4 ½ stars.
There would have been many anxious minds over the course of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY’s production these last couple of years. Studio executives concerned about their most peculiar and unrecognizable property ever, knowing they couldn’t simply reply on smearing the title alone across their marketing campaign (ala Iron Man) to get audiences’ attention (and dollars); comic book fans gravely worried that bringing such a beloved property to mainstream cinema would strip it of everything that made it great. After what seemed like an eternity in waiting and the most forward and far-reaching marketing campaign for a Marvel film so far, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY finally completed its intergalactic journey and touched down on Earth – and it is by far the greatest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is directed by James Gunn (Slither, Super) and stars an ensemble cast including Chris Pratt (TV’s Parks and Recreation, Her, Moneyball), Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek), Dave Bautista (Riddick), Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious 6), and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hangover), as the titular Guardians of the Galaxy.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is an absolute marvel to behold (not even sorry for the pun). The visual effects are above and beyond any previous MCU film; in fact they are the best for any film so far this year. You will constantly be astounded every single time Rocket and Groot appear on screen, and the world around the characters is intricately designed and beautifully rendered. Every crevice and boundary that this universe expands out to has had the utmost attention given to it, and it proves to be one of the most fully realized worlds yet still has so much left to be explored.
It is a smooth flow of riotous comedy, heartfelt drama and sci-fi action. It perfectly balances its elements into one of the most cohesive comic book films ever. Neither the comedy, nor the drama, nor the action get in the way of each other – all exist in perfect harmony.
The casting is, dare one say it, perfect. Chris Pratt brings an effervescent juvenility to Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord, but also proves he has the gravitas to make Star-Lord a believable and most importantly respectable hero. Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista both give solid and memorable performances as Gamora and Drax The Destroyer respectively, the former being a reputable foil to Pratt’s Star-Lord and the latter providing some unexpected (but brilliant) comedic moments despite being the relentlessly intimidating and stern warrior of the pack.
Bradley Cooper’s and Vin Diesel’s voice-work as Rocket and Groot respectively is outstanding, with scenes featuring the two of them proving to be some of the best of the film. Combined with wonderfully detailed animation, you will never be as emotionally connected to a genetically engineered raccoon and a sentient tree-person as you are in this film. The two provide the film’s funniest moments, as well as some of the most heartfelt.
Much as been done to make GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as relatable as possible. The soundtrack gives it a retro and nostalgic vibe, the pop cultural references are wonderfully witty and seamlessly inserted, and the values demonstrated are abundantly human. These are characters an audience can root for and understand, and at its core the story is about hope, belonging, finding purpose and being true to oneself.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the most fun a Marvel movie has ever been, right up until the final frame. More than that, it’s one of the most enthusiastically earnest comic book movies ever. Nearly faultless, it is an extraordinary display of passionately zany filmmaking, and it shows much promise for a film franchise that was showing keen signs of fatigue before this year.
REVIEWER: David Thomas Williams.