- Movie Rating -

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

| August 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

From one end to the other, Guardians of the Galaxy feels like someone’s sincere attempt to make an everlasting cult film. It certainly feels like one. It’s goofy, it’s corny, it’s illogical, and it contains characters the feel like they were ejected from a more focused screenplay. The film will certainly be a hit at the box office, but you can easily imagine it someday finding its place among the best of the Friday Night cult films, right up there with The Fifth Element, Evil Dead II and Buckaroo Banzai. That’s good company.

It’s also a risky proposition. The Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t exactly household names (I’d never heard of them) and so Marvel is taking a big gamble on this property, which is only very lightly attached to the Avengers line of product – the villain is the same and that’s about it. It’s something new, and that’s refreshing.

So, who are these Guardians of the Galaxy? Well, they’re another superhero team from Marvel, but they lack the polish and posturing of The Avengers or The X-Men or The Fantastic Four. Imagine if one of those more high profile teams spent time in reform school and you have The Guardians. They’re a rag-tag group of bumbling misfits thrown together by circumstance, who tick off everyone else in the galaxy, and routinely get on each other’s nerves. Yet, this troop must somehow form a family, if they don’t kill each other first.

The film opens awkwardly, beginning with a childhood tragedy and then dropping us somewhere in another galaxy where we get introductions that feel a bit out of place. I’m a newcomer to this enterprise but something about the opening felt like Episode 10 of a television series, as if I’m suppose to have already been caught up with what was going on. One colorful character after another comes on screen and feels as if they’ve already been established. Thankfully, we quickly get past that and into the thick of things.

The shaky start settles down once we meet our heroes. They are a colorful bunch to say that least.
They are headed by Peter Quinn (Chris Pratt), who flatters himself with the nickname Star Lord (which draws confusion and/or snickers from his enemies); he’s a poor schlub who was abducted by aliens as a kid and has spent the last few decades as a fortune hunter in a galaxy far, far away. There’s also the assassin Gamorra (Zoe Saldana, who’s traded in the blue skin of Avatar for green skin here); she’s the daughter of the all-mighty Thanos (Josh Brolin) and has disagreements with the old man over control of the galaxy. There’s Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a foul-mouthed, genetically-altered raccoon whose mouth is as big a weapon as his machine guns. There’s Groot (Vin Diesel), a walking talking but good-natured tree whose abilities never stop surprising us. And there’s the muscle-bound Drax (professional wrestler Dave Bautista) who talks as if he learned English from reading Robert E. Howard.

They’re a colorful, mismatched bunch who’s decision-making and organizational skills are probably on par with The Three Stooges, particularly during the most disastrous prison break one could ever imagine. We can hardly disagree when Gamorra surmises that “I am surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.”

What the Guardians are chasing hardly matters. Quinn finds an object that has unlimited power, so the movie basically has one of those keep-the-ultimate-object-of-power-away-from-the-bad-guy-so-he-won’t-rule-universe plots. What the object does is not that interesting, nor are the people looking for it. What is interesting are the characters. Yes, they’re run through a standard plot but they have such personality and wit that you feel as if you would follow them anywhere. They have a goofball charm. I especially liked one supporting player played by “The Walking Dead”’s Michael Rooker as a blue-skinned redneck bounty hunter with a weapon that’s pretty darned intimidating. I also liked the villain Thanos who sits atop his celestial throne and wears a smile that spreads across his craggy face – he has far too little screen time.

The one character in the movie that doesn’t work is the villain, an ugly snort named Ronan who has become so power-mad that he yearns to have the ultimate power in the universe, blah blah blah. His weapon of choice is a hammer that throws his enemies across the room while spouting flat, boilerplate dialogue. He seems out of place in this world of colorful, unique characters.

That limitation aside, this is a fun movie. I will admit, I haven’t always been kind to the recent Marvel pictures. For me, only the first Iron Man and both Captain America pictures have really approached greatness.  This movie comes close.  I like this band of misfits.  They all are defined by the fact that they’ve lost something. But their connection to one another makes them irresistible. To be honest, they’re a little more fun than The Avengers. They seem like the loser kids who never got chosen for the team. We like them. They’re outsiders who are too square and rambunctious for a fancy, polished outfit like The Avengers or The Fantastic Four. They’d never get in with that crowd. These doofuses couldn’t even get an application.  Believe it or not, that may be a good thing.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.