Skip to main content

When I first heard that Marvel Studios was working on a new movie titled “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, I didn’t know what to expect, having never read the comic book.  Initially, my mind conjured up a team of fierce warriors who hail from a long lineage of stoic, proud heroes, who take up the mantle of protecting the galaxy….surely a title like that automatically warranted a fitting backstory such as the one just described.  Then, I saw the teaser trailer, which was absolutely nothing like what I expected it to be and I must admit that I did not like what I saw at all: some random human that looks like a cheap Han Solo rip off, a tree character, which looks like an “Ent” reject from the “Lord Of The Rings” movies, some uninspired alien chick with green skin, the obligatory buff dude, who is topless complete with red tats (ooooh how “original”) and a raccoon that was the most visually appealing out of the group, but ultimately clashed with the other characters, seeming to be randomly thrown in “just because”.  I began to feel nervous on Marvel’s behalf – this seemed to be a major departure from the successful formula and more popular characters from Marvel’s vault.  Could it be that they became over-confident with their repeated box office success?  Did they choose a story that was too far on the “nerd scale”, alienating the masses in the process?  How could a project like this get the green light?  Soon enough, critic reviews began to trickle out and I was shocked by the high praise and ratings GOTG received.  Were these people nuts?  Surely, they are describing a different film and somehow got the titles mixed up.  Opening weekend finally arrived and based on the high praise, I decided to give it a chance and check it out with a fellow comic book buddy of mine who had already seen it on preview night.  I emerged from the theater blissfully astonished at how wrong my initial judgement was and have zero hesitation saying that this is one of the best films of the year.

“The combination of new futuristic alien visuals mixed with old classic rock is used throughout the film and serves as a tool for the audience by injecting a dose of familiarity.  You have to experience it for yourself to understand and appreciate how vital this component is to the overall presentation.” 

From the get-go, the creators of GOTG waste no time plunging us into the story.  Without going into too much detail, the opening 5 minutes of the movie was unexpected, conveying an emotional quality of protagonist Peter Quill as a child that I hadn’t experienced since watching the first 5 minutes of the Pixar movie “Up”.  Fast forward past the Marvel opening credits and we are introduced to present day Peter Quill, aka “Star Lord”, who despite being on an alien planet, wearing high tech gear, and about as removed from anything familiar as you can get, whips out something oh-so familiar to those of us who were lucky enough to be born and raised in the 80s – the cassette tape walkman.  What ensues is just another average day for Peter, as he haphazardly traverses dangerous terrain, dodges alien monsters trying to make him their next meal, and spontaneously uses a hapless critter as an imaginary microphone to lip sync the currently playing 80s rock song.  The combination of new futuristic alien visuals mixed with old classic rock is used throughout the film and serves as a tool for the audience by injecting a dose of familiarity.  You have to experience it for yourself to understand and appreciate how vital this component is to the overall presentation. Time periods in general can be considered “alien”, especially to the newer generations who weren’t alive yet and that’s what makes this approach brilliant; no matter which time period you were born in (or in this case “where” you were born), music transports the listener and personifies that particular era, making it tangible for any generation to enjoy.  The film exemplifies this with the alien characters, who are not familiar with music, much less a Walkman, but forms an appreciation for it nonetheless.  Overall, the pacing of the story is snappy; it doesn’t lull at all, immediately transporting you and assumes that you just accept what they throw at you.  With any given story, a heavy reliance for success is squarely placed on the shoulders of the script, requiring flawless execution of the dialogue.

“This is the secret formula used by GOTG; it does a masterful job balancing the drama with the self-depreciating humor. One scene can be laugh-out-loud funny, but the very next scene turns serious and sometimes unexpectedly touching.”

Dialogue can make or break a story and thankfully in this case, it delivers in spades.  Self-aware undertones in the dialogue are prevalent throughout various scenes, which adds to the charm of the film.  There are certain times where it almost seems as though the writers injected direct quotes from the studio heads or maybe even themselves, who watched an early pitch video for GOTG and had doubts about whether or not giving it the green light was a good idea (regardless of what they ACTUALLY thought, they are doing the “happy dance” now, I’m sure).  I enjoyed several instances when the characters made quips about their dire situations or plot points that are typically expected to be met with some sort of heavy moment, good or bad.  Mind you, the quips are not tired, contrived moments that seem to be the “in” thing to do these days, especially on TV shows – the delivery is perfect and reinforces the notion that they are a scrappy, unlikely, motley crue band of heroes.  This is the secret formula used by GOTG; it does a masterful job balancing the drama with the self-depreciating humor.  One scene can be laugh-out-loud funny, but the very next scene turns serious and sometimes unexpectedly touching.  Sympathy and comedy are very powerful agents; when leveraged successfully, audiences are won over – no matter the character.


For some reason, stories that center around an object that everyone desires always makes for a successful character driven experience, whether it’s Snatch (the Diamond), The Avengers (the Tesseract), or in this case, Guardians Of The Galaxy (a powerful Orb).  Using desire as a vehicle opens the door to have fun introducing all sorts of eclectic characters from all walks of life, who are on a fateful collision course with each other in a rat race to ultimately score the shiny object for themselves, regardless of the motivation (greed, self preservation, power, etc.).  In GOTG, we are introduced to a plethora of characters – here is just a sampling:

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Peter Quill, aka “Starlord” is the first character we are introduced to in the film, who is the Han Solo / scoundrel of the cast.  He’s the only native Earthling, serving as an anchor of familiarity for the viewers given that everyone and everything else is alien.  Losing his mother before getting abducted by an alien craft during the opening of the film acts as a catalyst for both sympathy and nostalgic 80s charm as Peter is perpetually stuck in the 1980s, believing that pop culture references, quips, and music from that decade are still currently used.  A bad boy exterior with a fragile, tender interior, actor Chris Pratt does a remarkable job of balancing these attributes, resulting in one of the most likable original characters in years.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Gamora is pretty much the hottest green skinned alien ever to grace the silver screen and for good reason: she’s played by Zoe Saldana.  One of two adopted sisters, whose father just happens to be Thanos (one of the biggest baddies in the Marvel universe if not THEE biggest), Gamora is a soldier / assassin, who is tapped by her evil adopted Papa to retrieve the mysterious powerful orb by any means necessary.  She is the last surviving member of her species since Ronan blew up her planet and took her as a war prize.  Despite being surrounded by evil doers and having done quite a bit of evil herself, Gamora secretly desires to escape from the clutches of Thanos and put aside her days of murder, revealing that she has a heart of gold that she must keep hidden from her family at all times in order for her to continue to survive.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

The two non-humanoid members of this misfit group are Rocket Raccoon and Groot.  Rocket Raccoon is the result of multiple experiments conducted against his will.  He has a short-fused temper, which is acted out upon via his impressive weapon arsenal.  He is particularly sensitive about how short he is.  While often crude and living a life as a gun for hire,  Rocket Raccoon is largely misunderstood at his core, yearns for respect, and represents the heart of the group.  Groot on the other hand is pretty much Rocket Raccoon’s hired muscle, but is also quite the gentle soul, often times being the voice of calm and reason to RR.  Groot has quite a few physical abilities and is considered the more fantastical member of the GOTG.  It is worth noting that the only thing he can say is “I am Groot”, using different types of tonal inflection to communicate his feelings that go far beyond the repetitive statement and end up being one of the most touching sequences in the film.  Voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel,  Rocket Raccoon and Groot are two of the film’s most popular and beloved characters.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Drax rounds out the group as a physically formidable alien bent on revenge for the death of his family at the hands of Ronan.  His obsession is fueled by his overwhelming sense of loss and pain as he scours the galaxy in a fit of rage searching for vengeance.  His particular species takes things quite literally, not understanding the concept “figure of speech”, which can be humorous or life threatening depending on the situation.  Even though he is a convicted felon for a myriad of broken intergalactic laws, Drax actually has a strong noble constitution and is surprisingly in touch with how those feel around him.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Yondu Undonta falls into a bit of the neutral category as I wouldn’t consider him a Paragon or a Villain, though he certainly has attributes that “lean” into those archetypes.  The quintessential mercenary for hire, Yondu is all about chasing the biggest shiny object, especially if he can sell it for a big profit.  When he’s not keeping tabs on Peter Quill, Yondu manages his gang of intergalactic bandits, mainly keeping them in line by threatening to use a weapon he controls by whistling.  Michael Rooker is a perfect fit for this character and you can tell he enjoys playing up the bravado while insinuating subtle nuances that suggest there is a whole lot more to this character than at first glance.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Another character that fits into the neutral category is The Collector.  What I think makes The Collector unique is his place within the Marvel universe.  He’s one of the very few, who has traversed through multiple comic books, including Guardians Of The Galaxy, X-Men, and The Avengers.  I love the premise of this character; as his name implies, he is absolutely obsessed with collecting exotic items throughout the universe and will pay just about any price for certain rarities.  As a master curator, The Collector is also quite knowledgable, being a good source for information regarding a great many things.  Of course, his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness as storing so many items in one place can attract the wrong kind of attention, potentially thrusting the universe into peril.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

This little peach known as Ronan is one of the most intense characters I’ve ever seen in cinema.  He justifies his rather psychotically violent impulses by championing the survival of his people and will go to any length to ensure they are protected.  Having a slight problem with holding a grudge too intensely as well as having an insatiable appetite for power taints this otherwise traditionally noble calling.  About the only thing more intimidating than his thunderous voice is his hammer, which I would not want to be on the receiving end of.

Warning: Undefined variable $main_class in /home/96/67/3016796/web/wp-content/plugins/salient-core/includes/vc_templates/vc_row.php on line 504

Nebula is the adopted sister of Gamora and is one of the most visually striking characters in the film, which is really saying something considering there are quite a few.  Kudos to the Make-Up Artist who created her look as she really does look cool.  Unfortunately, her screen time is rather limited; I wish I could’ve learned more about her back story, specifically her relationship to Gamora and Thanos, but perhaps more will be disclosed about her in a future sequel.  I feel that Karen Gillan was the perfect fit for this character, bringing a ruthless mystique to the role.

Director James Gunn has really created a jewel of a film here.  There was A LOT that could’ve gone disastrously awry considering it was a largely unknown story with some pretty outlandish ideas from the 1960s.  Marvel Studios took a substantial risk with this and did it pay off handsomely.  I do believe that the timing of this film has a lot to do with its box office success with the advancement in computer graphics as well as the folks who were born / raised in the 80s and are now adults themselves, who can understand / appreciate all of the music, pop culture references, and paraphernalia.  Furthermore, Marvel & Disney are doing a spectacular job at intertwining each movie into a singular narrative, setting up some rather fantastic crossovers (how’d you like to see the X-Men / Avengers / Guardians Of The Galaxy team up in a film?!?) in the not too distant future and you KNOW that is exactly what they plan on doing.  GOTG is a delight to romp through – cheering on our band of misfits, laughing at their various predicaments, sharing a few tears (the intro and the final “We are Groot” sequence especially), and wondering just what is in store for them on their future adventures.  Until then, I’ll be enjoying the righteous soundtrack.  I give Guardians Of The Galaxy 4.5 / 5 stars.

Next Post

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.