Guardians of the Galaxy Review: In Space, Everyone Can Hear a Raccoon Threaten to Kill You

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Looking at the first ten movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one thing can be said for certain: not one of the other nine movies is anything like Guardians of the Galaxy.

That is not to say, however, that there aren’t films out there like it. For Marvel, Guardians is original. For cinema, not quite so much. But it still hits its narrative points on cue and is probably the funniest Marvel movie to date.

Taking notes from a number of films ranging from Star Wars to Galaxy QuestGuardians makes for an odd blend that ends up really working. We’ve got five rag-tag heroes: Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a boy abducted from Earth as a child that became an outlaw who listens to ’80s classics on his walkman; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), one of two daughters of Marvel’s eventual big-bad Thanos; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), an insane raccoon unaware of what he is; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), tree-humanoid and Rocket’s protector only capable of speaking three words, “I”, “am”, and “Groot”; and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a murderer out for revenge.

By chance, a chance that lands them all in prison, these five heroes, or losers, all have a score to settle with Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), this film’s main villain. As far as the actual narrative goes, it’s a pretty standard revenge story with a group with opposing personalities but similar goals coming together to take down a larger threat. But there are three things that make Guardians work better than it should.

The first and most obvious is the team. Chris Pratt makes for a great lead as Star-Lord, dancing across screen with every bit of charisma as many of the Avengers. Gamora has an engaging backstory and an interesting rivalry with her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). But the true scene-stealers are Rocket and Groot, both of whom aren’t given nearly as much development as Star-Lord yet provide much of the film’s pathos. With these two, less was clearly more, something Marvel should keep in mind for the future.

Second, the humor is on-point 95 percent of the time. The jokes land and even head into darker territory than many of the safer Marvel films. A comedic highlight of the film has Rocket assigning Star-Lord to steal a man’s prosthetic leg. The laughs come fast and furiously, making sure a movie with a talking raccoon never takes itself too seriously.

Third, there is a tremendous amount of world-building here for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead of the usual “Look! This was made by Tony Stark!”, we have some intriguing connections being built here. Thanos, who showed up at the end of The Avengers, is menacing and his appearance here helps build toward that eventual climax (Avengers 3?). By leaving Earth, the guys at Marvel have opened a giant door on the possibilities of where its characters can go. The universe as a whole seems to be consistently threatened by war, with various cultures clashing for more control. Everything here is far more exciting than the different realms shown in Thor: The Dark World.

Even though Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t as original as it thinks it is, there is still a lot going for it. While lacking the narrative punch of Captain America: The Winter Soldier from earlier this year, this film is still memorable in its own right. I’ll be in line for the sequel due out in 2017. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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