Normally we hand off most reviews to our resident reviewer. But there was no way I’d let that cantankerous undead jerk steal my chance to see the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director and writer James Gunn was tasked with breathing life into a talking, genetically-altered, cybernetic raccoon. His best friend, a giant talking tree—if you count a three word vocabulary as talking. A female assassin who has absolutely no damsel in distress inclinations. A guy covered in tattoos who speaks like he hasn’t read anything written after 1900. And their leader, a human kidnapped from Earth and raised by a gang of thieves called the Ravagers.
One of those thieves might have a familiar face. Just saying.
An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.
Warning you guys now, it is impossible to go into this movie without expectations. Some will look at the concept on paper and write it off, watching only because it is a Marvel film. Others walk in humming the soundtrack, having memorized every line from the trailers. Try as I might—I do feel it’s my duty to present an unbiased review—I ended up being in the latter category. With absolutely no regrets once the first song poured from the theater speakers.
Unlike just about every other sci-fi action film, Guardians begins on a somber note—the death of Quill’s ailing mother. In his anguish, he runs outside to mourn without his family’s eyes on him. And in the process gets himself zapped onto an alien ship. The opening sequence said more about the Quill character than any of the numerous trailers, internet memes, and interviews combined. Going dark out the gate was a brave move. Movie-goers typically don’t like to cry in the first five minutes.
From there, the film jumps ahead to an adult Quill on a job to steal something. He has a certain . . . style to how he works. Which includes his trusty Walkman, good tunes, and using an alien-rat-thing that wants to eat his face off as a microphone. Sounds reasonable. Right? Hey, he got the job done. With one small, itty bitty, miniscule hiccup—henchmen from the Big Bad, Ronan the Accuser, show up to also steal the Orb Quill’s after. Oops. They should’ve checked the Thieves ‘R Us message board. That’s almost as bad as wearing the same battlesuit to a blaster fight.
ZSC brigadiers will recognize one devilish blue face amongst the Ravagers. Our very own Special Forces Commander Michael Rooker plays Yondu, Quill’s somewhat adoptive (reluctantly) father. Yondu isn’t a straight forward bad guy. Or a good guy. He’s a Yondu guy—liking whatever gets him what he wants, when he wants it, and with the largest paycheck at the end. Yet he’s got a soft spot for this kid he scooped up from Earth. Though if ever asked, it’s doubtful Yondu would admit to having a fondness for Quill at all. Ever.
The whole movie is bananas. A series of almost-fatal mishaps for Quill, who somehow wiggles free at the last moment. Usually with help from a group of people who tried to kick his backside across the galaxy the first time they met him. And thank goodness they decided to pick on him. The mix of Rocket, Gamora, Drax, and Groot is pure cinematic hilarity. How they managed to fly a space ship, let alone mastermind these hastily slapped together, and yet daring, save-the-galaxy plans astounds everyone.
Guardians is a road trip. Filled with good music, intelligent (most of the time) jokes, a lot of fighting, and a few figurative flat tires. But when you reach the final destination, it doesn’t feel like the end. The bond between the characters makes viewers want to hop in the car and drive anywhere with them again.
Luckily Marvel realized the goldmine it funded and announced at San Diego Comic-Con (a week before Guardians actually opened to the public) that Quill and company would be back for a second installment July 2017.
But, really, can we wait that long? I’m not sure I can even wait to see this film again, let alone wait three years for another masterfully directed film from James Gunn.