Guardians of the Galaxy is a different breed of Marvel flick, since the property it’s based on isn’t ridiculously popular. This allowed director James Gunn to go crazy with it, which mostly works in the movie’s favor. Guardians of the Galaxy is loose and funny. It’s a sci-fi movie with so many roots in the 80s that it might as well have a mullet.

Chris Pratt is having a grand year, starring in The Lego Movie and now Guardians. Pratt got insanely ripped for this role, having done approximately 2,147 crunches a day in preparation. He’s a goofy lead, as expected, and feels like the son of Han Solo. The Star Wars influence is felt throughout the film, especially when a group of Kree quickly assemble a cannon to take down Peter Quill’s ship. Gunn is a product of the 80s, after all.

As big as the 80s influence is, the soundtrack is decidedly a product of the 70s. Quill’s last strong connection to his mother and homeworld is his mix tape. Awesome Mix Vol. 1 plays throughout Guardians of the Galaxy. Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is heavily featured in the trailer. The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” is used to great effect.  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Moonage Daydream”, there’s a lot of good music that, like the movie itself, works for the most part.

Where Guardians doesn’t particularly work is when it attempts earnest heroism. There’s something about tales of space rebels that just feels off when they try to be straight up heroes. The final conflict feels like a superhero movie cliché, and the only time that Guardians seems to be playing it safe. The movie is at its best when it’s weird and different. Even though all of the aliens speak English (just…don’t think about it), Guardians succeeds where Green Lantern and the recent Star Trek reboot failed by keeping the focus in space and away from Earth. Weird and different is also the key to the movie’s two best characters: a walking tree and a talking raccoon.

Yes, Groot and Rocket were fantastic. They are the true strength and heart of the film. Bradley Cooper is hilarious and any misgivings I might have had about a big name actor being cast as a trash talking cyborg space raccoon immediately went out the airlock. You can almost feel his Philly area roots coming out as Rocket blasts his way through the movie. As for Groot, my favorite Vin Diesel performance is now the one in which he says the same three words over and over. I knew he was enthusiastic about the role (the man went to the premiere on stilts!), but I didn’t expect Groot to end up being the soul of the film. Their friendship brings the whole thing together.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is key to the film’s plot. She has connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s key villain, Thanos, as well as the movie’s two main villains, Ronan and Nebula. Saldana does well enough in the role, although I felt the romantic subplot with Peter Quill was unnecessary. But, hey, that’s movies for ya. Gamora is at her best when the tensions are the highest, specifically the big prison breakout.

The final member of the team is Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. He has the revenge angle going for him, as well as taking everything far too literally. Drax feels a little outside of the rest of the group, since he doesn’t have that romantic spark going for him like Star Lord and Gamora or a lifelong friendship like Rocket and Groot. It’s not a huge problem, but it distanced Drax a bit. Still, the character gets his fair share of cool moments.

Gunn did a really good job making sure that all of the protagonists got their time to shine. The villains…not so much. They’re okay, but not really the focus of the film. Karen Gillan’s Nebula gets some good moments, especially in her battle with Gamora. Michael Rooker looks like he really enjoyed playing Yondu, an intergalactic career criminal that has a long history with Peter Quill. I like Lee Pace, but Ronan wasn’t the strongest character for him to portray. The Nova Corps also felt a little undeserved, despite boasting such impressive actors as Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and  Peter Serafinowicz. They really didn’t have too much to do, but there also wasn’t that much room for them. The movie rightfully spent that time on the main group.

Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t the best movie that Marvel Studios has put out, but it has the most fun packed into it. It even had a couple of surprisingly tender moments that made the room a wee bit dusty. The effects are great and there’s loads of humor,  explosions, and good tunes. Guardians is a blast of a space adventure that’s worth whatever absurd price you have to shell over to your local movie theater these days.


Spoilers and such

  • Dog dressed as an astronaut! Dog dressed as an astronaut!
  • Howard the Duck cameo! Everyone in the audience wasn’t pleased like I was, but I honestly don’t know what people expect from these after credits scenes. I’ll take attempts at humor like that and the shawarma Avengers over the vague machinations of Loki.
  • It’s cool finally seeing full on Josh Brolin as Thanos, I can’t wait to see him in Avengers 3.
  • Baby potted Groot dancing to the Jackson Five will warm anyone’s cold heart.
  • Best sequence? The prison break is great, but I also really liked the group hanging out before meeting The Collector. Random CGI creature cock fighting rules.
  • Gunn’s crude humor was great. My personal highlight is tied between Quill joyfully kicking and using those creatures at the beginning as microphones and Rocket saying boohoo about Drax’s wife and kid. Everything Rocket said, actually.
  • The aforementioned misty moments? Quill seeing his mom in bed with cancer and Rocket saying goodbye to Groot. The former is understandable, especially if you know me. The latter is…IT’S A CGI RACCOON AND TREE. Bravo James Gunn and co.
  • There’s clearly going to be a 2nd movie and it’s going to rock. Also, it will probably be the direct lead-in to Avengers 3, which is all kinds of awesome.