Opening weekend review–“Guardians” brings fun back to superhero movies

Guardians poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

After so many dark and dreary superhero movies, did Hollywood forget what drew everyone to comic books in the first place?  Somewhere along the way drama began to bog down the genre resulting in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and it looks like it’s not going to let up with the first images for the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  “Why so serious?”  And it hasn’t just been movies based on DC Comics.  Marvel’s X-Men franchise gave us all those Academy Award winning actors all so grim and in such dire circumstances.  Sure, they’re good films, but Guardians of the Galaxy proves superhero movies don’t have to be so grim to be good.

If you don’t find yourself laughing out loud with this flick then the superhero genre is not for you.

The same kind of excitement you remember from your first viewing of Star Wars and Superman is waiting for you.  For certain Guardians of the Galaxy is neither movie, but it isn’t trying to be.  Good escapist fun underscores every scene, and its greatest achievement is not taking itself too seriously.  Its characters have a familiar and likeable chemistry like our favorite crews of Serenity or the Millennium Falcon.  Writer/director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman pull together familiar elements from The Fifth Element, Flash Gordon and even “The Tholian Web” to make a fully-realized new sci-fi/superhero universe.  And it’s as good an adaptation of a comic book series as you’ll ever find.  Even better, its second tier cast of characters–unfamiliar to most movie watchers–means expectations and preconceptions filmmakers may be more concerned with in a Batman, Superman, or Spider-man story are just not an issue here.

The Guardians

And if you managed to dodge most of the trailers, so much the better.  We already knew we’d love the feisty Rocket, a genetically-enhanced cybernetic raccoon creature voiced by Bradley Cooper in his best performance so far.  But Dave Bautista is equally impressive as Drax the Destroyer, and Star Trek reboot star Zoe Saldana’s performance as Gamora, the green adopted daughter of Thanos, is likely her most impressive so far.  The giant CGI ent Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel (Riddick), and star Peter Quill aka Star-lord, played by Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Moneyball, Everwood), provide non-stop comic relief.  They form a new, engaging band that will leaving you anxious for the sequel promised at film’s end.

And although the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, the production took great care to make a good movie that was loyal to the source material.  This is illustrated by the high quality supporting cast:  Glenn Close (Mars Attacks!, Dangerous Liaisons, The Natural) as Nova Prime, Lee Pace (The Hobbit, Wonderfalls) as the vile and impressive Ronan, a tough and almost unrecognizable Karen Gillan as Nebula, and Benicio del Toro (Sin City, License to Kill, The Usual Suspects) as a Kivas Fajo-inspired “Collector”.  And we can’t forget the stand-out work of Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Psych, Burn Notice, Chuck, Eight Men Out, Days of Thunder, Cliffhanger) as a blue-skinned ex-mentor to Quill.

guardians prisoners

Full of great props, great costumes, great ships, great sets, and a great soundtrack, and a plot that doesn’t spend all its time meandering around in origin stories, the eagerly awaited Guardians of the Galaxy is a big contender for best summer blockbuster of 2014.  Guardians of the Galaxy is in theaters everywhere now.





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