Synopsis: Light years from Earth, 26 years after being abducted Peter Quill finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser.
My thoughts: Here arrives the latest Marvel installment. Not the next sequel, prequel, or tie-in, but a new team. One part Terran, four parts alien. People have called this a filler story, but it's actually much more. It's a key move in the direction of Marvel's Phase 3, and it's a heck of a ride, mistakes notwithstanding.
James Gunn had the tough task of introducing all 5 characters well enough, but still leaving screen time for plenty of spacey action. While he did so, he altered some origin story details, and this bothered me. Being a Rocket Raccoon fan, I have read his original appearances. He wasn't precisely "experimented on," and this may end up cheapening his story in the Marvel film universe. But it could be possible he doesn't remember exactly what happened, and assumes. Considering this, they might be perfectly in line, which I'm hoping for, but it's looking grim.
Old Ranger Rocket was designed and voiced wonderfully. I knew going in he would be my favorite character, but they captured him just right, apart from his origin. In the coming film, I hope they heavily feature the other guardians also, notably Drax. I never felt Drax or Gamora's characters shine through, except when they were exploited for humor. I didn't feel much for their losses, cheer them on when they got the upper hand, etc.
Groot was likewise amazing. His balance between gentle giant and brute warrior was spot-on. :SPOILER: I loved everything about him, until Gunn made a Hollywood-like move with his last words, "We are Groot". Why not throw away years of history and suddenly add a fourth word to his vocabulary? Because it needed to be a tender moment? The comics achieved that quite a lot without compromising the character. :END SPOILER: This was my biggest disappointment with the film.
Starlord, Peter Quill, was the most complicated character of the film, but a bit less rounded. He's an 80's-loving, artifact-thieving, and wise-cracking momma's boy. We see his fun side, and his tender side, but I don't think his motivations were fully expressed. They're there, but could be deeper. While I enjoyed Chris Pratt's portrayal, I think it could have used a bit more cooking.
Now for the plot. A fun-loving outlaw steals a valuable object, high-up baddies pursue him doggedly, and he must side with the law to save the galaxy. The way this plays out, and how they end up doing the saving, seemed very nearly cliched and Hollywood-like to me. While it was intense, that's what I see in it.
The action and tactical genius exhibited by the group was highly entertaining, Rocket of course being the mastermind behind most of it. If you're looking for intense fight scenes set to awesome 80's rock and roll, this delivers right to your door.
As a note before I finish, there's a lot of good with this film, and I'm mostly highlighting the bad. Go see it for yourself, because I don't want to spoil much, and I'd have to in order to show you just how good. Trust me in that Marvel continues to do humor well, also. Don't let the heavy critique worry you. If you plan to see it, and I recommend that you do, know there is some mild language and intense scenes of violence. Here ends the critical part of my review.
I would like to discuss the implications of this film in the future of the Marvel film universe. Guardians of the Galaxy takes place far from Earth, but there are a few tethers to the story. First, there's Peter Quill, who originates from there. Second, this isn't the first time we've seen The Collector. He appears to be collecting the Infinity Stones, which appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger, then in Thor 2. This makes 3 of the 6 found. And a third tether is of course Thanos, who appeared briefly at the end of The Avengers.
Now, I will make a few predictions here. Phase One of the Marvel film saga led all the way up to The Avengers. So we can safely say the climax of that phase was the Chitauri invasion led by Loki. Phase Two is still being released, but with the Guardians in theaters, the only film we have to wait for now is the climax, Avengers: Age of Ultron. This will conclude the phase, and very likely change the game for the future, just like several of the films in this round. Phase Three begins with Ant-Man, immediately bringing in a new character, instead of waiting until the end like in this phase. I believe this phase will be a longer one than the last two, since three stones have yet to be discovered.
Now, if the first big threat was Loki leading an alien fleet against New York, and the second is Ultron, which we'll see very soon, what could follow these? Only Thanos, the biggest baddie of them all. And since both the Avengers and the Guardians have a huge beef with him, it stands to reason that the crossover rumors are going to be true after all, with even more possible attendees. It's going to be a huge throwdown. And I can't wait to see Rocket in the middle of it all.
I was given early access to see the film by Walt Disney Studios. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions here are my own.
My rating: 8 stars.