Guardians of the Galaxy, first and foremost, should now be seen as the gold standard for origins stories. And we’re not just talking superhero movies, but in all cases where characters are being introduced that are completely foreign to a vast audience. Director James Gunn has done a masterful and pitch-perfect job opening up the new-to-the-masses world of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Chris Pratt stars as Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, and as the film begins he is just a boy. After going through something tragic, he is picked up by an alien ship and jetted off to space. His only possession is a Walkman with a mix tape from his mother.
We immediately meet him again as a grown man and he has been raised by Yondu (Michael Rooker) to be quite the hellion. As seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer, he gets into trouble and winds up sharing a prison cell with four other misfits. We meet Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a woman raised by the evil Ronan the Accuser, who is a highly trained assassin and not what she seems on the outside.
There’s Drax (Dave Bautista), who has been crossing the galaxy trying to find Ronan to kill him for wiping out his family. Then, there’s Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his muscle, the tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). It is fate that brought them together, because Ronan has plans to bring war to the galaxy and only these five can stop it.
You would think a talking raccoon and a CG tree that only says three words ("I am Groot") might hold back this fast moving story. You’d be so wrong, and in fact, they may be the best things about the film. But then again, there is nothing but greatness in this movie.
Gunn co-wrote a world that is teeming with life and otherworldly beings, but at its heart it’s a story about a group of outcasts who find their greatness once they find each other. It is a stunning and powerful film that also does not forget to have a whole lot of fun.
Pratt is astounding as their leader and shows off some real chops. Yet, his trademark sense of humor is never far behind and that fits perfectly with the DNA of Quill from the comics. Saldana is as fierce as ever and we cannot say enough about the subtle power emitted by Bautista as Drax. This is not a character that is merely the muscle. There is an emotional undercurrent to Bautista’s characterization that only enhances the entire film’s journey.
You will not recognize Cooper or Diesel by their voice performances and that is why they are so brilliantly sublime.
Like Chewbacca in the Star Wars series, Groot essentially does not talk, but he does communicate. Diesel only delivers the three words I am Groot throughout the film, and even though we don’t know literally what he is saying -- like Chewie -- we know what message he’s trying to get across.
Cooper, on the other hand, is beyond articulate and makes us forget completely that there is a talking raccoon kicking ass on the screen. He is a living, breathing and complicated character that we would follow to the ends of the galaxy.
Then, we could not conclude our Guardians of the Galaxy review without mentioning the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. As we mentioned earlier, that mix tape of Quill’s is his only possession and his emotional connection to a world and people he will never see again. It also is the soundtrack to our movie and Gunn does more than just utilize the dozen or so tracks on that mix tape as a way to enter or leave a scene.
In fact, the songs are incorporated into the storytelling and never come out of left field. We guarantee you’ll be singing them all week.
Guardians of the Galaxy is one heck of a ride that recalls the same elements that made Star Wars so iconic. Yup, we went there. It is that good.