Guardians of the Galaxy [Review by Haus]
Guardians of the Galaxy is a wild ride and a funny one and you should probably go see it tonight.
I know what you’re thinking: Guardians of the what now?
Let me begin by assuring you that I’d never heard of these characters either and still honestly have no idea whether they’re secondary, tertiary, or some other ancillary also-rans in the seemingly endless and definitely tripped-out Marvel Universe. (Shockingly, your local cinema may not have heard of them either — at least I saw the right film.) But it really doesn’t matter, because they’re good fun to watch and you’ll love them by the end.
Guardians is a sort of space-Western, with Chris Pratt playing outlaw Peter Quill, a.k.a. “Star Lord”. He’s basically Han Solo with a leather trench coat, 21st century carnal proclivities (“if I had a black light, this ship would look like a Jackson Pollock painting”), and a taste for 70’s ballads on his Walkman. He teams up with Zoe Saldana’s Gamora (executive summary: Green assassin), a scarified, grey-painted Dave Bautista as Drax (executive summary: Super buff! Super literal!), a talking genetically modified raccoon called Rocket voiced by Bradley Cooper (executive summary: it’s not the size of the dog in the fight…) and a talking tree named Groot voiced by Vin Diesel. Groot doesn’t get an executive summary because these are for fauna only, by intergalactic decree No. S-56775-A1.
If you like the total arbitrariness of what I did just there, you’ll probably get a lot out of this movie’s backstory — which involves an alien no one knows talking to some other aliens no one’s ever heard of about some weird McGuffin ball no one knows about, and some other universe-ending stuff that for some reason has only appeared in the Marvel Universe just now.
Doesn’t matter. I wasn’t watching this for the plot and neither should you, unless you’re still bulk-ordering Proactiv for your LAN party.
I am at peace with this. I accept that random aliens with face paint and leather robes must now populate Marvel movies. I accept that I will never know who or what these creatures are, how they interrelate, why they must always insist on calling Earth “Terra” and why they now look like low-end visitors to Comic-Con rather than the other way around.
I accept these things because in spite of them all, I know that Marvel can still at times make enjoyable movies like The Avengers. (Of course, they also sometimes get so caught up in these random aliens and their random irrelevant mumblings about controlling the universe that nothing makes sense and no one cares. Take either Thor movie, for instance.)
Guardians is an interesting mix of these. I mean, I certainly didn’t care about the plot. The main villain seems to have smeared tar on his face like a petulant infant and behaves pretty much the same, and I have no idea who he is, so I didn’t really care about him either. For the first half or so this movie tottered dangerously near Thor gully, though admittedly with punchier humor. But midway through Act Two it really hits its stride as the banter and interplay between the central characters takes off.
And that’s what makes Guardians worth your time: It’s legitimately hilarious.
Visually, Guardians is a gleaming jumble of 3D space-pods in semi-retro orange and blue hues, as if Stan Lee Instagrammed his latest acid trip and filtered it “vibrant.” Rocket looks surprisingly cool in his frequent extreme close-ups. The characters are enjoyable: Peter Quill’s backstory is as touching as the spacefaring premise and five minutes allotted to it will permit, and it bears mention that Chris Pratt continues to absolutely kill it and be the Next Big Thing, so bully for him. Dave Bautista may well give the lie to my recent comment that The Rock is the only professional wrestler to nail an acting career. Glenn Close (!), John C. Reilly, and Benicio del Toro appear briefly and to good effect;. Perhaps most important, Vin Diesel has finally found his calling: A role requiring him to speak three words total and where being wooden actually helps.
So make no mistake. You should watch Guardians of the Galaxy to escape, to have a good time, to laugh, to be entertained. Who cares whether you knew these characters before? Here’s a 3D CGI raccoon shooting big guns and trash-talking people in space with Bradley Cooper’s voice. If you’re in the market for that sort of thing, Guardians serves it up and then some.
Haus Verdict: A glossy Marvel take on Star Wars that’s wacky, high on modern humor, and narrowly avoids taking itself too seriously. Solid stuff.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens nationwide tonight.