Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air from Marvel Studios, and one-ups it’s competitors in countless ways.

There is no way to deny the cinematic presence of Marvel Studios in recent years. From Iron Man to Captain America, and the accumulative The Avengers, they have in more ways than one, redefined the “comic book movie” over the past few years. Their latest addition is also their most absurd, but Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds brilliantly.

Earth, 1988; A young boy sits alone in a hospital corridor, clinging to his walkman, as a man comes out to get him. They enter a room, and a few seconds later, the boy stands bedside as his mother passes away as a result of cancer. He runs outside, tears and emotions controlling his steps, just before a spaceship beams him aboard, and – per definition – kidnaps him. Years later, we meet him again as he plunders a desolated planet. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is his name, though he would like to be called Star-Lord, and a few minutes in to the movie, he has in his possession, an object that the super evil, Ronan (Lee Pace) wants. Thus – in true Marvel fashion – the story is kickstarted.

Quill tries to sell his loot, but it doesn’t take long for other parties to get interested. This is how he meets the group of misfits that soon will be known as, The Guardians of the Galaxy. The dangerous assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), with an adoptive father no one wants. A raccoon called, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) – most likely named after his affection for firing rockets – and his friend, the talking three, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Last, but not least, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who is as menacing as the name would suggest. They have to, somewhat reluctantly, band together to fight Ronan and stop him from destroying a planet – and probably taking over the galaxy.

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Directed by James Gunn, the movie goes above and beyond when it comes to adapting a comic book. They know how ridiculous the concept and story is, but unlike so many others who have come before them, their passion and love shines through in every scene. The opening credits is a musical epic, where the soundtrack is formed by Quills walkman, and within a few minutes, Guardians of the Galaxy has set the tone for the rest of the movie.

Every Marvel movie is funny, to some extent. Wether it’s Robert Downey Jr’ Tony Stark in Iron Man, or Captain Americas naiveté about the modern world in The Avengers. Yet, they only work as comic relief. A simple and easy way to get a laugh out of the audience, and while Joss Whedon did a fantastic job with his movie, the same can not be said for everyone else. Kat Dennings character in the Thor movies is a direct insult to the audiences intelligence, and becomes counterproductive to the design of the character. Here, in Guardians of the Galaxy, every (main) character is funny and well written. They feel real within the confines of the movies universe, and never fall off track. This is a testament to the dedication of both James Gunn as the director, but also the actors. There is a layer of comedy, or self awareness, that can’t be rivalled by any other Marvel movie, but it’s done with a touch of brilliance.

Only one or two scenes feel like they are part of the typical Hollywood checklist, but even these are made fun of within the movie. It only panders once, and although this particular scene is painfully clichéd (it involves a hand towards the end of the movie), it makes sense within the story. The comedy doesn’t look down upon it’s audience, as brainless halfwits, but celebrates pop culture and more with perfect timing. To say the inside of your spaceship would look like a Jackson Pollock paining in the right light, is one example of this. It would seem Marvel have granted Gunn and co-writer, Nicole Perlman, more freedom when it comes to exploring comedy, because they step over some boundaries that has been set by others.

It’s also bright. Bright and colorfull beyond any other super hero movie since, we’ll, maybe ever. Even in it’s darkest scenes – inside a black spaceship – there are always popping colors. Gamora’s green skin comes alive in contrast to her surroundings, which consists of pink, orange, blue, yellow and a constant stream of other colors. A purple explosion throws our characters through the air, and lights up the dark cinema in a way comic book movies have never dared before. Where X-Men shy away from Wolverines original yellow/blue jumpsuit, Guardians of the Galaxy, is eye candy all day long. While it may mean most in terms of cinematic aesthetics, it also proves a point to Hollywood, which is that not everything needs to be dark and gritty, even though it worked for Christopher Nolan’s, The Dark Knight trilogy. Instead of airbrushing every scene with a sepia filter, James Gunn and his team turn the contrast up, without it ever being too much. Now, it is easier to do in a space opera – which this movie is – but it still works as a testament I hope directors take note of.

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Speaking of space opera, James Gunn has also done something we can only compare to the original Star Wars trilogy, when it comes to space travel. It all feels cohesive and coherent when our heroes travel from planet to planet, which is incredible considering some of the places they visit.

Because of all this, Guardians of the Galaxy is not only the funniest Marvel movie to date, it also feels a lot more inspired than the rest. It’s not a testament to the lack of quality in the other movies, but rather an enhancement of their quality. None of the previous Marvel movies are bad, but some of them lack qualities here and there, and this is addressed in this one.

The movie is an incarnation of a counterargument I’ve been looking for, when talking about summer blockbusters. We are told to turn off our brains, and accept the faults because it’s an action/comedy, yet, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the funniest, most explosive and nostalgic movies I have ever seen, and it never disrespects it’s audience by telling it to stop thinking, it just is pure unadulterated fun.

 

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