Like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie for those who want to see superhero movies taken in a different direction. Instead of taking its superhero-ness seriously, it subverts the tropes of the genre, and the result is, at times, genius.
I say “at times” because it doesn’t always work. The movie takes itself too seriously emotionally speaking, and while this sort of thing can be done well, such as in X-Men: Days of Future Past, most of the serious, emotional scenes fall flat. Only the finale feels real. Much of the blame for this has to fall to James Gunn, the director, for while the script he co-wrote makes both the fun-loving and the serious sections equals, his direction fails to create the uniqueness of place necessary to juxtapose such scenes and still have a separation of tone. As a result, many of the serious scenes, while certainly full of heart, something the film has in abundance, feel unfortunately wrong. Fortunately this is the film’s biggest flaw.
Like many superhero flicks, the movie suffers from a case of exposition disorder. That is, it occasionally strays into sequences during which exposition is thrown out at every turn, causing the casual viewer to tune it out, which is rather unfortunate if a nugget of necessary information is embedded deep within the otherwise esoteric monologue.
Virtually every other aspect of the movie, though, is great. Chris Pratt’s winning performance as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, buoys the movie, and the other performances aren’t half-bad either. Zoe Saldana gives her best to-date, and WWE-fixture Dave Bautista delivers his metaphor-less lines decently, though not fabulously.
Outside of Pratt, though, the voicework of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel is really the standout of the movie’s main cast. Cooper makes Rocket’s every line sparkle, and Vin Diesel exudes every emotion Groot needs with just his three words. Diesel’s devastation over the untimely death of Paul Walker is apparent throughout his heartfelt voicework, and it helps tremendously.
Even the supporting cast, though often underused (especially Glenn Close and John C. Reilly), is rather good. I don’t know why it took so long, but Lee Pace has finally given a good villainous portrayal. It is by no means a deep, multi-faceted portrayal, but at least he seems invested enough in the part to make sure his lines don’t get stuck to his tongue like they did in the second Hobbit movie. Michael Rooker, best known as the eponymous Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and a Merle in The Walking Dead, really carries the supporting cast as Yondu Udonta, the closest thing Quill has to a father. He gives Yondu the depth he needs to make him more than just a jealous thief.
Judging from the comedic success of films this year, it seems the key to getting people to laugh is to make fun of life in general. This is the third movie I’ve watched this year that has succeeded in making me laugh not because it had funny gags, but because it made fun of itself. Meta-humor is engineering a rise, and I, for one, am not complaining. No, the jokes aren’t all perfect, but every member of the cast believes they are doing something new and interesting and important, which makes even the jokes that would otherwise fall flat instead make you smile.
The special effects are gorgeous, and the 3D, though not really utilized all that much, is not distracting, which is not something most 3D movies can boast.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy deserves every cent it makes. It’s strange to think that the superhero movie subgroup could be brought back down to earth by Peter Quill’s ever-temperamental rocket-boots. Though certainly not perfect, Guardians of the Galaxy beats much of the schlock we tend to get this time of year, and it offers a rather interesting deconstruction of the superhero genre.