Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy


This entry is far beyond its window of relevance, considering there’s now probably only about a dozen people left on the planet who haven’t seen it yet, but for whatever it’s worth, I really, really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest entry in the interconnected film franchise that’s come to be known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was everything I hoped it would be, and everything I’ve been craving for a while: a feel-good space adventure with likable heroes — hey, remember those?! — and a healthy sense of humor, balanced with just enough pathos and epic scope to keep the whole thing from tilting over the edge into outright comedy.

While I enjoyed the story and characters, honestly, a lot of the appeal for me was the environment of this movie. Like its distant ancestor, the original Star Wars, Guardians drops the viewer into a fully realized, busy, populated universe where it feels as if every individual on the screen has some life off the screen. We get the feeling that there are a billion stories in this universe and we’re only focusing on this one handful of characters for a while, that we could easily shift our focus to those guys over there and it would turn out to be just as entertaining. That sounds like no big deal, but it’s a trick very few sci-fi movies — very few movies in general, when you think about it — manage to pull off. I found myself really appreciating the sensation of verisimilitude, the feeling that I could crawl inside this movie and walk around and meet people. And since I had absolutely no background with this property going in, I also had the pleasure of discovering something entirely new. As much as I’ve enjoyed the other Marvel films — Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, as well as the X-Men movies (same comic-book publisher, different movie studio) — I already knew who those characters were and the rough outlines of their most famous adventures, so the pleasure I felt with those movies came from seeing how successfully they brought life to the familiar. Guardians, on the other hand, was a clean slate for me, and I dug the things it filled up with.

In addition, I liked the overall look of Guardians. It’s kind of a weird observation, but I was deeply struck by the way one of the main locations, the planet Xandar, was such a bright and sunny place, where the police aircraft are a shining gold and citizens wear brightly colored clothing. Such a refreshing change from the desaturated, grayscale visuals and perpetual nighttime setting of so many science fiction films in recent years.

I have to mention the soundtrack, naturally, which consists mostly of upbeat, bubblegum-flavored pop tunes from the 1970s. Kudos to director James Gunn for choosing just the right songs to evoke a mood, and for working with that old music I love so much instead of ironically mocking it.

About the only complaint I have with Guardians is one you’ve heard before, which is that the big action scenes are unfortunately cut in the jittery, zoom-in/zoom-out, lots-of-crap-flying-around, which-way-am-I-supposed-to-look style that’s been the vogue for the past decade or so, ever since those damned Bourne movies. I hate to admit this, because I’m fairly certain it’s a sign I’m getting old, but I simply can’t tell what the hell is going on in action scenes these days. Guardians wasn’t as bad in this regard as other flicks I’ve seen, but there were a couple of shots (mostly in the segment involving a dogfight in and around a place called Knowhere) that I had a lot of difficulty following.

Still, that’s nitpicking compared to the overall level of joy I received from this film. Honestly, how could I not love a space movie that references the Kevin Bacon classic Footloose? Am I right? And of course the cameo everybody’s been talking about absolutely made my night. Whoever thought we’d see that guy on the big screen again, in any form?


2 comments on “Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

  1. Cory Webber

    Jason, you have a gift with words, my friend. A lot of what you loved about the film were things I acknowledged on a subconscious level. You really have a keen, and unique, eye for things. My favorite part just might be the integrity with which you wrote this review. I mean, it’s been out for three weeks and you’re keeping it spoiler-free, especially about the cameo at the end. And this coming from someone who believes there are only “about a dozen people left on the planet who haven’t seen it yet.” Love it.

    As for me, I had more background knowledge on this than any other MCU property before. I recently got into Marvel comics and I’ve been really drawn to their cosmic line. And if the way they handled this space adventure is an indicator of future properties, then I’m really looking forward to their future space adventures involving the Inhumans, Captain Marvel, Nova and the Guardians sequels (I’m assuming there will be more than one sequel).

    At any rate, I really enjoy your posts, especially your movie reviews. Keep ’em coming…even if they are “far beyond (their) window of relevance.”

  2. jason

    Thanks for the compliments, Cory, I really appreciate them! And I appreciate you reading, too… I’ve gotten so sporadic in posting that I constantly wonder (and worry) whether anybody is still bothering.I really wish I could get my crap together enough to be more timely with these things. I still haven’t finished my review of Days of Future Past! 😀

    As for knowing the Marvel-verse, I read a lot of comics as a kid, but the only series I followed regularly were Marvel’s Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Micronauts lines. I picked up random issues of most of the superheroes though, as the cover art grabbed me. And I remember just devouring those occasional encyclopedia issues they put out — that’s actually where I got most of my knowledge of everybody. I know their essential bios and abilities, but I haven’t necessarily read any of their books, you know? X-Men, of course, I know about from the old Saturday morning cartoon show (I used to watch that in college… )

    I’m really hoping for a decent Doctor Strange movie, myself… and even though I didn’t think the Ghost Rider movies were all that bad, it’d be cool to do reboot/retcon to bring them into the official MCU. Marvel got into some really trippy places in the ’70s!