Zac: Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel going full space epic, and James Gunn brings a sense of fun and humor that helps it stand out & above most of their cinematic universe.
Lauren: I’ll agree that it stands out, but above is a strong word.
Zac: Taking place mostly outside of the storyline realm of all of the previous Marvel films, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t responsible to carry on the torch of the story moving towards Avengers: Age of Ultron; even if it is lighting and passing the torch forwards towards Avengers 3.
Following Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord, as he chases down a most desired orb, we see Quill get entangled with a rag tag group of sociopaths who will ultimately become the Guardians of the Galaxy. There is Drax the Destroyer, a homicidal and revenge bent alien who has a grudge against Guardians of the Galaxy’s bad guy, Ronan. Gamora works for Ronan and gets mixed up with Quill when she tries to steal the orb from him. all while Rocket and Groot (an anthropomorphized raccoon and tree, respectively) get entangled in this when they just so happen to try and collect the bounty on Quill at the same time. The group starts on rough footing, yet slowly they learn to work together as the stakes around the fate of the orb grow with each new piece of information.
***SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT***
Zac: Guardians of the Galaxy probably settles in as my third favorite film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is very high praise as it sits right below the excellent Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though, Guardians of the Galaxy feels unlike any of the other Marvel movies. Gunn does a fantastic job with the world building as every system is gorgeously brought to life and populated with countless different types of species and aliens. The film also doesn’t have that “house style” that Marvel has implemented in almost all of their films, and I would say that it is clearly the most gorgeous and visually interesting film yet from the studio, and one of the best of the year. There are some slo-mo shots that will make Zack Snyder swoon, one in particular involving Groot and Rocket escaping and explosion at the Collectors’. Beyond the shots, the galactic imagery is just gorgeous and inspired as Gunn’s camera weaves through a tri-sun formation.
How did you like the world building and what did you think of the characters? Did you know them at all? I didn’t.
Lauren: Did we see the same movie? Countless different types of species and aliens? The world building absolutely sucked.
Sure, there is a raccoon creature created through experimentation of some kind (so technically that doesn’t even count as an alien race) and a tree, but other than that the character design was downright lazy. Long story short, to denote different races actors were just painted different bright colors. There were a bunch of blue people, a green lady (Gamora), some pink people… Oh, and they might also be wearing different contacts to change the normal irises we’re used to. To accessorize? Maybe glue a metallic shape onto some character’s heads to make things even more crazy! Man we’re awesome! [character designers high-five each other]
This movie could definitely take some notes from the Mass Effect series if you ask me. Now that is a great example of world building for a multi alien race universe.
Zac: Totally disagree here. I kept my eyes on the background and noticed tons of different types of aliens; especially in the prison and Yondu’s crew. Yes, there was a lot of different colored humanoids, but Peter Quill was the only straight up human looking guy, everyone else had subtle features and things going on with their faces.
Lauren: What about Glenn Close and John C. Reilly? They look as human as they always do. Matter of fact, their whole police force looks like Earth humans.
Zac: Moving on…
What about the actual worlds? Every new place felt lived in and different to me, I wish we got to see more of this galaxy.
Lauren: I guess I agree? Let’s see… That mined out head was awesome, as was the jail. And I did like the world that Quill’s present day story opened on as well. I will fully commend them on the set design here. But the one planet where a lot of this stuff takes place just looked like a location on Earth. So in this way the world building is pretty comparable to the new Star Trek films (I only specify new because I know nothing about the previous films and series).
Gosh I really don’t know. It’s so hard for me to fully explain this… Here’s my issue: I cannot wrap my head around this being in the same world as the other Marvel films. I know that this is more of a stand alone story, but it is Marvel studios and has been presented as part of the roll out of films within the schedule and continuation of The Avengers, Thor, Captain America, etc. So even if it shouldn’t, my mind wants to bunch these all together. Yet, this has nothing to do with the other films. Sure, Thanos is a connection, but as far as this movie is concerned, Earth doesn’t exist. Matter of fact, the way they talked about Earth in the film actually made it seem as if Earth was just a memory. The dated references are often hilarious, don’t get me wrong, I love me a good Kevin Bacon joke, but they just don’t sit right with me upon reflection.
Long story short: my simplistic mind functions as follows: Wow all of these people (I will specify in the foreground if that makes you more comfortable) look human, this entire intergalactic police force or whatever it is is made up of humans (with no brightly colored faces either), therefore these are Earth humans or are in someway connected. But then this doesn’t add up and I get confused because no one seems to know what is currently going on in our small part of the universe. How do they not know about us! We are super important! Other ethnocentric shouts!
Maybe had this side of the Marvel universe been thrown in earlier before all of the sequels started rolling out in the second wave I could stomach it better (possibly after the aliens of The Avengers), but for now I just find myself uncomfortable with this step by Marvel because until now everything, for the most part, has been largely Earthbound. This is the elephant in the schedule.
Plus when compared with other entries into the entertainment world that share a connection of genre, Guardians just doesn’t reach the same level of success for me. This was supposed to be Firefly mixed with Superheroes, and it mostly succeeds at that, but the failed attempt at creating a more diverse universe (again, I will reference Mass Effect) really threw a wrench in my understanding/interpretation of this world.
Does any of that make sense?
Zac: I mean, yes and no. Thor: The Dark World was the first dip into all of this cosmic stuff, but Guardians of the Galaxy was supposed to be our real introduction to these other worlds and just how much crazy shit is out there. I don’t think any of this stuff (Thanos, the Infinity Stones, the Guardians) is going to matter in Avengers: Age of Ultron next year; Guardians of the Galaxy is a Phase 2 film that is here as mainly a set up for Phase 3. Thanos will be a presence in at least two of the Phase 3 films (Thor 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy 2) and he might pop up in another one or two as well as we head towards his ultimate arrival on Earth for Avengers 3.
So what I am saying is, maybe in 4 years this movie will make a lot more sense to you.
Lauren: Oh, I completely agree with this. I am blaming a lot of my reaction to this film on the schedule of Marvel’s roll-out of films and where it fits in on the calendar of their releases. And when I see where this all goes I very well may change my tune. I sure hope to. Not all of my problems with it can be linked to this, but some for sure, so this is definitely a strong possibility.
Zac: I think the film did a fantastic job of introducing a TON of stuff to the Marvel table and by Avenger 3 in 2018(?) this will all seem rather normal.
But let’s get beyond the world building and out of place feeling. You didn’t like the characters? Or find the film very funny? Or love the Earth music cues? Or like anything? That can’t be true. I mean, Groot!
Lauren: Well the music was from Earth, so of course I take no issue with it 😉 (Emoticons don’t devalue the serious nature of a review, right?)
But overall: Firefly is better… Granted, as you pointed out, it does not have a Groot. He is one tree that I would love to hug.
Once I move past my issues and then see Guardians a second time I really do think that I can come to appreciate the movie more than I do now. The humor (again, sans what I mentioned above) was really great. I loved the references, but even better, the comedic timing of the actors, especially Chris Pratt, was amazing. The unexpected reactions were really where this movie was at its best for me, whether it is thanks to the script, line reading, or combo of both. I can tell you one thing, I sure never expected Star-Lord to start dancing to defeat Ronan. And Drax the Destroyers lack of understanding of metaphors was also a highlight.
Then there was the action and visual effects; boy were those shiny.
Zac: I am agreeing with a lot of what you are saying here, and I particularly liked the effects of Quill grabbing the stone with the rest of the crew, but I do think the action could have been a bit more coherent (hand to hand wise that is; the space battle and jailbreak sequence were both pretty excellent set pieces). Still, I loved the characters and world building so much I didn’t really concern myself with the success of the set pieces, which were, mostly, still quite good.
A couple of other quibbles I have are that many of this excellent ensemble didn’t have enough to do. Everyone was good in their brief moments, but a film that only gives a scene or two to actors like John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, and Glenn Close is a tad disappointing. I was also disappointed that Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, didn’t have a whole lot to do, and I am not even a Whovian. I did love that Michael Rooker was basically the 2nd lead of the movie behind the Guardians, and to be honest, I wish Lee Pace had even more scenery to chew on. His ship was kind of awesome by the way, design and unstoppability wise.
Lauren: I seriously question its ability to fly, but I’ll choose to ignore that.
Zac: I haven’t even touched on the main cast either, who I think are all pretty great to fantastic. Zoe Saldana could have a bit more to do, but she does kick ass really well. You are right about Dave Bautista as Drax, a real surprise and standout here. Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper really steal the show though. They are both hilarious from start to finish; Cooper gives a lot of depth to Rocket and Pratt has the charisma to pull off everything that the film asks of him; which is a lot. I was shocked by some of the lines coming out of their mouths, but I think there is even more to hear as the audience laughed over more than a handful of one-liners.
Though, above everyone, I think Groot takes the cake. Just a fantastic character and creation by everyone involved and a miracle that he works so well up on that screen. Vin Diesel even deserves some props for injecting something you can’t really put your finger on with the many ways he is able to nuance his only line of the film.
Lauren: “I. AM. GROOT!” I’ll agree with this guy being the star in many ways, mostly because of his simplistic nature. He’s part of the Chewy/Solo combo of the Groot/Rocket relationship, so a lot of what he does relies on his relationship with his furry friend. With that said, the tree provided two of my absolute favorite moments, which I’m sure you can figure out. But just in case, here they are: complete decimation of the enemy soldiers by impaling them and whipping them around the room long past their expiration date, only to turn around worth the most childish grin of proud approval. And best of all, his little dance. It was the shawarma of Guardians of the Galaxy. However, pretty sure I will settle on Chris Pratt being my favorite overall.
Zac: Everyone’s motivations are a little easy, and a lot of characters make drastic changes and sacrifices that might be a bit too unbelievable, but the script doesn’t try and act like it is a revelation and all of the actors are so good they can sell this heroes journey the Guardians of the Galaxy are ultimately on. The story may seem a bit familiar, but it is full of so many fun and vibrant moments, nods and confidence I couldn’t help but get swept up into it all.
Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy 2!
Lauren: Indeed. And maybe then they can handle Quill’s childhood abduction better. Throwing a random line in at the end doesn’t do anything to my inability to move past this not being explained at all. Not only that, but it makes it worse. Apparently he was picked up by blue face for Quill’s dad, but then he was never delivered? 20 years have passed and his dad didn’t come to find him? This makes no sense!!!
Zac: Embrace the mystery.
Add it to the long list of frustration.
Zac’s Final Grade: A-
Lauren’s Final Grade: Honestly not sure if I can put a letter to it until I see it again, but I think I will settle into a B once i can accept this as a separate film from the rest of the Marvel stories we have so far and not try to force these worlds together.