First Word: Guardians of the Galaxy was directed by James Gunn and stars Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Jurassic World, Passengers), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper), and others. Released in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy raked in 94 million on its opening weekend. With a 170 million dollar budget, Marvel Studios took a risk with Guardians but it paid off in the end. Overall Guardians of the Galaxy banked 333 million and in a few days they will once again take to the big screen with a highly anticipated sequel.
Plot/Synopsis: Guardians of the Galaxy focuses on a quirky team of criminals, hustlers, and a raccoon and his pet tree (or is it the other way around?) This unlikely team joins to fight against the vengeful Ronan the Accuser who does Thanos’ bidding. Ronan is bent on finding a powerful Infinity Stone which was picked up by Peter Quill (or Starlord as he wishes to be called). Quill, with a hefty price on his head, is now the center of a manhunt. Quill’s team is comprised of Gamora (a bitter daughter of Thanos), Drax (a bitter brute who lost his family to Thanos), Rocket (a bitter raccoon who is out to make money), and Groot (a tree who isn’t really bitter but just along for the ride) who all vow to take out Ronan and hide this powerful Infinity Stone away from Thanos’ reach. 8/10
Characterization: James Gunn does a great job of juggling this large cast of characters and still giving each one enough screen time for development. In the beginning, a young Peter Quill has a heartbreaking scene with his dying mother and this moment gives depth to his character. Each member of Quill’s team has clear motivations which helps us as the audience connect with them. Rocket the Raccoon, for example, shares how he was tortured and tested like a guinea pig, and although Rocket is just a CGI raccoon I found myself sympathizing with him. Probably the best example of this is Groot’s solemn scene where he sacrifices his life for his friends. As Vin Diesel bellows “I am Groot” for the final time, I found myself shedding a tear over the CGI tree. However, Ronan the Accuser is no Loki and he does lack an intimidation and ruthlessness that I expect from a villain. 8/10
Cinematography: Guardians of the Galaxy, as its name clearly denotes, is a movie based in space with aliens, sci-fi weapons, and the sheer vastness of the universe. Although this simple fact forced James Gunn to use CGI throughout, the film looks spectacular. When forced to use CGI some films cave in and use it for everything, but what sets Guardians apart is that Gunn used CGI where necessary but used set pieces and outstanding make-up effects where he could. He created a universe where CGI seamlessly meshes with reality. Kudos to the make-up artists; Drax, Gamora, and others look spectacular! No wonder Guardians was nominated for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. 9/10
Conclusion: Guardians of the Galaxy, summed up, is a fun ride. Marvel risked 170 million dollars to take an unknown group and turn them into a widely recognizable team of superheroes. I believe a lot of credit and applause is owed to James Gunn. He truly focused in on this movie and made it great. With amazing casting, a solid story, and jaw-dropping effects, Gunn made Guardians of the Galaxy a worthy contender in the infamous Best Comic Book Movies list that every fan has.
Final Score: 8.3