‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review: Space Madness

'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Movie Rating:


Marvel Studios expands out of superhero yarns and into the realm of goofy space opera with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. The movie is a rip-roaring adventure that’s silly without feeling slight, and dark without feeling morbid. The only problems are the occasionally distracting creeks in Marvel’s now very familiar formula. Thankfully, only a madman would consider those issues cause to dismiss the movie and I ain’t no madman.

Even though the film takes place in a galaxy that is just too far, far away for the story to be about anyone resembling a superhero, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ certainly fills the Marvel mandate of neurotic heroes who favor snark over dark. What we have here is a spaceship crew comprised of the wise-cracking Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), the green-skinned and ass-kicking Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the talking raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the living tree Groot (Vin Diesel), and the lovable muscle-y moron Drax (Dave Bautista). It’s essentially a collection of space outlaws each vying to be the Han Solo or Chewbacca of the group. Watching them come together is just as much fun as it sounds.

The gang find each other while fighting over the film’s glowing MacGuffin, a space gem that will one day be worn by Thanos as part of the Infinity Gauntlet. (Thanos makes an appearance and it isn’t much, but showcases Josh Brolin’s growling vocal stylings). They become a team by breaking out of prison in the film’s finest sequence. Then they duke it out with a handful of colorful bad guys (played wonderfully by the likes of Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Toro and Lee Place) and make friends with a handful of colorful good guys (John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Peter Serafinowicz), before eventually taking part in one of Marvel’s usual city-crunching climaxes. Roll credits. Smiles all around.

Yep, it’s another Marvel movie that’s dogged by origin stories, fraught with neuroses, littered with snark, and saddled with an overblown climax involving a city in peril from giant objects falling out of the sky. For the first time, all that material starts to feel a little too familiar and suggests a bit of rust forming on the Marvel machine. However, the movie transcends its formula thanks to the brilliant decision of hiring writer/director James Gunn to supervise all the space shenanigans. Gunn was an odd choice, yet an inspired one. He’s a guy who loves outsiders and toying with genre conventions, as evidenced by his brilliant horror comedy ‘Slither’, his clever superhero piss-take ‘Super‘, and the fact that he worked at Troma.

Given that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a movie comprised of oddball outsiders and takes place in a familiar genre worthy of some goof-off silliness, the marriage of filmmaker to subject matter couldn’t be more perfect. In Gunn’s capable hands, the flick turns into a colorful and goofy space comedy adventure that toys with conventions and nimbly shifts its tone from light to dark. He’s an indie filmmaker playing with big budget toys and having so much fun with the opportunity that you can practically hear him giggling with delight in most shots. If the movie works, that’s because of James Gunn, and hopefully he’ll be part of the Marvel movie brain trust for years to come.

One of Gunn’s other gifts is perfectly casting character actors in weird roles, and he does so excellently here. The central Guardians are all perfectly cast, from Pratt’s slacker-hero and Saldana’s green warrior to Bradley Cooper’s hysterically snide raccoon and Bautista’s show-stopping dumbbell who can’t comprehend non-literal thought. Around the sidelines you’ve got Gunn’s buddy Michael Rooker adding sleazy charm to a blue space pirate and John C. Reilly just doing his thing. You might buy your ticket for the spectacular 3D action, but you’ll quickly become entranced by the eccentric and colorful cast. Only the one-note villain played by Lee Pace feels stock. But aside from Loki, Marvel has yet to deliver a particularly memorable bad guy, so I suppose that’s just to be expected.

Though ‘Guardians’ is every inch a Marvel movie, Gunn has also turned it into a glorious homage to ’80s era ‘Star Wars’ knockoffs (complete with a period appropriate soundtrack via Pratt’s vintage Walkman) that would probably be destined for cult status were it not for the fact that it’s going to be a massive blockbuster hit.

Yep, this is yet another major success for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a little luck, Kevin Fiege noticed the few cobwebs in the movie’s attic and will avoid those traps in future projects. If Marvel can turn this D-List comic property into possibly the most purely entertaining movie of the summer, the studio is clearly on a roll that won’t be stopping anytime soon.

What Did You Think of 'Guardians of the Galaxy'?

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  1. Tons of fun. The characters interacting was more entertaining than the action itself. I even think I saw Lloyd Kaufman.I went to an 8: 30 screening in the ETX theatre and it was packed. I expected to only see geeks there but tons of families and all types showed up. The after credits scene was a total trip. Can’t wait to see how this does.

  2. EM

    I was nonplussed by the claim that “aside from Loki, Marvel has yet to deliver a particularly memorable bad guy” until after my double take I realized that Phil probably meant to refer to Marvel Studios. He’s entitled to his opinions, of course, but if the scope really is Marvel, he’s got quite an argument on his hands given the likes of Doctor Doom, Galactus, Mephisto, the Green Goblin, the Hobgoblin, Doctor Octopus, Magneto, Dark Phoenix, Thanos, the Beyonder, Michael Korvac, Ultron, the Sub-Mariner, the Red Skull, Kang the Conqueror, and on and on and on…

  3. freakyguy666

    I don’t often pay for IMAX but the IMAX 3D version of this was incredible. The additional 20% of footage that is missing in all non-imax theaters adds tremendously to the experience. I can’t imagine seeing this movie with the top and bottom of the image cut-off. Unbelievable how people are only getting a fraction of the image in non-Imax theaters.

      • Freakyguy666

        I’m sure people with CIH set-ups DO care when trying to watch a movie with changing aspect ratios such as this one will surely have on bluray. I recall you being dubious on Catching Fire having multiple aspect ratios on bluray too. Watch and learn…

      • If James Gunn couldn’t compose his movie to look good in the vast majority of theaters that will show it, that would make James Gunn a terrible failure as a director.

        • I’ve seen both the standard and the IMAX versions. Didn’t make much of a difference. The only truly cool effect is the “Star Tours” moment during the prison escape that makes you feel like you’re riding a spaceship that plummets straight down. My gut dropped. But that was really the only noteworthy differing moment.

        • Chris B

          Technically you could refer to ANY amount as a fraction. However, when used in a statement such as “this is only a faction of the regular price, supplies are a fraction of what they used to be, people are only seeing a fraction of the image” etc. It is obviously taken to mean a small amount or much less than normal. Thanks for splitting hairs though 🙂

          • Chris B

            Yeah, but you referred to the image people are seeing as the fraction, not what they’re NOT seeing. In other words, you were referring to 80% of the imagine as a fraction as opposed to the 20% they’re not seeing and….oh fuck it…I’m exhausted.

          • Freakyguy666

            I think your exhaustion is due to the realization that I was correct in stating that 4/5 is a fraction in most people’s book.

          • William Henley

            Oh screw it, I saw it in 2.35:1, and didn’t feel like I missed anything. I doubt that anyone else who saw it on a standard scope screen will think that either. And I seriously doubt the Blu-Ray will feature shifting aspect rations – only a couple of movies that had seperate IMAX scenes have it, and people complained about it, so no one does it anymore.

          • Freakyguy666

            Ignorance is bliss, William.

            And as for variable AR’s you may have forgotten about a little movie called Catching Fire….and the director told me he will include variable AR’s on the bluray.

          • William Henley

            I stand by what I said – only a couple (okay like 3 or 4 movies) use it – Catching Fire, Batman and I think Mission Impossible used it, and Catching Fire was nice enough that the shift in aspect ratios was smooth, not jarring like it was in Batman. Consumers hate it, studios are reluctant to do it because if its bad reception, and I doubt Catching Fire would have had it if it had not been for director pressure on the studio.

            BTW, what are the open scenes of these movies when they are showing at IMAX? Are they 16×9 or are they proper IMAX ratio? If its proper IMAX ratio, than the shifting aspect ratios on the disc are stupid, as they do not properly show the movie as it was shown at the Imax (if anything, the picture should be pillarboxed). Although I guess these movies could open up to 16×9 (as in open up…. Oh screw it, I am not going to get into a discussion on size and shapes of screens, I’ll leave that for you and JoshZ to argue). I was just wondering what aspect ratio the scenes at the Imax are shown at? I haven’t seen a movie with shifting aspect ratios at the theater because I can’t stand LieMax.

          • Freakyguy666

            Will, the “open matte” scenes of GotG in IMAX seem to be just slightly taller than a 16×9–definitely not full imax height. I saw it at a proper IMAX–not “lieMax–and the AR changes were practically imperceptible because of 2 reasons: 1) the majority of the film used the taller format–I’d guess 70-80%; 2) the transitions were done very infrequently and were excellently timed to a change in scene.

            I would strongly recommend you see it in a proper imax if possible. It truly is a much better experience vs 2.35.

            Also, as stated, James Gunn told me the 3D bluray would have variable AR’s. So it’s a done deal.

          • William Henley

            Interesting – I wonder if other movies are like that. Why would you open up to 16x9ish? That’s strange. It seems that the only purpose for that would be to open it up for televisions, but in that case, why not shoot the whole movie like that (think Avatar which showed in different aspect ratios). I mean, if you are going to open it up for Imax, why not fully open it?

            The only “film” imax left in my area is at the dome at the science theater, and I don’t like watching feature length movies on the dome – that is really more for space and nature stuff. All others have converted to digital. Its really annoying. I LOVE film Imax, and I used to go see every major movie at a film Imax. But as there are none left in my area, I don’t see the purpose of the upcharge.

          • Guardians of the Galaxy was not shot on IMAX film. It was shot digitally with the Arri Alexa, which has a 16:9 sensor. The image cannot be opened up any taller than 16:9. That’s all that was captured.

          • freakyguy666

            If they left it open at 16×9 for the entire movie then all of the 2.35 theaters (which are 98% of all theaters) would have to pillar box the film thereby reducing the total screen size. Only Imax and maybe a couple unique theater environments would actually show 16×9 larger than 2.35.

          • William Henley

            This is true. What annoys me about theaters is that even the ones that will have one or two 16×9 auditoriums, the movies shown on the screen are picked by popularity, not aspect-ratio size. Therefore, a 16×9 movie will be shown pillarboxed on their 2.35:1 screen and a 2.35:1 movie will be shown letterboxed on their 16×9 screens.

  4. It was pretty funny to hear how confused everyone was by the post-credits sequence. Great movie! I was a little worried it would be too intense for my 5-year-old son, but it was great fun.

  5. Easily one of the most fun Marvel movies yet, they really have no issues pumping out the hits over and over again. I had such a great time and this would be one I would go to see again in a heartbeat if I didnt have a two year old and really limited time 😉

    • Pedram

      I have to disagree. It was a good soundtrack, with great songs and good sound, but I don’t think it took advantage of the Atmos config. I rarely felt that it was showcasing pinpoint sounds, or overhead sounds that made me feel immersed. It basically felt like a 5.1/7.1 system.

      Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, or Edge of Tomorrow, on the other hand, really took advantage of the Atmos system.

      The 3D was only decent in a few scenes. I forgot that it was 3D for most of the movie. It’s too bad, since this is the kind of movie that seems like it would have been good in 3D. Basically, save your money and see this in 2D with a “regular” sound system.

      As for the movie, it was entertaining. Funnier than I expected. But nothing unforgettable. I have to say that I thought the concept of a talking raccoon and tree were dumb when I first heard about it, but James Gunn managed to pull it off and make it believable. The highlights of the film even.

      • William Henley

        My Atmos theater will not show 3D in their Atmos auditorium.

        I was unimpressed with the Atmos on Edge of Tomorrow, and I saw Dawn in 3D, so no Atmos there.

        The only movie I have seen in Atmos that I felt was better than this was Godzilla.

      • Freakyguy666

        You should watch it in imax 3D. The director’s decision to increase the aspect ratio provides for much better 3D immersion.

        • Drew

          Yet another example of one of Freak’s inconsistencies; proving that he is either lying, or that he’s a hypocrite.

          First, he states that he saw the film in “Real IMAX/Not Lie-Max.” After making this statement, he says that he saw the film in IMAX 3D.

          Freak, you do understand that there’s no such thing as “REAL IMAX 3D”, don’t you?

          ALL IMAX 3D screens are “Lie-Max.” Even if the screen hasn’t been switched out, and you’re watching IMAX 3D on a 1.44:1 screen, it’s still “Lie-MAX.”

          • There is a version of IMAX 3D that uses two 15/70 film projectors. I’m not sure if it’s actually still in use anymore or has been completely phased out at this point. Regardless, it’s a moot point because Guardians of the Galaxy was not distributed on any 15/70 prints. All IMAX copies of Guardians of the Galaxy are digital.

          • William Henley

            Actually, there WAS some film IMAX 3D films, but most of those are used at theme parks. AFAIK, there is no feature-length Imax FILM 3D.

          • Several features were released in IMAX 15/70 3D before IMAX transitioned to digital. Among them: The Polar Express, Beowulf, The Ant Bully, Open Season, Superman Returns (only 20 minutes in 3D), and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (only 20 minutes in 3D). There may be others that were distributed in 15/70 3D, but I’m not sure when the cut-off point for the digital transition was. All of these were “DMR” upconversions.

            Again, however, Guardians of the Galaxy is not screening anywhere in IMAX 15/70, 3D or otherwise. All IMAX copies of Guardians of the Galaxy are digital.

          • Drew

            All 15/70 IMAX 3D has been phased out. Every single one that was implemented has been replaced by digital IMAX 3D.

          • William Henley

            I do seem to remember that with Superman Returns, now that you mention it.

            I didn’t realize The Polar Express ever showed in Imax 3D. There were only 3 Imax screens in my area at the time, and all showed it in 2d.

            What part of Order of the Phoenix was 3D? I saw it in Imax Film, and don’t recall that (although my theater may not have been equipped).

            I did not realize the other 3 movies had Imax releases

        • William Henley

          My local LieMax is $17 for a 3D show, and as it is a converted auditorium, the screen is actually SMALLER than the 16×9 and the 2.35:1 screens at the same theater.

          • Freakyguy666

            Yes, by “lie-max” most people are referring to the size of the auditorium/screen. It is the reason people demanded their money back and filed lawsuits claiming false advertising when they realized the screens were barely bigger than the standard screens. The term had nothing to do with digital vs 70mm initially.

          • Drew

            More classic Freak…

            When confronted with his own inconsistencies, he simply dodges and attempts to veer the direction of the conversation elsewhere.

            This doesn’t change the fact that, in essence, you stated that you had seen this film in “REAL” IMAX 3D.

          • Freakyguy666

            A single post is your evidence that LieMax refers only to non-70mm IMAX screens? Ummm, how about the fact that there are dozens of news articles that describe the angry customers who paid IMAX ticket prices only to find that the IMAX SCREEN SIZE was not much bigger than a normal screen? I think news articles carry more wieght than an anonymous post! Here just one news report http://www.citynews.ca/2014/03/03/some-imax-theatres-dubbed-lie-max-by-critics/?__federated=1

            Even IMAX’s OFFICIAL RESPONSE to the “lieMAX” claim describes it as “screen size” saying nothing of the digital vs 70mm film. Why? Because the vast majority of complaints about IMAX were that the screen size was barely larger than a standard theater.

            Do your research!

  6. Chris B

    Went and watched this today after work and thought it was pretty solid, not necessarily a home-run but a pretty fun time at the movies. The soundtrack was great, the ensemble was well put together and man the opening credits sequence had me laughing out loud it was so awesome. On the other hand, there were moments where I felt like the plot and crazy weird space-opera world building was a little too much. Some of the casting struck me as odd to, like John C Reilly in his security officer type role and Glenn Close as Nova Prime. Casting such well known people kinda ruined the immersion a little bit, I hate it when it feels like a movie is just a bunch of famous actors playing dress-up.
    It was a great effort though and worth the price of admission for sure.

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