Kevin Feige (producer and president of Marvel Studios) and his team took a big risk by introducing an obscure team like the Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen. Even the sweatiest of the fanboys would tell you that these characters weren’t exactly a household name prior to 2014. A walking tree that only utters three words wasn’t supposed to work. A genetically altered, talking raccoon wasn’t supposed to work. Yet, James Gunn (director and co-writer) found a way to piece this funky puzzle together and delivered one of the most charming superhero origin stories the world has ever seen. With both its box office success, grossing over $770 million worldwide, and critical acclaim, the 10th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved to be one of its most successful.
The film opens with a flashback to 1988 that introduces the audience to a young child named Peter Quill. Cut to 26 years later, and we see that same child has grown into the not so famous outlaw who calls himself Star Lord (Chris Pratt). He is seen scavenging an abandoned planet in search of an object that is referred to as the Orb.
Unknowing to the Orb’s true power, and the people after it, Quill eventually has a run-in with “the deadliest warrior in the galaxy,” Gamora (Zoe Saldana), when he attempts to sell it. Intervening to collect the bounty that has been set on Quill are the duo of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); a talking raccoon and tree.
Shortly after the scuffle, the four manage to get themselves captured by the local police force. From then, they are brought to a prison and introduced to an inmate who calls himself Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Once together, the five realize that they share a common interest with the selling of the Orb and devise a plan to escape the prison. What ensues is a highly entertaining action sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Not too far behind them is the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), the being who originally sent Gamora after Quill and the Orb. Once informed that Gamora has turned, Ronan sets out to destroy everything in his path until the Orb is in his possession. It’s up to the Guardians to make sure that doesn’t happen and save the galaxy.
Perhaps the most consistent feature that makes Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) click with the audience is its use of humor. It isn’t thrown in your face in the form of slapstick, it’s situational. Gunn wrote these characters to work in a way that makes the audience believe that these are truly five strangers coming together to form this dysfunctional, yet loving family. Drax has many highlights throughout the film in that regard, stealing a majority of the spotlight. The background given to who his character is so eccentric, you can’t help but laugh when he interacts with the folks around him. This has a lot to do with Gunn recognizing Bautista’s strengths and weaknesses as an actor, and he exploits it beautifully.
Performance and execution is another aspect that drives this film. Cooper, arguably, represents this the best with the voice of Rocket. He encapsulates this character and for the most part, removes the thought that the voice you’re listening to is coming from a raccoon that somewhat sounds like Phil from The Hangover. And although “I am Groot” are the only lines Vin Diesel gives, he does it in a way that gives the character of Groot true emotion. The simple sentence is never said in the same tone twice, thus giving Groot heart and purpose. His interactions with Rocket, being as Rocket is the only one who can understand him, are a delight to watch and provide for some of the film’s best moments. The chemistry between each character is rich and fresh, giving each moment of the movie its special moment.
Given that these aren’t your average everyday heroes, Gunn and company had to find a way to create a plot that wasn’t too convoluted. The scale of Guardians of the Galaxy is huge – this is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe installment that explores the depths of the cosmic side of the universe – and at its core lies an electric, two-hour space adventure. Each act is more engaging than the last, leading up to a fantastic action sequence in the third and final stage of the film.
It’s no surprise that the success of Guardians of the Galaxy warranted a sequel, and rightfully so. These characters were too valuable to be left alone for only one adventure. If you somehow managed to miss this movie in 2014, do not hesitate to catch up. It will be well worth your time and get you excited for the future of what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer.
FINAL SCORE: A-