Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Film #460

THE PLOT

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

Year 3, Film #10

THE GOOD: Marvel seems to have a magic formula for how it makes all its films smash hits. Guardians of the Galaxy is yet another in a long line of Marvel films, and superhero films in general, that have the right level or action, story (and the mythology backing it), and of course, humor. This film also carries over what we saw in The Avengers that a group film like this is greater than the sum of its parts. While Marvel’s individual films (like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America) are by no means bad, both of their group films — The Avengers and now Guardians of the Galaxy — have proved to be orders of magnitude more entertaining.

Marvel’s films have always had a certain level of comedy in them, which is always helpful for someone like me who has never gotten into comic books. The Avengers was probably my prior favorite in terms of humor, especially with the interactions between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). But Guardians of the Galaxy easily blows that precedent away and sets a new, incredibly high, bar for comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film was so hilarious, and so littered with jokes and reactions, that I would even go so far as to label this firstly as a comedy instead of action/adventure. Everything about this film screamed funny from Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), to Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is the fifth member of the Guardians in addition to the other four I just mentioned, isn’t that funny by herself but she at least rolls with the punches. However, each of the others, led by Rocket and Peter Quill, had many memorable, laugh-out-loud lines and moments that had the entire audience erupt in non-stop laughter. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t have a black light,” “It’s a metaphor, man,” “Yes, finally!” “I am Groot,” and many, many more.

While comedy is definitely one of Guardians biggest strengths (helped in large part by its characters), the story and it’s integration with the other films, also deserves lots of praise. As I’ve mentioned in previous Marvel reviews, I’ve never gotten into the comic books because it’s always like an insurmountable obstacle I could never get past. There’s just so much history you’d have to get through to be caught up. Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the most interesting film yet because it’s one that many people are not familiar with. I hadn’t even heard about the Guardians before the movie was announced and even then I don’t think I was alone in still questioning how they fit in with superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man.

Guardians of the Galaxy did something amazing  which was broaden the scope while still remaining highly focused. This film is tightly connected with the other Marvel films — including appearances from Thanos (Josh Brolin) and the Collector (Benicio del Toro), both seen in post-credits scenes in earlier films — but introduces us to a whole new world that’s out there. There’s a whole other planet, Xandar, where life is thriving, in addition to many more villains and threats (like the infinity stones, also seen previously) that are on the brink of convergence. Are primary focus until now has been Earth. We’ve gotten a little peak outside our home with Thor’s life on Asgard, but other than that, all conflict has centered around us (very humanistic of us by the way). Guardians of the Galaxy maintains this focus by including little bits and pieces of things we’ve seen before (Thanos, infinity stones) but at the same time being set in an entirely different place with entirely new characters.

As a standalone film, Guardians of the Galaxy delivers. It’s story arc carries us from beginning to end with a handful of twists that keep us at the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens. It also seems to breeze by much quicker than you expect. When they arrive on the Kyln (a high-security prison in space), the film is already halfway done and yet it feels as if you just sat down (always a good sign entertainment-wise; nothing that’s boring you). But the more exciting aspect is where Guardians fits in with the rest of the Cinematic Universe. It gives you the feeling that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far and that there is a whole lot more that’s yet to come. And if even a fraction of that is as good as what we’ve seen so far, we’ll be in for quite a treat.

THE BAD: The only downside I can think of is with regards to the comedic timing. I feel as if I missed a good half of the jokes in Guardians because myself and the rest of the audience laughed over them. Instead of giving us a brief pause to get our laughs out and settle down, they just kept on chugging with more jokes. This may not be as problematic when you watch by yourself after it comes out on blu-ray, but for a packed theater, not so much.

THE TAKEAWAY: Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the funniest Marvel film to-date while also taking the story to new, yet familiar, places. It works as a standalone delivering laughs constantly (this is really like a comedy) and a story that keeps you at the edge of your seat, while also tying into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, priming us for even greater things to come.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in theaters next Friday, August 1, 2014.

THE RATING: 5 out of 5