Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — Marvel’s Weirdest Team in Marvel’s Strongest Movie


Space Avengers.

Space Avengers.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is directed by James Gunn (Slither, Super) and co-written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman. In a departure from the highly interconnected, Earth-bound Marvel Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in a galaxy far, far away (hmmm). Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, a massive departure from Parks and Recreation) aka Star-Lord, was abducted as a child by a group of inter-galactic marauders and has since grown up as a thief and rogue. When Quill discovers an ancient orb on a desolate planet, he finds himself in the crosshairs of Kree warrior Ronan (Lee Pace), who is also after the artefact. In his journey Quill encounters Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin who looks to redeem her nefarious past; Drax (former WWE Champion Dave Bautista), looking to avenge the death of his family at the hands of Thanos (that big guy at the end of The Avengers!); Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon with a penchant for weaponry; and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a hulking, anthropomorphic tree and companion of Rocket. Quill must tag with this renegade group of extraterrestrial fugitives to outrun Ronan and his subordinates who are in pursuit of the orb, which holds one of the powerful Infinity Stones and the capability to destroy the galaxy.

The strong point of this film is the outlandish cast of characters. Each character has different backgrounds and different motivations, and the greatest moments come when they are interacting with each other — both clashing and bonding. The humour is never cheap either; there is never a moment where you are laughing at Rocket just because he’s a raccoon. On the contrary, Rocket is initially established as a no-nonsense, sarcastic badass, and the humour comes from the fact that he actually doesn’t realise he’s a raccoon. That’s great scripting, because the character of Rocket is established without a mention of raccoon, that point comes up naturally in the dialogue. Another great character trait belongs to Drax, as his people do not understanding metaphors, this creates some great comic banter between himself and the sassy Quill. GOTG has a level of entertaining character interactions and dialogue on par with The Avengers.

Reminds me of the Batista/Mysterio tag-team.

Reminds me of the Batista/Rey Mysterio tag-team.

The thing that Gunn balances perfectly is the film’s tone. It’s action packed, with plenty of large set-pieces that are very exciting, and more importantly, competently shot and well paced. Because of the lively cast of characters, you might think that it’s all fun and games, but each individual has a backstory with just the right amount of pathos that endears you and creates depth without becoming melodramatic. Action, humour, characters, and the right amount of drama? That’s a recipe for the perfect blockbuster!

One issue I do have with the film — and this is an issue that has plagued many of the Marvel Studios films — is the plot is pretty generic and boils down to nothing more than ‘stop the bad guy from getting/using the MacGuffin‘, which normally comes in the form of a mystical weapon or artefact. I understand that Marvel appears to be building these individual artefacts as the eventual Infinity Stones that will drive the arc of Thanos in The Avengers 3, but it’s hard to not be critical of these plots which are so consistently generic. Marvel appears to be self-aware — at least in this instance — when Quill quips that the orb in this film has a ‘Arc of the Covenant‘ or ‘Maltese Falcon‘ vibe (two very famous MacGuffins), but surely they can make these less homogeneous. I guess that they are based on comic books, and this is what comic books are, but I would hate for it to get stale.

The soundtrack for GOTG is pretty inspired. As Peter Quill was taken from earth in the 80’s, the tape in his Walkman — labelled Awesome Mix Vol.1, and made for him by his dying mother — is full of cheesy hits from the 70’s and 80’s. Most of the songs are of a poppy variety, and are used in the film as a juxtaposition against desolate landscapes and furious action scenes. The cover to the soundtrack CD even looks like this:



The greatest achievement of GOTG is that Gunn has taken these obscure characters and through the course of the film has made them some of our favourites in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This movie was a big risk for Marvel Studios, with a $170 million investment on characters with very little public recognition in a high-concept film with an offbeat, wacky tone. Guardians of the Galaxy was a disaster in the making but fortunately the film is doing great numbers globally and a sequel has already been announced. This is a success for unique filmmaking, a success for risky franchises, and a massive success for Marvel Studios; a company which is now clearly a brand which doesn’t need to rely on star-power or even popular characters.

Llama Score: 9Guardians of the Galaxy is amazing. It’s a perfect example that big blockbusters and superhero movies don’t need to be bogged down in dark and gritty origin stories. This is just a perfect, fun movie, filled with plenty of memorable characters, fantastic humour, and a great dose of action. This could potentially be the Star Wars of a new generation — one that happens to be in the Marvel Universe. 


Award: Golden LlamaAward: Stan WinstonAward: RecycleAward: Fury

Highlights Banner

– Rocket is by far the film’s bright spot. What an incredible character.

– Dave Bautista’s Drax is surprisingly entertaining, too. The big guy is amazing.

Lowlights Banner

– I don’t think Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is thin on character, she just is eclipsed by the rest of the terrific ensemble.

– Drax never whips out a Batista Bomb. Boo-tista!

Further Viewing Banner

– The Avengers

– Thor: The Dark World

– Star Wars

Cool Guardians of the Galaxy merch available on Amazon

Directed by: James Gunn Written by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman Produced by: Kevin Feige Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Run length: 122 minutes Australian Release: Out now in theatres


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