What do you call a film that features a sophomoric manchild, an orion slavegirl, a humorless brute, a tree, and a talking racoon? Well, if this was the real world, you’d probably call it Star Trek 13, but since we’re talking about the Marvel Cinema Universe, I guess we’re calling it Guardians of the Galaxy. For anyone living under a rock, the MCU is shaping up to be the largest, most diverse, and most successful movie franchise in history. With GotG as the xth movie (following 3 Ironmans, 2 Captain Americas, 2 Thors, and an Avengers… the two Hulk movies don’t count, do they?) with at least a as many as 18 more on the way before 2020 ends, now that they’re going to a three per year cycle, they definitely taken a page from Steven King school of writing where everything is connected on a fundamental and cosmic level. Which is good, because GotG is out of this world.
I’ve always been a huge fan of sci-fi and the original Guardians comics, which was in many ways Marvel’s answer to the Legion of Superheroes, was always my favorite. Both were set in the far off 30th or 31st century, both featured planetary superpowers… but while the LoS were goody-goody teenagers, the Guardians were a little older, much more rebellious, and just this side of outlaws. Their future wasn’t so bright and shiny as the Legion’s, and it made their rag-tag adventures a little more desperate… much like the difference between Star Trek and Firefly. But that was the original Guardians.
I have to admit, I’d stopped reading Marvel Comics because of Civil War and House of M, so I didn’t read the stories of the new Guardians. To be fair, I might not have read them anyway, feeling somehow that the new imagining was somehow a slight to my childhood. Also, I’m not a fan of Clint Langley’s art (he did the covers) . That meant that, even though I’m a huge comic book nerd, I was approaching the film blind. I’d gone out of my way to avoid spoilers, to the point where the only things I knew going into the theater were that the Guardians were Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Starlord, and Gamora… and I had no idea who the hell Starlord was.
So about the movie… When Marvel announced they were doing a movie with a talking Raccoon, my first thought was “Why Guardians instead of one of their bigger titles?” but I quickly realized that in order for the Infinity Guantlet plotline to play out, they were going to need a more cosmic (i.e. less Earthbound) title and Guardians fit the bill better than a Nova or ROM the Spaceknight film would have and the Fantastic Four weren’t an option, so Silver Surfer was off the table too. Sure, a talking racoon seemed right up Disney’s Mainstreet as it were, but Rocket has always been awesome so I wasn’t going to knock the little fuzzfaced bastard.
The one thing that can make or break a movie without the public ever seeing it is the hype, and the hype that preceeded Guardians was so good as to verge on worship, so I was actually a little nervous going to see it. Surely nothing with hype this… hyper… could possibly live up to it, right? Well… It did. Starlord is a manchild, but with every concievable excuse for being one. Orphaned young, kidnapped and raised by spacepirates, cut off from his homeworld and stuck listening to the same mix tape for decades… it’s amazing he’s as sane as he is… and he really is the sanest of the lot. Drax, a pure literalist, does not get humor and lives only to avenge his slain family. Gamora is as psycho as she is sexy; Rocket is a violent sociopath, left psychologically damaged by the experiments that made him what he is; and Groot is, well, Groot… and the heart of the film. Vinn Diesel has two lines in the entire film, yet between his line readings and some absolutely brilliant animation, a character who should have come off as stiff as a John Wayne audition is the most likable and amusing part of a genuinely likable and amusing film.
It’s not a laugh riot… and it’s not the most accessible film in the franchise. There are a lot of alien races, alien faces, alien terms and really alien costumes. The Badguy’s motivations might seem a little hard to follow, especially if you have no idea who the Kree or the Xandarians are… but most viewers will get that Rohan the Accuser is not a nice guy and that the Nova Corps are essentially Space Police!!!! sorry, can’t even type that without the exclamation points.
If I had to have a complaint about the film… and I guess I do, it’s that John C Reiley didn’t really seem to inhabit his role as Space Cop #2 (Space Cop #1 was played by Glen Close and wow… I could watch an entire feature film of nothing but her barking orders and be happy). He was more “John C Reiley as SPACE COP!” than actually being the character. Maybe that’s me. Maybe JCR is always JCR in the role of X… but I could swear he was more in character in Chicago. Don’t get me wrong. I love JCR… but somehow he wasn’t right and it jarred me a little.
Yet all in all, I loved it. Especially The Collector’s collection, which seems to feature, unless I’m very much mistaken, both Adam Warlock’s coocoon and Mojo’s belly… in addition to Cosmo the Soviet Space Dog and Howard the Duck, of course. Not sure how I feel about the possibility of another Howard movie… but then, this looks like it’s the real, honest, family unfriendly Howard and not the Disneyfied beastiality fest that was the first Howard the Duck film.