When reviewing the latest Captain America, I diagnosed myself with Superhero Fatigue. Marvel’s cinematic output has lately been consistent, but safe. So kudos to them for going unpredictable with Guardians of the Galaxy. This one is different insofar as it is not really a superhero movie at all, but instead a goofy romp through the universe starring roguish Earthling Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), roguish green woman Gamora (Zoe Saldana), roguish vengeful warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), roguish tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel), and roguish talking raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper, in one of the great voice acting performances of all time). The “space opera” is a longstanding genre, but it has been a long time since it has been presented as imaginatively and thoughtfully as it is here.
The plot revolves around a MacGuffin: an orb stolen by Quill that is sought by the genocidal Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) of the Kree race. Like other MacGuffins, this orb may not be what the movie is really about, but it is a bigger deal than most MacGuffins. Ronan means to use the orb to destroy an entire rival race, and the fight for possession of the orb lasts until the very end. Thus it is strange – though not necessarily problematically – that the tone remains so lighthearted throughout. Actually, the mix of light and dark that Guardians pulls off is often a highlight of great adventure films. It is just too bad that every discussion explaining the orb – and there are a lot of them – is a bunch of gobbledygook. It also would have been more engaging if Ronan and the other villains (save for Michael Rooker as the bandit Yondu, who was more antagonist than villain) had felt more like characters instead of just pure forces of evil. Ultimately, Guardians is inconsistent about conveying a high-stakes tone, rendering its thrills not quite as viscerally satisfying as they could have been. Still, it does pull off the fun side of the adventure genre with no problem, and I imagine it might grow on me, because I could watch a baby tree dance to the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” all day long.
Guardians of the Galaxy Review Rating: B
Jeff Malone is a voracious entertainment consumer and entertainment creator. He currently resides in New York City, where he is working on a Master’s in Media Studies at The New School. In addition to his pieces on TMRzoo.com, you can check out his blog (jmunney.wordpress.com), where he provides regular coverage of Community and Saturday Night Live, as well as other television, film, music, and the rest of pop culture.