Cinematic Releases: Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy finally hit theaters tonight. Find out what we thought.

"At last, the final evil ball thing."
Marvel said, "Hey, Star Wars! Why don't you and Fifth Element over here take a picture with Hellboy! Closer... closer... alright, say cheese!"

That's pretty much Guardians of the Galaxy.

From James Gunn, mostly a writer of quite a few oddball films, Slither being my favorite of his directorial contributions, Guardians is nothing if not extremely charming and quite a load of fun. For those expecting much in the way of intriguing Marvel lore, leave your brains at the door for this one. While Guardians is a blast, no doubt, nothing is very interesting in this film. There isn't an epic plot arching us into a new era of Marvel's massive universe. This is more like the half-time show.

Each member of the cast is exceptionally memorable, iconic even. Villains and heroes alike all fit into their own snug corner of cool. This film feels exactly like what you imagined in your eight-year-old brain when you and a friend brought your buckets of random toys over and used your bedroom as the host planet of an intergalactic space battle. You had Battle Beasts over here fighting slimy Ghostbusters creatures. Then G.I. Joe's over there fighting Inhumanoids. You weren't exactly Shakespearean storytellers, it was just a lot of smashing and throwing, but it was awesome!

The production design overall is to thank. I wanted to pluck each vehicle, creature, and set right off the screen and take home the miniaturized versions of them to pretend I was a kid again. They pulled no punches making every color, weapon, city, and futuristic mechanism pop off the screen.

The cast, as dynamic and unusual as the heroes are, fit cozily into this play set. Chris Pratt kinda leads as the
"You mean this evil ball?
Now I have three!"
legendary outlaw, Star Lord, a goofy, but charming ass kicker who's always underestimated. Zoe Saldana is green, has 'I'm-just-adopted' issues, and slices things a lot with blades. Bradley Cooper voices one of the coolest and funniest, hard-headed raccoons we'll probably ever see on-screen. Dave Bautista, playing Drax the Destroyer, though not a sharpened actor like the others, makes up for it by delivering some of the most hilarious lines of the film with an ultra-serious tone. Towering over the Guardians of our Galaxy is Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, a continuously fascinating creature who's written adoringly.

The charm and wit never stop barreling down this mountain of bad guys and sensationally realized vistas. The cast, in every way, whether villain or hero, with only a brief appearance or starring role, all leave an outstanding mark. Like Star Wars, this is a fiction packed with fresh, unforgettable characters in almost every scene.

As lovable, and fascinating as this is on a superficial level, unfortunately, Guardians is not without a couple of shortcomings. The fight scenes are framed far too close, and stitched together with far too many cuts to give us a gripping sense of the action. I was disappointed to frequently see close-up elbows, shoulders, and faces, instead of full-figured choreographed melee battles. On the other hand, whenever someone got into a spaceship, or floating thing with guns on it, the action ramped me back up to the edge of my seat.

"At last! Now I possess the
pair of evil balls!  I've collected
the whole set!"
Despite the joy in watching these amazing characters shoot at each other and crack jokes, the story is just another beat the bad guy before he gets the super powerful thing. This would be fine if on top of this fact there was more engaging lore, or tension in the plot. To me, anyway, nothing was all that interesting beyond being shiny, cool, or fun to look at. The plot being so thin, and tension being almost non-existent, eliminated the sensation of needing to see the good guys win.

But that won't matter to most audiences, and for this film, maybe it shouldn't? After all, I can say without question this is the funniest Marvel film to date. In fact, I wouldn't necessarily call it an action film, it's just an exceptionally ambitious sci-fi comedy. And if it's just that, then that's pretty darn gre
at in my book.

J.G. Barnes