- Cinematography Was Ridiculous
- The CGI is Barely Noticeable
- Good Lord, the Music.
- Team Formations Felt Rushed
- These Percentage Sliders Only Go to 100
Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those movies that comes along once in a while that defies expectations and shakes the foundation of the genre in which it falls. As a fan of the previous Marvel movies (Howard the Duck included), I knew what to expect. Spectacle, big action set pieces, over the top personalities and fighting that is more like a careful dance than a down and dirty brawl. I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, but I will reference specific points in the movie, cryptically, throughout the review.
I Was Tricked
As soon as the movie started I knew what to expect in a way. The origin story of the boy Peter Quill and how he became Star Lord. Then it all changed. The movie went from the traditional over the top super hero in your face and down your throat edit-fest to more of a traditional Disney animated film. Not in look, but in tone.
I may have been made famous as the one person sitting in the theater who was clapping and laughing at the timing implemented for the Guardians of the Galaxy title (you will know what I mean when you see it). Once the title screen faded out, I was greeted by trailer scene after trailer scene. I was actually getting a little bored at the start as most of the trailers were based off the first part of the movie. Fortunately, that faded quickly and I was drawn in to something that was more of a character study than a comic book movie.
That is not to say there was a lack of action and comic book themed sequences. But, the movie was more of a look at the characters, how they changed over the course of the film, and how they all came together. I actually feel more connected to these characters after seeing them on screen for just 2 hours than I do for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters that I have watched for hours over multiple movies.
There is no denying that this movie was a foundation for a hopefully long running series. More time was spent on letting the characters grow than any other aspect of the story. With that said, the backstories of all but Star Lord were handled in small snippets adding up to maybe a minute or two for each character over the course of the movie.
To make things even more enjoyable, I never noticed that Rocket Raccoon or Groot were CGI characters. Things were handled in such a natural fashion that they felt like real “people” that came to Earth for a short time to make the movie. Groot in particular stood out as he said so much with such a small vocabulary. His eyes, movements and minor facial adjustments spoke so much about what he meant that you started to understand him as well as Rocket.
Bringing the characters together felt a tad bit rushed, but it added a nice tension to the film. As this is a group of outlaws, murderers, assassin’s and thieves, you never knew if someone had a different motive. I personally have not read the comics so I knew little of what to expect. I wanted to keep it that way as things were different for the rest of the Marvel movies. Going back and researching some of the side characters actually gave me a good chuckle when one particular character showed up for just a moment. I actually recognized the character but wasn’t sure from where and when I learned who the character was I was laughing a great deal. (This character is also part of the after credits scene).
For 80’s Kids
Peter Quill grew up in the 80s on Earth. The movie embraces this in such a huge way that any 30-somethings are going to likely feel like they are back in their childhood all over again. The greatest thing about these references are that they are all organic. A missile command sequence happens that, from those I spoke to so far, was only noticed by me.
All through the movie you will catch minor references to all things popular in the 80s, but not in the way you would expect. You will see them, even if they aren’t there. I look more forward to going back and watching the movie again to see what I missed than any film I’ve seen in ages.
This Should Change How Soundtracks Are Done
The soundtrack was included in the first draft of the film according to Vin Diesel on Jimmy Fallon. It shows. The music is such a huge part of the film that there is no way that it was not intended to be where it was, when it was, as the song that it was.
What makes the soundtrack even more impressive is its importance to the movie. Not to us, but to those in the movie. I won’t say much about this point other than the fact that sequels have a high bar to reach.
The Action Is Unlike Other Comic Movies
On the ground, the characters fight in a much more realistic way. Get past the idea of a talking raccoon and his giant tree like best friend, and it is almost human in nature. Where the Avengers fight like dancers with carefully choreographed action sequences, the Guardians fight like bull dogs trying to survive. They mess up, they are rarely elegant and it all feels much more real because of it. What really excites me about this is the future team ups. When you have the raw, realistic style of the Guardians mixing with the elegant dance that the Avengers put on, the differences in the two teams is going to be that much more clear.
In space (this is the Galaxy part) the fights feel like a testing ground for Disney’s upcoming Star Wars films. I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching a scene from the early trilogy, but not in a bad way. The fighters, in their various ships, all take part in an overall strategy and work as a team to accomplish goals. Just as Luke and the Rebels did, these misfits come together to fight in a way that makes you realize that they are more trained in ships than in fisticuffs. The movie made this clear in the difference of elegant space battles (though raw and destructive still) placed near fights on foot where things never seemed to go as planned
The Big Bad
One thing that some viewers may miss is an overarching bad guy that is the obvious point of contention. The movie is much more compartmentalized in how struggles are handled. The first 2/3rds of the movie gives you little indication to the bigger plot happening (it is there in places) and spends more time figuring out how the team is going to form an alliance that will span the course of multiple films. This is handled through a series of constant struggles that characters will face and it is all done in a mature and respectable manner. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal of humor through the movie. I laughed more than most, but you would think a comedy was playing instead of an action/comic film if you were outside the doors.
Once the big bad does show their face things get serious. Again, everything is much more raw and lacking the polish that the Avengers enjoy in their own set pieces. With that said, the bad side is interesting and never comes off as evil just to be evil. The bad guys come off as those with a different view of how things should play out. Obviously, the view is not shared by the Guardians or the audience, but it is not so black and white as aliens trying to destroy New York.
Nearly Every Shot Is a Painting
The movie is so full of amazing shots that I kept hitting my wife and saying “Damn….” throughout the entire. Many shots look like they are straight from a comic book (and many are). The way each shot is framed is so epic and beautiful that a new bar has been set for future comic based movies to come. While I think Man of Steel did a fantastic job at making the hero look like a comic book hero, Guardians of the Galaxy outdid the movie on a number of occasions. I’m not sure I’ve seen such a visually stunning piece of art before. If so, it is currently being hidden behind the constant stream of my brain playing back every image from Guardians.
This is a movie that I would pay to see multiple times in the theaters. This is a movie that I will buy on Blu-Ray the day it launches, then again when the remastered version comes out, then when the collector’s edition comes out and so forth. I have never felt that I underpaid for a film, but this time I may have just done that. This is a wonderful, beautiful and engaging movie unlike anything you would ever expect.