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Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

 Off the Reel headerLet’s make one thing clear nice and early: there have been Marvel movies I’ve really liked (Iron Man, Captain America 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk, etc.), and Marvel movies I’ve been kinda “eh” on (Iron Man 3, Thor 1 & 2, etc.), but none that I’ve really outright disliked. Not from Marvel’s studios, anyway (I’m looking at you, Spiderman 3). Guardians of the Galaxy is by no means an exception.

It feels odd saying this, however, as I’m almost loath to put all the Marvel superhero flicks and Guardians in the same bucket. It’s strange that they exist within the same Marvel universe, and will one day cross streams. All previous Marvel films, even Thor, were superheroes doing superhero stuff saving the world (or some small part of it, anyway). Guardians is a story of renegades and rejects going on an adventure across space.

Guardians strives to be far more humorous than the rest. Not to say it’s a comedy – I’m certainly not describe it as such – it simply has more humor in it than any other so far. Iron Man thrived on sardonic humor and quips, Captain America had the occasional one-liner, but Guardians gets laughs throughout. It worked well. A story which includes a talking raccoon and his pet tree-man really needs to laugh at itself a little.

When put that way, it may sound dumb. But rest assured, it was supposed to be dumb. In the comics, it was dumb. Somehow, some magical way, director James Gunn made it work on so many levels. It came out wonderful, fantastic, astonishing. I expected it to be fun, but not on so many different levels. The celestial portions of Marvel’s universe get really strange, really fast. Their alien races, the planets, the settings and icons, all get real weird before long at all. I mean, seriously. This is a universe home to Ego the Living Planet, a literal living, sentient planet with a giant face and all (not in the movie). It was a major gamble on Marvel’s part to put 170 million dollars into this project, but it paid off! So far the film’s profits have surpassed that budget in the U.S., and grossed nearly twice that worldwide.

Somehow, Gunn made this movie work. He took a story of outlaws and space pirates, including an anthropomorphic raccoon and tree, and made it entertaining in ways I never thought possible. I walked out of the theater feeling like I’d walked out of a Star Wars movie for the first time. Hell, this is a better Star Wars movie than any of the prequels. It is a wickedly fun space romp that leaves you with a smile on your face, a glint in your eye, and a spark of imagination that makes you want to run home and just make something. This held true, I could tell, for a whole lot of artists I know. The sheer number of drawings of Groot that came in after release boggled my mind.

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Poster

One bit that confused me was the target audience. It’s fairly obvious that it’s built for people who grew up entrenched in 70’s and 80’s culture, as the soundtrack consists of entirely pop songs from that time period. It includes some “mature language,” some fairly violent scenes, and some pretty heavy tones. Despite all this, as I walked out of the film I thought, “Man, I bet my nephew or future children would love this!” Then I looked at the movie as a whole, and really reconsidered my stance. I’m not sure I’d want someone under the age of 11 or 12 watching this, but I’m not a parent, so who am I to say. While containing destruction, overt (though not directly witnessed) death, language, and a bit of innuendo, it contains no blood, no gore, no nudity, and no sex.

There’s a reason I haven’t really explained the plot much. It’s a fun movie, an exciting and fun space opera, and has an awesome ensemble cast of characters, and describing the plot would do the movie a disservice, in my opinion. The trailers gave away little information, plot-wise, and I walked in blind and enjoyed it. I will say, though, that the effects were fantastic – never breaking my immersion – which is a feat. I never once questioned the existence of the talking raccoon. Job well done! They also did a wonderful job of giving everyone their own screen time, not really neglecting anyone as far as character development, backstory, or interplay went. The best scenes were of the five interacting as a group, and while melodramatic, the villains at play were all a delight to watch, leaving you wanting more.

I had tons of fun, and I want more. With the previous Marvel flicks, I walked out saying, “What a good/fun/nice movie. I wonder if they’ll do a sequel.” After watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I wanted to know where the rest was! I immediately wanted more. It feels like the beginning of a glorious, wonderful saga, but unfortunately, I’m fairly certain Marvel won’t be putting a lot of time or effort into sequels. Honestly, they have more important things to pour money, time, and resources into. Like another Avengers, a Black Widow movie, other interesting heroes like Ant-Man or Dr. Strange, not to mention their bigger, more popular properties. It strikes a strange chord, as I keep forgetting it’s even a Marvel property at all, so it feels like something that Gunn should just hop to and make another of. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope all the positive hype it’s generated will inspire Marvel to get started on more of them – and quickly.

Long story short: it’s a good movie. It’s fun, it’s ridiculous, and it’s awesome. If you liked Star Wars, this should be a good time. It’s not really child unfriendly, but it’s certainly adult-oriented. Guardians is a fairly unique film for the summer, as it treads the dramatic and comedy line well and gives you a fun adventure in a world that’s been sadly barren of them. It’ll be on my DVD shelf when it hits, for sure.

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