You know that Guardians of the Galaxy is going to push the envelope as soon as the adult Peter Quill—Chris Pratt looking ripped—boogies onto the screen to the sound of Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love. As Quill, or Star-Lord as he prefers to be known—a Han-Solo for the new generation—skips and dances his way towards his next score, picking up a passing snake to use as an impromptu microphone, it is clear that this is not going to be your average mindless summer blockbuster. Guardians of the Galaxy is looking to shake things up.
Guardians tells a familiar story; a group of misfit heroes (a thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac) have to join together to overcome a great evil and save – yes, you guessed it – the galaxy. Along the way they learn the meaning of love, friendship and kicking ass. It’s a good story, but one we’ve seen before; it is the character moments and humor that make this the movie of the summer.
The Guardians aren’t boring cardboard cut-outs; these characters live and breathe, and grow, on the screen. Peter Quill, the human thief on a voyage of discovery. Gamora, the beautiful green-skinned assassin trying to redeem herself. Drax the Destroyer, overcome by his thirst for revenge. And, the two characters who steal the show, Groot and Rocket. The former is a giant walking tree who can only say “I am Groot,” the latter is a hyperactive and hyper-violent raccoon with a penchant for bomb-making. Groot, motion-captured and voiced by Vin Diesel, is the heart of the movie, while Rocket is its funny-bone. None of these characters are in the same place at the end of the movie as they are at the beginning; they all learn and grow; Guardians of the Galaxy is a true ensemble movie.
The movie rumbles along nicely, from heist to prison break to all-out space battle; all set to the coolest soundtrack of the summer. Quill’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” is the sixth star of the movie and the audience can’t help but get pumped up for the final battle when The Runaway’s Cherry Bomb starts playing, or smile as The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back closes out the movie. Guardians is an unabashedly fun and wacky space opera; Marvel took a gamble greenlighting this colorful space adventure amid its slew of more traditional gritty superhero fare, but it is certainly a gamble that has paid off big.
That is not to say that there aren’t a few sour notes. Thanos, the big bad that Marvel first teased in the closing credits of The Avengers, is a CGI mess. Motion-captured by Josh Brolin, Thanos is scarcely believable as the intergalactic supervillain that is moving events behind the scene. He lacks agency and an accompanying sense of dread as he sits on a revolving throne on a bare asteroid, the night sky flaring behind him, trading threats with his underlings. Personally, Marvel’s cross platform promotion—with the Macguffin this time being another Infinity Stone, alongside the one that featured in The Avenger’s and Captain America’s Tesseract—is also failing to excite me.
Despite these minor shortcomings, Guardians of the Galaxy is an exhilarating ride and an exciting entry to the Marvel Universe.
Verdict: Five Stars
This article was originally published here.