Guardians of the Galaxy; The “I Am Groot” Review

Guardians of the Galaxy was by far Marvel Studios riskiest venture yet.  It was always a 50/50 proposition that Iron Man would work, probably 40/60 that Thor would take off and maybe 35/65 that Captain America would be anything less than corny.  However, Guardians of the Galaxy was easily 20/80 that it would be anything more than silly and Marvel Studios first cinematic failure – WORNG on all accounts.

Again, there were so many ways that GOTG could have gone wrong, from the tone of the film to the story itself; this could have easily been a stupid movie.  However, James Gunn (Director) and Nicole Perlman (co-screen writer) did the virtually impossible, they made this space-centric adventure more than watchable and brought to life two of my top 30 comic book characters, Groot and Rocket Raccoon.  Seriously, Marvel put a talking, wise-cracking raccoon and walking tree to film before Warner Brothers/DC Comics could get Wonder Woman or The Flash to the big screen – and did it SUCCESSFULLY.  To say that Marvel can do no wrong would be an overstatement, but it can be said that they know and RESPECT their properties and know how to deftly bring these oddball characters to the screen.

What I appreciated about this movie was that they set the tone of the movie early on; it was campy, mildly sardonic and at times slapstick, but not reaching for laughs nor underselling the seriousness of the story.  If anything, they took some of the best elements of Star Wars and Indiana Jones and made a cohesive and substantial story about destiny, friendship and heroism.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) also known as Starlord is sort of the Han Solo or Malcom Reynolds (for you Firefly fans) of this flick.  Abducted as a youth by Yondu (Michael Rooker of “The Walking Dead” fame) and his Ravagers, Peter is a tomb raider of sort.  However, he quickly gets caught up in a conspiracy for the control and salvation of the universe.  Most notably he finds that he is in possession of one of the five Infinity Stones that are as old and powerful as the universe itself.  Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillian), the adopted daughters of Thanos (uncredited, Josh Brolin) are in pursuit of the stone as aides to Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a fanatical Kree outcast.  Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are bounty hunters out to capture Peter to collect a hefty bounty, and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is the always intense warrior out to seek revenge on Ronan for the murder of his family.

The musical score is what truly made this movie great.  The 70’s and 80’s soundtrack was appropriate for the sentimental feel and the character development of Peter.  Used artfully throughout the movie, it’s the uncredited sixth member in the film that gave the movie a sense of personality and brought forth some interesting comical elements that makes this movie unique in the phased universe.  If nothing else, at the end of the movie, it’s the music that ultimately provides the inspiration to save billions of lives.

With all this being said, it wasn’t a flawless endeavor.  For one, I thought Dave Bautista’s Drax character was good, but I really wish they had kept his origin (or purpose) the same as in the comics.  For one, it would have made more sense and made his confrontation with Ronan less anti-climactic.  I thought his literalistic way of viewing the world to be ripe for comic-relief, but I felt they misplaced is obsession.  In the comics (not to bog you down with too much history) he was created specifically to kill Thanos – and did.  Thus, they really should have kept that aspect of his character alive, even though they changed his origin as a human (another long story) to an alien.  I also had some issues with how they tonally changed Gamora’s character.  In the comics, Gamora is a bad ass.  Period.  She is beyond a warrior and assassin, she is literally the most dangerous woman in the universe and isn’t prone to sentimentality.  In the movie, she was more Columbiana than Gomora, and that hurt the intensity of the character in my opinion.  I get that they probably didn’t want two insanely intense individuals sharing the same screen as Nebula was obviously the contrast to Gamora, but I think the story and tone of the movie could have made that work.  In fact, I think it would have markedly improved the appeal of her character, but that’s a nitpick that I can put aside for the awesomeness in the totality of the movie.

The characters that were completely on the mark were Rocket and Groot.  They didn’t really change much of the characters in terms of story and characterization and my hat’s off to Bradley Cooper for making one of the most fun characters in Marvel Comics come alive.  All the snark, wise-cracking and inferiority complex that you’d expect from Rocket was on full display and he was definitely the unrequited star of this movie.  Groot was equally as heart-felt, serene, wondrous and vicious when he needed to be.  He was by far my wife’s favorite character in this movie and I thought Vin Diesel, who did equally great voice work in the classic The Iron Giant animated movie, made the undisputable heart of the GOTG one of the most unlikely great cinematic characters.  Also, Yondu in the comics was a part of the original GOTG from the 60’s through 90’s, but was revamped for the movie in a really nice way (though I would have loved to have seen that fin), plus anytime I can get to see Michael Rooker on film it’s a great day.

There is an extra scene at the end of the credits, but it was done more for laughs than tie into or lead up to another movie or storyline in the series.  So, I always say people are idiots for leaving a Marvel movie early, but in this one case – I can forgive them.  It’s a nice nod to Marvel movie fans, and even fans of another campy 80’s Marvel movie, but it’s an acceptable scene to skip and be spoiled by the internet.  Other really nice nods to the comic fans were a few scenes with Cosmo, the first sighting of a Celestial, the introduction of Knowhere and the first full presentation of Thanos – in all of his malevolent glory.

There is language and a body count in this movie.  They diminished the blood, but if you have kids younger than 12 or 13, I’d just think twice.  Otherwise, enjoy.

This movie was worth seeing, and even worth spending the small fortune to see in 3D.

See you at the movies!

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