NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free review!
Guardians of the Galaxy (henceforth shortened to GoG) opens nationwide in theaters today but my theater showed it last night, which means you get a review!
GoG is written and directed by James Gunn, who has written or directed such movies as Dawn of the Dead, Scooby-Doo, and Slither. Before I even stepped into the movie theater, I knew this movie was going to be as violent as a PG-13 rating will allow, as well as funny. I was not disappointed.
Visually, this movie is gorgeous. There are distinct contrasts between the more dirty criminal world, with its dark interiors and old-looking machines, and the cleaner Nova world, which is brightly lit and full of lighter colors. I fell in complete love with Nova’s one-man flying craft and there was one place our heroes visited that caused my jaw to hit the floor.
I also really loved how there are moments where you almost forget you’re on an alien world, like when Peter (Chris Pratt) meets Gomora (Zoe Saldana) for the first time. The camera closes in on Peter and because of the bustling cityscape behind him, he could be standing on a sidewalk in New York City. It helps that Peter appears very much at home in these alien places, even as he says and does things that show he doesn’t completely belong, such as his use of American ’80s slang.
Gomora’s character is beautifully written. She’s strong-willed and determined, balanced with a softer, caring side. During a moment when Peter (who is established early on as a one night stand kind of guy) tries to seduce Gomora, she becomes soft. The two lean in–but then she rejects him. This changes the tone of their relationship for the rest of the movie because it forces Peter to look at her as something other than a pair of boobs.
(And this isn’t really a spoiler. It’s freaking Zoe Saldana in green make up wearing tight clothing while she beats the crap out of other people. Who wasn’t expecting Peter to try to get a “close encounter”?)
The other characters of this troupe are all equally complex, even the walking tree named Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. I love how Gunn manages to find quiet (or not so quiet) moments to reveal the inner workings of these characters in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow of the story. There is also a distinct progression in how these characters develop, which is very rewarding to watch.
We see a very sharp contrast between Gomora and Nebula, especially in the choices they make. It’s fascinating to watch and very much adds to the story.
Finally, there are space rednecks and the Collector.
There are only two bad points. I realize that this is meant to be a fun movie but I would have liked if Gunn had done these things differently.
Peter uses words and phrases that are familiar to us but which baffle his companions. My problem is two-fold. One, how can a man who was abducted when he was eight or nine manage to remember all those slang words and cultural references? At one point, he made a reference that I had to think about to comprehend. I don’t understand how a nine year old would even be aware of what he referenced, let alone make mention of it twenty years later.
I suppose an argument could be made that he hung onto his past as a way to survive his present, but it was still a little jarring, especially when (secondly) the other aliens use slang words in one sentence but then not know what Peter is talking about in the next.
2. Skin-tight clothing
Can we have one action movie where the female lead is not wearing skin tight leather? Please? Can’t she kick butt equally well in the space version of jeans and a t-shirt?
All in all, this is an enjoyable watch. There are very strong themes of identity and friendship, to which anyone of any age can relate. There is one gross moment that only adults will get and which will leave more observant children asking, “Mommy, why did he want a black light?” (The entire theater did one of those laughing “ewwwww’s”)
I have no idea how closely this movie tracks with the comics, so someone else will have to weigh in on that. But I definitely recommend this movie and when you’re done watching it, buy a second ticket. It’s that good. And, for goodness’s sake, don’t forget to stay for the reprises!