Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Posted: August 4, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Guardians_of_the_GalaxyWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it’s probably closer to a like-don’t like. In general I like that they’ve built a universe of related characters and I’ve enjoyed most of their films, but I also think they play things very safe and formulaic. That said, I had high hopes for Guardians of the Galaxy. The film looked a departure from the typical superhero film and was filled with all sorts of strange elements, like a talking raccoon and a tree/humanoid thing being two of the main characters. I had hoped Guardians would be a fresh take on a very over saturated genre, and the early reviews seemed to indicate just that.

In 1988, a young boy named Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by a mysterious space shift. Jump ahead 26 years and Peter (Chris Pratt) is an intergallactic thief who goes by the alias Star Lord. On an abandoned planet, Quill attempts to steal a valuable artifact sought after by many powerful forces. Quill succeeds, though he barely makes it out alive. Soon he finds himself being hunted by many, including the powerful alien warlord Ronan (Lee Pace), who himself has ties to Thanos, the villain teased during the mid-credits scene of The Avengers, played here by Josh Brolin. Eventually, this will lead Quill to a collection of oddballs; the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the warrior Drax (Dave Bautista), and the bounty hunter pair of Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Though they will start off at odds, they soon form quite the team.

One general complaint I’ve had with the MCU films is how the actual stories to many of them are not very good, and just an excuse for the characters to interact and action scenes to occur. Not only is this true of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s actually one of the worst offenders. It’s abundantly clear that most of the script is just a transparent effort to get the titular team together with the basic set-up being the same “villain has a glowing object which will cause great destruction” that was used in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. This is an extremely lazy premise, made worse by the fact that Marvel keeps going back to it. The plot as a whole feels carelessly put together, with events solely there to get to a certain beat rather than telling a solid story. The whole thing feels rather rushed, which leads to a number of problems, chief among them that I don’t feel the team has enough time to truly bond as much as they appear to have by the climax. This storytelling approach also leads to a general lack of stakes or a reason to invest oneself emotionally in the story.

While Guardians of the Galaxy is an empty film, the execution does somewhat make up for it. The film has a number of strong action scenes which maintain a degree of fun throughout. An early scene where Starlord first meets Gamora, Rocket, and Groot and engage in a multi-faceted fight is fun, as is the mid-film prison break. The climax also has some fun details, though on the whole I find the large scale space battle tiresome, in part because the build up to it is lacking. It’s important to point out that while the action here is mostly good, I wouldn’t call it great. In general, I’ve seen better throughout the summer, and really a lot of the Marvel films have trumped what is seen here. This is also true of the film’s humour. While Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the most openly comedic Marvel film, I didn’t really find it that much funnier than the previous films. It has a few laughs sure, but again, nothing exceptional.

What really saves the film is the Guardians themselves. This is a really interesting team and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun watching them. This seems to be a real breakout role for Chris Pratt, who manages to make Starlord a genuinely funny and charming goofball while still being a pretty reliable hero by the end. Rocket and Groot’s dynamic is also great. Bradley Cooper is great as the angry and violent racoon who’s not only funny, but kind of badass in his own way. Groot has a really cool design and he pulls off being an awesome and effective member of the team while still being very lovable. He might have actually been my favourite. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and Dave Bautista’s Drax play it more straight, at least by comparison, but they too are given a lot of fun moments. The five play off each other very well, with most of the key comedic moments coming from their interaction. The clashing of personalies makes for quite a team and I look forward to seeing what other adventures they get into in the future.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too. Benecio del Toro returns in his role as The Collector and is much better here than he was in Thor: The Dark World. John C. Reilly has a fun minor role and they even have Glenn Close as the top official for the alien planet where the climax takes place. This is also the first time we get to see Josh Brolin as Thanos and while he didn’t exaclty blow me away, it’s nice that Marvel is finally starting to develop this character who will presumably become a major force in Phase Three. Speaking of villains; another one of Guardians‘ most major short comings is the villain Ronan. Basiacly he’s a bland foe who plans on using the McGuffin to destroy the galaxy because…I don’t know, he doesn’t like other races. Basiacly he’s the same character as Malekth from Thor: The Dark World. Hell, I might even prefer Malekth. At least that film gave some backstory to why he hated Asgard so much. I can’t really blame Lee Pace for the character since he had little to work with, but he doesn’t do much to elevate the material.

In addition to the strong characters, the film has other strengths. The soundtrack is pretty good, with the music really fitting the characters and there are some particularly strong moments in that regard. The production values are also really strong throughout, and I appreciate Marvel for investing so much in such an obscure property. Still, with its lousy story and boring villain, Guardians of Galaxy feels a lot like the first episode of the TV show. Everything is rushed so we can get the team together and ready for future, better episodes. Well, I like the team a lot, and I look forward to the potential of future episodes, but this pilot needs work.


  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. It’s hard to not like many of the Marvel movies, but this one was so charming, I just couldn’t help myself.

  2. ianthecool says:

    I dont know that having an excuse for characters to interact is a bad thing when the characters are really good. I do agree that the villain is a shortcoming. So generic.

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