Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

By Matthew Huntley

August 5, 2014

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Sometimes the best reason to see a movie is for its attitude. When the story, characters and overall production come across as sort of “been there, done that,” it’s the filmmakers’ approach to the material that determines the movie’s success, and in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, they employ a lot of sass and charm. The result is a droll and irreverent superhero movie that’s not at all shy about subverting the classic qualities of the genre for the sake of humor and maintaining momentum.

And momentum and energy are exactly what’s needed, because this is yet another adaptation of a Marvel Comics property, albeit a lesser known one. Though the “Guardians” comics debuted in the late 1960s, born from the minds of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, as a movie, the franchise fits right in among contemporary science fiction, fantasy and superhero films, including the heavy-hitters like Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and The Avengers, not to mention TV shows like “Firefly.” Its story and endless parade of colorful characters are sort of an amalgamation of all these series, and on this level, it’s enjoyable but also familiar, even derivative. What makes it stand out is the way it continually undermines the hand it’s been dealt.

We can easily imagine “Guardians” as a straightforward and traditional adaptation, in which we learn the origins of the heroes and their enemies and then watch as the story goes from point A to point B until it reaches the standard climax. This method probably would have appeased fans of the source material, but director James Gunn and his writing partner, Nicole Perlman, have opted for a more offhand approach. Just about every time we think the movie is headed in a usual direction, it goes somewhere unexpected, and though its overall destination remains the same, by choosing witty and unconventional means of getting there, it keeps us on our toes.


Just how much like other science fiction/fantasy/superhero movies is it? Well, consider the main hero is written as sort of a younger version of Han Solo (in fact, the two of them could be brothers), and like Solo, he’s a loner with selfish motivations. He goes by the moniker Star-Lord, though one of the running jokes is that nobody really takes him or his label seriously. His real name is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and following the death of his mother, he was abducted from Earth in 1988 by a group of pirates called the Ravagers. Twenty-six years later, Peter is flying around space in his dirty and beaten down ship looking for various goods and artifacts to steal, all while listening to pop hits from the '60s and '70s like “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone on a mixed cassette tape (yes, a cassette tape).

The latest object Peter comes across is a mysterious orb from the planet Morag. He isn’t exactly sure what the orb does, but once he discovers just how many people and aliens are after it, he assumes its contents are important and wield a lot of power. He would be correct, which is exactly why the evil Ronan (Lee Pace), who rules with a giant war hammer under the Titan Thanos, wants it in his possession. Ronan craves revenge against the government body Nova Corps. Oh, and he also wants to rule the entire galaxy (of course). To retrieve the orb from Peter, he sends his green-skinned and slinky assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), but her loyalty lies elsewhere.

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