Hey Nerdpocalypse faithful, I'm Tim, one of the hosts of the new Mouthful of Toast podcast for anime and manga fans. I'll be posting reviews here every once in a while, so I hope you enjoy!
Let me preface this review with two details: 1) Despite being under the Nerdpocalypse banner, I have never read a single issue of anything Guardians of the Galaxy related. <insert comments about me not being a real nerd here> This review will not reflect whether or not Guardians was accurate to the source material. 2) Typically there’s a post credits scene, aka “stinger,” for the next Marvel film. This screening did not have one. This either means there’s no scene or there’s a major scene that they did not want leaked before the movie comes out. Definitely stay after the credits just in case.
When the first trailer aired, many wondered if Marvel could work its magic on one of their lesser known properties. Director James Gunn has a mediocre filmography at best, so my expectations were low. Personally, I thought the trailer was a bizarre Parks and Rec spin-off with Chris Pratt’s character taking over a new space division of Pawnee government. Despite odd first impressions, this film proves Marvel Studios is capable of tackling anything it wants. Guardians shows how the key to a great movie experience is simply treating the script with the right attitude, in this case, with a tongue in cheek version of their proven formula.
Young Peter Quill is abducted by aliens and we fast forward to him (Chris Pratt) as a spacefaring scoundrel looking for loot. He finds an ancient orb that will fetch a high price, but as it turns out, everyone in the galaxy wants this orb. The rest of the team is introduced through various fights in the span of half an hour as we zoom through five locations showcasing all of the quickly unfolding intergalactic drama. The pace is dizzying at first, but once the initial setup is over, scenes get more time to breathe (just don’t take any bathroom breaks). There’s plenty more to tell about the story, but moving into the second half is where there’s some nice treats for dedicated Marvel fans and I’d hate to spoil any part of that experience.
Chris Pratt delivers a hilarious performance as the self-absorbed Quill. The mostly goofy team is balanced out by Zoe Saldana’s stern take on the living weapon, Gamora, but even she eventually joins in on the silly antics. Groot is easily the most lovable of the crew, due in no small part to Vin Diesel’s impressive and nuanced voice delivery of his one, repeated line. Rocket, played by Bradley Cooper, steals the show with some of the best quips Guardians has to offer. Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer provides another angle of comic relief and works well as the team’s bruiser.
Seeing this movie in 3-D was a surprising treat, considering the last movie I bothered to watched in 3-D, Avatar, did nothing to impress me. Certain shots take great advantage of the 3-D to immerse you in scenes, such as one early scene where you feel like you’re spying on Quill from afar behind rocks that pop out in the foreground. The space battles might make you flinch, but don’t close your eyes too long or you’ll miss the incredible CGI.
Guardians runs for about 2 hours, which was surprising for the volume of material presented. Extending the run time would have eased the hyperdrive pacing in the beginning, but the movie honestly does not suffer too much from it. It’s a welcome relief to have a blockbuster not clock in at 3 hours or more. Some consider Guardians to be kid-friendly, but the humor is raunchy and phallic enough to place it somewhere in an older teen demographic.
Let’s be clear; this is not a grand space opera. The plot is merely a vehicle to get us from one cool action sequence to another. For the purposes of this film, it works. The amount of style and humor oozing from this movie make it very easy to overlook the simple teambuilder storyline and Macguffiin orb. The soundtrack elevates this movie from the usual superhero romp to a galactic groovefest. Guardians feels like the lovechild of the Avengers and Spaceballs with a dash of I Love the 80s.
Overall, Guardians shines bright at the end of the summer blockbuster season. Whether it was Marvel guiding James Gunn that lead him to movie gold or if all he needed was the right script, but all of my expectations of his directing were shattered. Concerns about pacing don’t detract from the sheer amount of fun you’ll have the entire time. Guardians doesn't pretend to be an epic; it's the story of unconventional heroes banding together and having a really good time.
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