters are flying at the ground as fast as they can with the intent to crash and destroy as much as they can. Rocket Raccoon leads a regiment to get underneath them and shoot them down. Which means that now, they are are on fire, or exploded into a million pieces – and still crashing down onto the city and destroying it. Because that’s how gravity works, you stupid Raccoon.
- Yondo crash lands and is surrounded by enemy soldiers. Lots of them. So he whistles, and his arrow comes out of its holder. Then it flits around, at roughly the speed of a real arrow, and kills every single one of the bad guys. Who just stand there, watching their fellow soldiers get killed by this really pretty slow-moving thing, and wait for their turn to die.
- On board the ship, Gomorrah, Peter and Drax take out Nebulah. She is lying in a broken pile and looks defeated. Then Gomorrah sends the rest of them a different direction, while she tries to disable the power converter doohickey. But then Nebula reconstructs herself, because apparently she’s a self-repairing robot, or something. And now it’s Gomorrah against Nebulah, with the WHOLE MISSION at stake. But wait – these two grew up together. They’re sisters. Didn’t Gomorrah know her sister could reconstruct like that? Why send everyone else away when you know she isn’t actually defeated, only temporarily disabled?