Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
By Floyd Rock
After the opening of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy details the small beginnings of the movie’s central character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the picture moves along to Quill, older and decked out in his space rogue attire, about to pilfer the contents of some ancient alien ruins. With a cool, carefree swagger he slides the headphones of his trusty Walkman cassette player over his ears and Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ blasts through the cinema. As Quill dances to the music across the planet’s surface the movie’s title splashes across the screen in big bold text. This sequence foreshadows what Guardians of the Galaxy has in store for its audience; a brash, freewheeling, groovy journey and one hell of a good time.
In these damp ruins Quill, having given himself the space outlaw moniker Star-Lord, finds a mysterious orb, an artifact later revealed to hold a stone of great power that sets the adventure in motion. When Quill shirks the demands of his former group of rogues, the Ravagers, he becomes the target of two bounty hunters, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified raccoon and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), an alien tree creature that can only utter three words. A third party, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin with great skill and infamy and the adopted daughter of the tyrant Thanos (Josh Brolin), is ordered to retrieve the stone from Quill for Ronan (Lee Pace), a powerful fanatic with a deep-seated grudge against the people of Xandar, a planet for which his Kree empire has a treaty. A skirmish on Xandar between Quill and the two parties following him leads to everyone being arrested and incarcerated in an alien prison, the Kyln. It is here where Quill learns of Gamora’s decision to defy Ronan and meets Drax (Dave Bautista), a man with his own personal grudge against Ronan and Thanos, holding them responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. When the five of them decide to work together to escape the Kyln they form the first loose bonds of an unlikely team of misfits destined to defy Ronan and defend the galaxy.
Initially it sounds like a lot to process, with multiple character backgrounds and agendas, alien races, and even planetary conflicts but the exposition largely works, mostly assisted by being delivered in small straight forward doses for the movie’s main cast and carried by its irreverent sense of humor. Perhaps the movie’s biggest strength is its cast of broken, misfit characters. The Guardians themselves are a collection of outcasts, orphans, and oddities. Rocket and Groot in particular are sure to become crowd favorites. Rocket’s prankster disposition and smart-ass remarks represent the movie’s comedic style wonderfully which make its typical narrative template a whole lot more digestible and help it stay a breezy enjoyable endeavor. Just as Rocket represents the picture’s witty sarcastic side, Groot is definitely its heart. Though many of Guardians of the Galaxy’s best moments are comedic gags and dialogue exchanges some of its most touching moments strangely enough come from the team’s oddest member. Moments like Groot sprouting a single flower and giving it to a small girl show that there are more than just sarcastic one-liners in this summer blockbuster.
Not just Groot, but all the Guardians eventually display a better side. They show that they are more than just an amoral raccoon, and assassin, or a lost man fueled by rage and vengeance. They have honor, integrity, and through their collective support become better individuals as they become heroes. Under all those smart-ass comments, after it lampoons its own action movie clichés, like Quill’s morale rousing speech, it’s still a picture about comradery, about caring. Just simply it’s a movie about giving a shit. In the end its irreverent sense of humor may just be a defense mechanism, because in each other’s company these Guardians wear their hearts on their sleeves and in a cinematic landscape filled with brooding cynicism that just may be the film’s most precious commodity.