Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (Warning: Mild Spoilers)
I’ve heard a lot of commenters and critics laud Guardians of the Galaxy as a risk that fortunately paid off for Marvel Studios and their unfurling juggernaut of a cinematic franchise. With each installment the iterative productions pay off with a growing plot tapestry that will no doubt secure summer after summer of epic blockbusters.
I love the space opera genre. As I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Star Wars’ Han Solo, or Flash Gordan when seeing Peter Quill aka Star Lord on his adventures. That isn’t to say that GotG is unoriginal or that it reinvents the wheel. It flawlessly showcases the mysteriousness and wonder of space (a first for Marvel) but does so with established archetypes that veteran and noobie viewers alike will easily grasp. We have the sheriff like or S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque nova corps, the despotic tyrant Thanos, and the renegade Star Lord and his band outsiders coming together for a heartfelt and surprisingly funny epic journey.
Repeat viewers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be pleased to discover that this installment of the MCU grows the franchise. The new territory of Marvel Space is anchored to growing plot elements involving Thanos and the Infinity Stones, the third of which is introduced in this movie as the primary Macguffin.
Now can we talk about that soundtrack for a moment? I have to be honest it was one of the main elements driving me to watch the movie. I am a die-hard oldies/retro music aficionado. I was pleased to see that the soundtrack wasn’t just a cheap gimmick for the movie, it served to humanize the protagonist since it was his sole anchor to his home planet Earth, it really made you relate to and empathize with him. Additionally it also served to effectively narrate the film. At one point our heroes survive a rough near fatal predicament, as they rise to continue their mission, Quill’s sound system plays “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps. I thought it was a beautiful moment. I loved how the soundtrack unexpectedly became another character in the film in a way.
I noticed a lot of parallels between the Avengers and the Guardians. In fact I always understood the latter to be the galaxy’s “Mightiest Heroes.” Both teams and their members begin with an uncertain place with respect to the factions and institutions they find themselves between. Both teams eventually come together, transitioning from outsider to hero becoming exactly what is needed (or perhaps unexpected enough) to save the day. It’s no mistake that the threat de jour for each are both firmly connected. (i.e. the Infinity Stones).
My only gripe with the film is a minor one, admittedly I’m a bit of a noobie to most things in the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. But I would have appreciated some more “connective tissue” to the rest of the Marvel U. This would have been a perfect opportunity to introduce Abigail Brand / S.W.O.R.D., the Sentient World Observation and Response Department. Earth’s space counterpart to S.H.I.E.L.D. additionally the post credits scene left a bit to be desired for me personally. Still all parts of this tapestry tell the same story. Those who watched ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will see a strikingly familiar blue skinned alien race in this film shedding some light on a critical WTF moment from the burgeoning series. This is clear sign that there is plenty on the horizon for the MCU. I’m all for it, and eagerly awaiting to see what’s next. My slight criticism aside Guardians of the Galaxy paid off tremendously, breathing more life into a vibrant ecosystem of films while also standing firmly on its own legs, that’s not an easy feat. I’m already hooked for any crossovers or stand-alone sequels, a reality not so subtlety hinted in the film with unresolved plot elements and explicit promise in the end credits.
This was a new yet familiar and comforting experience that made me laugh, made me wonder, and made me appreciate being a Marvel fan more and more.
Direction: 10 Acting: 10 Plot: 9 Overall: 9.5
P.S. Do yourself a favour and check out a compiled playlist of Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix Volume 1. You won’t regret it.