Media Reviews: Guardians of the Galaxy

Liz Latta and Liz Latta

Grade: B+

When Marvel announced at the 2012 Comic-Con that they were adapting “Guardians of the Galaxy” to the big screen, very few people knew what to expect. After the success of “The Avengers,” the third-highest-grossing film of all time, Marvel and Disney chose to make a film about a group of anti-heroes featuring C- and D-List characters. The risk paid off.

Instead of the typical superhero story, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (directed by James Gunn) is more like a space opera. Think “Star Wars” with edgier characters. Earth has a brief cameo at the beginning, and the rest of the movie is set on various planets throughout the galaxy.

The Avengers make no appearance at all. Instead, we are introduced to a group of anti-heroes, forced into each other’s company by chance rather than choice. Leading the Guardians is Peter Quill, aka “Star-Lord” (Chris Pratt from “Parks and Recreation”). Kidnapped from Earth right after his mother dies of cancer, Quill holds on to some Earth ways (the film is packed with pop culture references as well as a terrific soundtrack comprised of ‘70s and ‘80s pop songs) as well as adapting to alien technology. When we see him as an adult, dancing and lip-syncing to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” as the main titles appear, it becomes clear that this film will be packed with humor as well as heart.

Near the beginning of the movie, Quill steals a mysterious orb at the same time that thugs working for Ronan the Accuser try to steal it. Ronan (Lee Pace), the main villain of “Guardians,” is an alien bent on destroying planets who have wronged him, and needs what is inside the orb to do so. He sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana, who went for green make-up this time instead of the digitally animated blue in Avatar) to retrieve it for him, not knowing that she plans to double-cross him to atone for her sins as an assassin.

Quill and Gamora eventually meet up with the rest of the gang in an alien prison. Drax (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista) plots to avenge his wife and family, killed by Ronan. Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a genetically enhanced wise-cracking raccoon accompanied by Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a sentient tree—yes, a sentient tree—who only communicates with the phrase “I am Groot.” It’s up to this band of misfits to save the galaxy before Ronan can destroy it.

“Guardians” is Marvel’s tenth film in their cinematic universe, wedged between the dark “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which is rumored to be much darker than its predecessor. “Guardians” is a breath of fresh air between the two films, focusing more on comedy over serious issues. The only ties the movie has to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are The Collector (played by Benicio Del Toro) and Thanos (Josh Brolin), but their parts are small enough to not need to see the other films. Groot and Rocket steal the film, which is really something, considering that both are computer-animated characters.

The movie is not without faults. Ronan feels more like a “villain of the week” character, serving as a number two to the more villainous Thanos. Supporting roles played by John C. Reilly, Karen Gillan, and Glenn Close are much too small, but they are probably being saved for the sequel (out in 2017). The 3-D is good, but nothing to rave about.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a fun space romp that can be seen as a stand-alone film rather than part of the growing cinematic universe that Marvel has planned. With interesting characters, a killer soundtrack, and a great redemption story, “Guardians” proves itself as something not to be overlooked.