Directed by: James Gunn
Produced by: Kevin Feige
Written: by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave BautistaV, in Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Edited by: Fred Raskin, Craig Wood, Hughes Winborne
Production company: Marvel Studios
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Guardians of The Galaxy was a unique film brought to the forefront by Marvel Studios. Who the hell are the Guardians of the Galaxy? They have no name recognition whatsoever. I was aware of the character Rocket Raccoon due the video-game Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3, which was released three years prior the film. I had read up on what this comic was from that game but never actually read the series. This is probably the same if not close to the same knowledge everyone else had of this property when this film showed up. Yet, thanks to a great marketing campaign with the fun music-filled trailers we all went to see it.
I would argue the success of Guardians of the Galaxy relies on several factors, the first being the cast and their characters. At this point in time Chris Pratt is something of a newcomer to people. You know him from Parks and Recreations, or Emmet from The LEGO Movie or maybe you do not know him at all. Nonetheless, Pratt pulls it off as the lovable, awkward, clumsy trying to play cool adventurer Star-Lord who has his own issues of loss going back to his mother. He’s a character you can identify in that he thinks he’s the coolest, tries to act and be the coolest but deep down and he knows it – he’s a bit of a doofus. Next you have Zoe Saldana, hot off of hits like James Cameron’s Avatar and the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise. Gamora is the space-assassin wanting to turn over a new leaf. Bradley Cooper who people know from The Hangover trilogy provides the voice for Rocket Raccoon, a walking, talking, gun-toting, enhanced raccoon. Need I say more? Fast and Furious/XXX star and overall nerd Vin Diesel as Groot, the walking, talking tree with limited vocabulastic skills as Rocket put it. Then finally you have wrestler Dave Bautista playing Drax the Destroyer, a tortured soul who is overly literal and always angry to hide his own deep personal loss and emotion. Bautista was a pleasant surprise given he is a wrestler and turned out a great performance, given wrestler to actor rarely turns out well, except in the case of The Rock. Each character has “lost something” as Star-Lord puts it that brings this rag-team of misfits together as a family and to do something worthy for once. It is not the common superhero team like the Avengers who are assembled to save the world on basic principles and story-telling of good versus evil. The cast was so key to the movie that each has its own dedicated base of fans. There is some argument in who made this film the success it is – Chris Pratt or the raccoon?
Another huge feather in this film’s hat is the music. The soundtrack is a mix of hits from the 60’s and 70’s that provide still some connection to Earth in this intergalactic picture. It is hard to not get up to jam and dance along with each track in the middle of the picture. The crowing achievement may be the beginning with Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” which quickly sets the tone of the picture and the characterization of Star-Lord. It is also an interesting nod since the original team and characters have roots going back to the 60’s and 70’s. Sure, there are few songs that come off as perhaps overused like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” but then are used well. The soundtrack itself would go on to be the #1 best selling soundtrack for eleven consecutive weeks and was the second-best selling soundtrack of 2014. Tyler Bates does a great job in composing a score with a few great tracks here and there while not taking away from the soundtrack which serves as the primary musical voice for the film. I will admit the Guardians theme is rather forgettable and Tyler Bates has turned in better work like Watchmen for example.
Another huge success for the film was the effects, costuming and overall look of the film. Most of the effects for the film were practical like the make-up for Gamora and Drax which took at least four hours to apply. I will admit the make-up for others like the Krylorians (the pink aliens) was off. I believed Gamora and Drax were actual aliens with that as their natural skin. The Krylorians and others did look like extras just covered in pink make-up, I never bought they were extra terrestrial at all. A combination of effects were used for the characters of Rocket & Groot which resulted in excellent pay-off as I truly believed there was a walking raccoon on screen there. Many of the sets were built and look exquisitely real and high-class, not just some studio lot set. Finally, Gun provides a fun and other-worldly appeal and visual style to the film. Overall the film is extravagantly colored that I feel I may be looking at a painting or even the comic books themselves. There is no one color pallet. In the beginning of the film on the planet of Morag you get the vibe of a dark, gritty feature film due to the planet’s lack of color and all around rainy grimness and lack of life. At the same time Gunn offers great contrast with the coloring of the sky and atmosphere. Sometimes films get stuck with being overly colorful or having a dull or muted color scheme that does no story telling of its own, but not for Gunn. Ronan’s lair is very dark and black, it is the complete absence of color and life but the first appearance of Knowhere which is an explosion of color, for Knowhere is bustling with life all over. The final note in this topic is especially the costumes, for in the comics the team members actually have a team uniform, think the X-Men from the 60’s or the First Class film. No, instead Gunn throws this out, favoring individualism for his Guardians like Star-Lord’s now insanely cool and iconic coat. Groot’s friendly and almost child like appearance is of great contrast to the film and team, especially contrast to his appearance in the original comics and I personally like what Gunn did with The Collector. When he first stepped onto the scene I thought it was David Bowie for a brief moment.
Guardians of the Galaxy is personally one of my all-time favorite films of the MCU. Yes, the story is something of just retrieving the McGuffin and stopping the big bad guy, rather basic. Nonetheless, it’s not so much about the story and more about the characters and the journey. You fall in love with these characters over-night even though you probably had no assumptions or no well known history for them unlike the Avengers. Each character is an individual that offers something new and different to the universe. You don’t want to see them achieve just to see the forces of good prevail but because you generally care about them and want them to accomplish something, much like you would with friends and family. The setting, visuals and soundtrack are completely unorthodox and off-the-wall. Given it’s space epic/fantasy back drop this is the closets you get to Star Wars without actually being Star Wars. Last but not least, it has a lot of heart as again the movie deals with loss. I took what they said earlier about Groot at face-value that he’s a houseplant and muscle for Rocket. In addition, Rocket would sometimes scold him. By the time we had the sacrifice I found Rocket really did care for this character and I was greatly moved. This was a huge surprise for me, showing that the film was more than just great effects, a jamming soundtrack, hilarious jokes and fantastic action. But it is those things as well, it has something for everyone.
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