TL;DR: I am Groot. I am Groot, I am Groot… I am Groot.
After having taken a hiatus from superhero films after the atrocity that was “Man of Steel” I felt James Gunn’s latest, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, was a perfect opportunity to swan dive back into the comic book multiverse.
Brandishing some less widely known characters (I only knew Rocket from MVC3) from a more comical comic book series, Guardians of the Galaxy does an excellent job in presenting most of them to the audience but compromises a little in its scripting and universe establishment across the entire film; definitely a launch pad for sequel success.
One of the first scenes, Chris Pratt’s masked Star-Lord gaily strolling through a reptilian ridden wasteland to “Hooked on a Feeling” peeled back the critical barriers I subconsciously erected in order to pick holes in the film. The film doesn’t ask any questions of its audience, it’s pleasantly unimposing, all it wants is that you let yourself be swept away and enjoy the view as you go; a pre-requisite I was happy to conform to along with the rest of the theatre.
The characters carry the film 100%. Without the snappy lines of dialogue from Star-Lord, Rocket and well, excellent delivery of the one line from Groot, GotG would fall flat on Drax and Gamora’s poorly written, uninteresting faces. Literally, Drax and Gamora had about 3 cool moments between them whereas our other protagonists had about 20 each; it felt like the writers didn’t have enough time to write them in properly. I understand their backgrounds are vengeful and darker but unfortunately between their bouts of complaining about our uninspired villain and Drax being smashed around for half the film when he’s meant to be strong I just stopped caring. They look cool, I’ll give them that.
The other 3 though, damn. Pratt is so hot right now. I liked the bad-boy, pseudo-responsible Captain Kirk vibe he emitted throughout the film. Bradley Cooper should continue voice acting on projects where his characters are so awesome. I always thought Vin Diesel’s acting was wooden so he grew well into Groot’s roots and… stop. No more. Groot is excellent though which begs the question why the writers can make a monosyllabic tree likeable yet not do anything for Gamora or Drax? Maybe it’s a source material thing and they are developed more in the sequel? I can’t say, I don’t know much about this particular universe. There are a lot of jokes and cool one-liners, though there’s also a lot of self-aware cheesiness. There’s a scene where they all stand up and confirm that they are indeed friends and that they are willing to fight and die together which is great for us otherwise the film and their existence would end pretty early. Rocket then points out that they all look like idiots standing up for no real reason, this felt a bit like how in “22 Jump Street” it’s pointed out that they have “to do the same thing over again…”, is this forth-wall break style audience mind-reading a thing now? To me it feels cheap and lazy.
Visually, GotG is excellent. From the animation of Rocket Raccoon to desktop wallpaper worthy wide space vistas there was not an effect that felt particularly out of place or inappropriate from a storytelling perspective (something many films do not achieve, I’m looking at you “The Hobbit”) which kept the film concise and free from unnecessary distraction. The action sequences are exciting, maybe even gripping, using each characters strengths and weaknesses cohesively and innovatively as they work as a team. The extras are really great too, the creatures in the background of the jail sequence I thought looked like what you’d get if you tipped half the MIB office into that bar in Verhoeven’s “Total Recall”.
Overall, I do think the film felt more like an amusement park ride through the universe than a deep sea dive into it but what do you expect for a film essentially trying to pitch itself for a sequel to people that already love Marvel movies. It’ll stay with me considerably longer than Man of Steel, that’s for sure but I’ve already forgotten every single place name and half the characters.
Better than most of its kind, 7.6/10.