Director: James Gunn
Release Date: August 1st, 2014
Run Time: 122 Minutes
I can’t say definitively that this is the best film Marvel Studios has put out, but it is the best “Marvel Movie”, if that makes any sense to you. Not only is this the movie setting up “The Avengers 3”, but it is also a perfect capsule for what Marvels “Phase Two” has been. See, back in 2008, when this whole experiment started the main question was “can we make people care about these characters enough to make this idea financially viable?” It’s the same question people have been asking since superhero movies have been made. And Marvel chose to deal with that the same way almost everyone else did: stripping down the characters and taking away the more “out there” parts of their back story’s or worlds. Sure, “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” aren’t as stripped down as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, but you can tell that more than a little comic book DNA was missing.
Phase Two seems to want to correct that mistake. Each of the four films resealed after “The Avengers” has been working in more and more of the comics, be it “extremis” from “Iron Man 3” or the flying long boats and elves with rocket launchers in “Thor: The Dark World”. And again, this film is what is cementing the fact that this is, in fact, where Marvel is taking this franchise. In fact, the entire idea behind the movie seems to have been that some one said “Well, no one knows who these people are to begin with, so lets just keep throwing on obscure refinances and hope for the best”. What makes this even better is the fact that the movie doesn’t give two shit’s of you know what’s going on, so it doesn’t take up it’s entire run time trying to explain how everything works. If you don’t know who the “Nova Corps” are, too bad. You don’t know what a “kree warship” is, or even what a “kree” is, too bad. You are forced to either accept it or or don’t bother watching.
And I would tell you to just accept it, as the movie is a hell of a lot of fun, and by far my favorite “Marvel Movie” to date. But also, I really wasn’t Lying about this being the movie to set up “The Avengers 3”. Whole behind the scenes we’ve all been told that Thanos is the big bad guy, we’ve seen very little of that. Most of the point of this movie is showing us that he does, in fact, hold the honor of “Top Bad Ass”, at least in space. It’s also finally made it clear how this incarnation of the “infinity gems” are meant to work. While it might annoy some die hard comic fans that each of the movies magical macguffins take the role of the “Infinity Gems” here, this is one bit of streamlining I can deal with. Now that all of that is out of the way, what is this movie about and just who the hell are the “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Well, allow me to tell you.
Outlaw Peter Quill aka StarLord, opens the film raiding a tomb looking to find and sell a mysterious orb that unknown to him is also being searched for by “Ronan the Accuser”. Due to circumstances i’m not going to talk about because it is way more fun going in cold, Peter Quill meets Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax and Gamora inside a prison that they promptly break out of in hopes of selling the macuffin and spiting the cash. They take the orb to the planet “Knowwhere” and meet with Taneleer Tivan, The Collector. It’s hear that the team learn that the orb held an “Infinity Gem”. After a really, really good action scean the team looses the gem, witch gives Ronan, an already powerful foe, godlike powers. And that’s the last i’m going to say. I am trying to keep this synopsis vague as to not give too much away, but those are the major story beats. While I may not have given you very much to go on, trust me when I say that the story is very well done. Everything here works, from the script to the cast’s performances. There is literally one line, ONE LINE, I have an issue with, but it comes at just the right time and does exactly what it is meant to that I find it hard to hold it against the movie.
While everyone in the film does a great job, the stand out performances have to go to Chris Pratt as Star Lord and Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon. Pratt’s “Peter Quill” is both loveable and easy to dislike, and he walks that line perfectly. His acts of genuine heroism never really take away from the fact that this is a man who would have sold the infinity gem, knowing full well what it does, simply to get it off his hands. There is a line near the end of the movie that sums him up quite well “i may be an a-hole, but i’m not 100% a dick”. That really is the best way to describe him.
If you’ve seen any thing about the movie you’ve probably heard how good Rocket Raccoon is, but one of the things most people never seem to bring up is how good the character pulls of his one big dramatic scene. Yeah, he’s funny, and by far his humor is my favorite part of the movie, but when it comes time to his dark place, Cooper just sells the hell out of it. I’ve seen Cooper in a few other roles, and he’s never been bad, but this is the first time I can say he’s ever been genuinely great.
If there is a “bad” performance, it would have to be Lee Pace as Ronan. He does well in the role, don’t get me wrong, but outside of one mid movie action scene and the big potentially world ending fight at the end, he has very little to do. This is the one major flaw with all the non-Avengers Marvel movie up to this point: the bad guys are never really up to the standards of the hero’s, but I feel like Marvel has always focused more on their hero’s anyway so I guess its understandable. These aren’t movies about the villeins, these are about the heroes.
So, yeah, go see this. You are either going to love it or be too confused to care. If the latter, you’re probably not who this movie was made for to begin with.