FlixChatter Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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I have to admit that I wasn’t remotely interested in seeing this one from the moment I first heard about it. For one thing, I was beginning to get bored of yet another Marvel superhero movie, and another reason is I have never even heard of who these characters are. Though it seems that a lot of my fellow bloggers are getting superhero fatigue, clearly the average movie goers are still gung ho about them, as GOTG has proven itself to be another big hit for Marvel. According to Box Office Mojo, by Friday estimates, it already out-earned two of Marvel’s sequels: Captain America 2 and Thor 2 and on its way to make close to $100 mil by the first weekend, wow!

The audience in the packed advanced screening on Tuesday seemed to have a good time with this movie, and I was surprised too how entertaining it was. The protagonist this time isn’t a superhero, he’s a regular boy-next-door human named Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who got abducted by a space ship just minutes after his mother died at a hospital. Fas forward twenty six years later, we see Peter on planet Morag stealing an orb that turns out to be a highly-coveted artifact wanted by the master villain Ronan (Lee Pace). The scene is reminiscent of Raiders Of The Lost Ark opening sequence and you could say Peter has the kind of swagger and cheeky attitude of Indiana Jones. Needless to say, Peter then gets embroiled in a manhunt, not just from Ronan but also from a group of space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) who apparently the same folks that snatched young Peter from earth years ago.

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I think people who read the comics would appreciate this movie more, as they’d be more familiar with the cosmic universe where everything takes place. A lot of the things happening here baffles me but I went along for the ride anyway. Peter suddenly ends up in planet called Xandar and ends up getting arrested by Nova Corps, the space militia led by Glenn Close, sporting similar hairdo as in 101 Dalmatians. It’s in the Xandar prison that Peter meets his would-be teammates: a wisecrackin’, gun-toting, raccoon called Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a tree-like humanoid named Groot (Vin Diesel), bad-ass assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who has a personal vendetta against Ronan. It’s an unlikely quartet that constantly bicker and fight, but of course they have no choice but to work together.

Guardians of the Galaxy is more of a space action comedy, akin to Galaxy Quest or The Fifth Element. But the irreverent and at times cheesy humor works here and there’s such a fun spirit throughout that is contagious. The one-liners are packed with goofy 80s pop-culture references (Kevin Bacon, John Stamos) to self-satirical ones like “I’m gonna die, surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.” Director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman (first female writer of a Marvel movie, yay!) are certainly aware of the its inherent silliness and the movie definitely works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perhaps this is an antithesis of sort to the standard superhero fare as none of the characters here possess any kind of super powers. But what the characters have in spades is humor, charm and even warmth, as the unlikely group slowly bond together.

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Now for the cast, I have to say that Chris Pratt [now part of the Marvel trifecta of Chris-es w/ Chris Hemsworth & Chris Evans] is a hoot and no doubt this movie will launch him to be a star. There’s a scene where a space henchman calls him Star Lord and Peter quips ‘finally!’ It’s almost art imitating life as Pratt has been in a bunch of major movies in supporting roles, in fact, three of them were nominated for Oscar 3 years in a row: Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, and Her. But now it’s his moment to shine and he’s such a charming, affable dude you can’t help but root for him. The rest of the cast is pretty good in their roles and I have to say Cooper as the fast-talking raccoon with a chip on his shoulder is quite the scene-stealer! I wonder just what the heck Cooper was thinking taking this job after a two Oscar nominations back to back, as he could easily play Peter Quill as well, but y’know what, I think he did a smashing job as Rocket. Diesel too, surprisingly makes the most of his only one line in the movie, ‘I am Groot’ all the way to the end.

It’s always nice when a movie surprises you in a pleasant way when you have such little expectations about it. But still I’m surprised by the stellar reviews that seem to surpass even Captain America: The Winter Soldier which I think is a better movie. Yes of course GOTG is a lot of fun and I was genuinely entertained, but it’s hardly flawless. Some critics call it edgy but the plot is not exactly fresh, we’ve got a space psychopath hellbent on destroying the world and it’s up to these unlikely heroes to save everyone, nothing new there. It doesn’t help matters that the villains are pretty ho-hum and lacking real menace. Poor Lee Pace is rather wasted here as Ronan is as boring as the villain in Thor 2. Same could be said for his female sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Thanos (uncredited Josh Brolin), which to me makes more impact in The Avengers‘ post-credit scene than here. I do like Rooker as Yandu, his performance reminds me of Michael Wincott who’s no stranger to playing bad guys.

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So the good guys definitely have more fun, even John C. Reilly is a hoot as a Nova Corpsman, especially in the hilarious finale. For sure the heroes were never in any danger in being upstaged by the villains. Visually speaking it’s as good as I expect from a big-budget Marvel movie, the 3D is pretty good but at the same time I honestly can’t think of an action scene that stand out to me. What’s truly awesome is the soundtrack! As a big fan of 80s music, the retro soundtrack is pure nostalgic fun! The gist is that Peter’s mom made an Awesome Mix Vol. 1 tape for him that he constantly plays on his walkman. Most Millennials probably think of it as some ancient artifact ahah, but hey I definitely remember those and making tapes of songs from the radio [oh boy am I dating myself or what?] The song played in the trailer, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, will be forever associated with this movie, and there are others I definitely recognize even if I can’t remember them by name.

Amidst all the clutter of all the goofy actions, there’s actually a bit of emotional touches here and there. So overall this movie proves to be a pleasant surprise and one I don’t even mind watching again. Not as spectacular as people led you to believe, but still worth a look if you’re initially skeptical. Everyone of all ages should enjoy this, just don’t expect too much in the way of plot and you’ve got yourself two hours of a rollicking good time.

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So what do YOU think of Guardians of the Galaxy?