“What a bunch of a-holes.”

Guardians of the Galaxy — a spoiler-free review

Okay, relatively spoiler-free review

Immediate thoughts upon leaving the cinema:

“Holy shit, that was fucking awesome! Can’t wait to see it again.”

Premise:

Earthling Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord teams up with a bunch of interstellar jerkoffs comprising a talking raccoon, a walking tree, a green female assassin and a big, greenish tough guy with anger management issues (no, not THAT guy) to save the galaxy from giant alien asshole Ronan the Accuser who wants to destroy it because evuhl.

Quick review:

I loved the crap out of this movie. It was immensely fun, utterly hilarious and so full of heart that nearly every single scene filled me with the kind of childlike joy and wonder I hadn’t experienced at the movies in years. The acting was top notch, the CGI and mo-cap mind blowing, and the writing impeccable. It also featured the greatest oldies-centric soundtrack since Watchmen; plus, a brilliant script by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman that made no apologies for what the movie really was: a delightfully cheesy, over-the-top romp.

What worked:

Pretty much everything really, but if I had to choose one aspect of the movie that really cemented its place as my favourite this summer, it would have to be the casting. Christ Pratt was perfect as Star-Lord. The Parks and Recreations star did a fantastic job of channeling the swashbuckling adventurers and space cowboys of the old days while making the character his own, bringing to it his unique brand of humour that’s equal parts cocky and endearing. A Han Solo/Indiana Jones for the 21st century. Do keep an eye out for this guy; he’s going places.

Obligatory

Zoe Saldana was unsurprisingly great as daddy-issue riddled green-skinned assassin Gamora. Because this is Hollywood and gratuitous ass-shots are still a thing, the camera did linger a tiny bit longer than necessary on her [IMO nonexistent] curves, but Saldana proved her character was far more than mere eye candy and was a badass in her own right. Dave Bautista was a revelation as angst-ridden warrior Drax the Destroyer, seeking vengeance for the murder of his family while comically failing to get with the programme. Probably the best wrestler-turned-actor since the Rock, he had such flawless comedic-timing and was a treat to watch.

But this movie belonged to Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, as Rocket the trigger-happy raccoon and Groot the talking humanoid tree, respectively. Boy, did they nail it. Vin Diesel had proved himself before with his voice work on Iron Giant, but I had some concerns about Cooper being the right choice for a character as inherently weird as Rocket. Never have I been more glad to be proven wrong about an actor. Together, the duo were the heart and soul of the movie and will no doubt sell the most number of toys in this new franchise for Disney. (I am now counting the days for the inevitable Rocket+Groot spinoff).

Better make it happen, Marvel, or else…

One of the things that really stood out about Guardians of the Galaxy for a lot of people was its kick-ass soundtrack, straight off Peter Quill’s childhood mix tape consisting mostly of classic rock hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It really complimented the overall lightheartedness of the movie as well as its ever present sad undertone, with its nostalgic vibrations tugging at your heartstrings in just the right places. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the music was a character of its own, working together with the rest of the cast to take the audience on an unforgettable ride that is incomparable to anything recently seen on the big screen. (The Lego Movie being perhaps the only exception).

The action and special effects were exceptionally good; and the CGI and creature effects were maybe the best since The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At no point did I feel like I was looking at computer-animated beings; as far as my senses were concerned, Rocket was a real, talking raccoon. Also, for once, the 3D didn’t feel like a tacky add-on. Director James Gunn had used it effectively and it looked really good without being distracting — especially in the big, eye-popping space sequences. I suggest you see it in 3D if possible. Well worth the extra dough spent on the ticket.

What didn’t work:

For the sake of objectivity, if I really must mention a flaw, I’d say the villain (Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser) was kind of one dimensional and just evil for for the sake of being evil; but honestly, I didn’t have a huge problem with this. It didn’t take anything away from the story and actually kind of made sense in the overall scheme of things. In any case, the back story with evil mastermind Thanos (played to perfection by Josh Brolin) is the real deal, but we don’t have to worry too much about him till the next Avengers. The whole thing with the Infinity Stone McGuffin that some people might find stale was not a problem for me either. Everything else was just so damn good that these shortcomings hardly mattered in the end.

Final thoughts:

Given its ridiculously goofy premise and the average popcorn Joe’s boner for “grim and gritty” storytelling ever since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy made it okay for big-budget Hollywood to suck the joy out of everything, this movie should NOT have worked. At all. Marvel/Disney took a gamble with this one, and no one would’ve gone in to cardiac arrest if it had out-bombed Green Lantern at the box office. But thanks to Marvel’s terrific track record and the relentless hype machine that is the interwebs, at the time of writing, Guardians of the Galaxy is well on its way to raking in 500 million dollars worldwide and, as a huge fan of all things MCU, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But personal fanboyism aside, this movie is everything a summer blockbuster ought to be and so much more. To say that it succeeds in the as-of-late impossible task of striking a balance between hilarity and emotional depth would be an understatement. It’s funny without being stupid; emotional without being corny; and serious without being Man of Steel. It’s really as good as everyone says it is. Believe the hype. Even if comic book movies aren’t your thing, if you enjoyed Star Wars or Indiana Jones or Back to the Future as a kid, you are guaranteed to have a blast rooting for these unbelievably well-crafted characters. In short, Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute riot. Go see it now!

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