Movie Review | Guardians of the Galaxy
Movie summary: A group of intergalactic criminals must pull together to stop a fanatical warrior with plans to purge the universe. (IMDb)
It's a little strange to look back on Guardians of the Galaxy from where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now, with it being the first truly 'cosmic' entry in the on-going sage - despite the efforts of the original Thor, which only really introduced Asgard and Jotunheim on the non-Earth side of things.
Considering just how bananas things ended up getting in the two most recent Avengers movies, in addition to this movie's sequel and Captain Marvel, it's safe to say that this movie had a huge influence in shaping where the MCU went from this point on, being so well-received by audiences and critics alike that the studio felt they could go as 'out there' as they wanted.
Guardians of the Galaxy also puts to bed the lie about it being too difficult to introduce an entire group of characters in a single movie, with practically all of them stealing scenes from each other. It does mean that the antagonists don't get as much time as truly needed to build them up, but you'll be having too much fun to care.
The only real exception to the scene-stealing among the Guardians is Zoe Saldana's Gamora, although this doesn't mean she's lacking in her moments nor does it make her a lesser character than the others. Instead, her reasonable and rational reactions to the insanity around her simply makes the humour hit all that much harder.
Gamora is also the only real one of the group with a proper story arc, being the most heroic and truly 'good' of the bunch. The others may have stronger character development on-screen, rather than Gamora's change of heart which happened before the movie starts, but I don't think it would work as well without Gamora acting as the measuring stick for the others.
A thankless role for the only woman in the group? Maybe, but I think it also places her as the most important piece of the puzzle, much like Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa in Black Panther - their more restrained performances act as an anchor for the audience, allowing the other performances to rise higher as a result of their efforts.
As for the previously-mentioned antagonists? Well, Thanos is the driving force of everything that happens here, even if he doesn't personally do anything - much like in The Avengers. The real villains here are Ronan the Accuser, Korath the Pursuer and Nebula, daughter of afore-mentioned Mad Titan.
The last of that trio, played by the reliably-incredible Karen Gillan, turns out to be one of the most important and nuanced characters in the MCU, with a key role in defeating her 'father'. Gillan is an astonishingly fierce screen presence here, proving why she was fully deserving of the increased screen time she would go on to receive in later movies.
Ronan and Korath are little more than generic villains though, even if Captain Marvel did a little to flesh out their backgrounds. There's still considerable difference between their characters in that movie and this one, but where they start this movie does seem to make it clear that Carol Danvers made good on her threat to Yon-Rogg at the end of that movie - I would definitely watch that movie before this to get a little more out of the characters used here.
Regarding the other Guardians, Rocket and Groot are perhaps the standouts, turning a talking raccoon and his walking tree companion into two of the best-realised full CGI characters in movies today. Cooper's voice performance is especially deserving of praise, being almost unrecognisable as him - which only serves to make Rocket even more of a character of his own.
Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer is also brilliant, being a very violent - if softly-spoken - man who is incapable of understanding metaphors and providing some of the movie's biggest laughs as a result. He's introduced last of the main cast, but never feels like he was short-changed and feels utterly integral by the time the credits roll.
Lastly, there's Chris Pratt's Star Lord, who I have to admit isn't my favourite of the group. That's not to say that he's a bad character at all, but he does occasionally feel a little too shallow to take seriously. Part of that is surely intentional, as he is intended to be pretty much an emotionally-stunted man-child, but his maturity does seem to fluctuate as the plot requires.
There are moments when he makes perfectly intelligent, relevant points about what to do next, then in the next sentence will say something that - while usually still funny - feels a little too stupid to accept as coming from the same character. Pratt's performance is perfect for the role though, regardless of any minor inconsistencies in character behaviour.
Finally, a word for the score - yes, the score and not the soundtrack based around the Awesome Mix. I think Tyler Bates work on the movie is a little under-rated, with the Guardians having a strong theme which is utilised brilliantly in a group shot before Ronan is ultimately dealt with - and one I wished had been used at some point in Infinity War or Endgame.
As a whole, Guardians of the Galaxy is incredibly enjoyable to watch, even if the rather generic villains (at this point in the MCU, at least) stop it being one of the MCU's very best. It's still up there of course, considering just how much this movie does well, and you'd need to have a heart of stone to not have at least a little fun watching this movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy is still as fun today as it was when it was originally released, even if it is yet another origin story - although for a team this time. The characters are incredibly well-written and the chemistry between the cast members borders on the alchemical, making for something truly special. And yes, it also has a soundtrack for the ages - one that is keeping cassettes alive today.