It’s funny to think how we as a people are so hung up on petty Terran squabbles when, as we speak, bloodthirsty Kree warlord Ronin plots the genocide of the entire Xandarian race. With one of the fabled Infinity Gems in his possession, Ronin threatens not only the peaceful garden-planet of Xandar, but the security of the entire Galaxy. To make matters worse, all that stands in his way are a greedy Earthling, a green assassin, a red berserker, a raccoon, and a tree. It would appear that we are, for lack of a better word, totally boned.
As the smart-mouthed Star Lord, Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) heads up a veritable who’s-who of “No Way, It’s That Guy!” The Guardians themselves, of course, have the best chemistry and performances. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are responsible for the film’s funniest gags and there’s-something-in-my-eye moments; Dave Bautista of WWE and MMA fame channels a perfect tough guy killing machine, and even manages to coax a few laughs out of the audience. Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), even when given a character as underdeveloped as Gamora, manages to turn the obviously objectified female assassin into a semi-relatable objectified female assassin. (Ask any fan of the GotG comics, the source material gives the alien vixen next to zero personality.)
The number of bit parts played by world-renowned thespians is jaw dropping. Michael Rooker (everyone’s least favorite Walking Dead redneck) kills it as Yondu Udonta, Star Lord’s mentor/rival, complete with sociopathic behavior and a Whistlin’ Arrow. Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, and Peter Serafinowicz play dedicated members of the Xandarian military, and Guillermo del Toro makes for a Collector who’s just the right mix of sinister and frugal. Voice credits include Rob Zombie, Josh Brolin, Nathan Fillion, and Seth Green. Of course, Stan Lee, granddaddy of all things geek, makes a trademarked Marvel cameo. The only thing more impressive than the celebrity laundry list is the sincerity of each and every performance. There’s not a phoning-in to be found; they all seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves on screen.
Beyond the acting, there’s the world created by director James Gunn and production designer Charles Wood. To be fair, Marvel’s expanded universe is without a doubt one of the richest and well-developed to be found in fiction; still, not since Star Wars has an imaginary galactic community felt so well though out, so complete. The relations between races are believably tense, making Star Lord’s inter-species womanizing all the more entertaining. The sets look like they’re ripped straight out of the pages of the Guardians books, and battles, both ship-to-ship and on the ground, are nothing short of Episode V-tier.
It’s hard to write a comprehensive review about a movie wherein you don’t dislike anything. For someone else, the terabytes upon terabytes of CGI would ruin the sense of immersion. It’s also hard to ignore the utter lack of inspired, multi-dimensional female characters. But two needles in a massive haystack of nerdgasm make it hard to conjure up any damning criticism.
To put it bluntly, Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel movie yet, and so much more. The Avengers was a sure thing from the start: everyone knows the Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man, and you can bet dollars to donuts that everyone from little kids to frat boys to begrudging parents of little kids are going to line up to see them kick some alien ass. The motley crew of Guardians had no prior recognition – a bunch of B-list action heroes from a Marvel series few people outside of comic book enthusiasts had heard of. After a record-breaking release in the height of Blockbuster Summer, all the other so-called nobodies of the comic book world have a real chance of getting their own movies. Now I won’t be the only one excited for the Doom Patrol adaptation. Well, maybe.