Movies that don’t take themselves too seriously are usually given a pass on a lot of the crimes that they commit. Comedies like Airplane! and the Monty Python films aren’t supposed to be analyzed for their plot as much as they are to be enjoyed for their simplicity. But what about sci-fi movies that have frequent humor, like this weekends’ new Guardians of the Galaxy? This film feels like a combination of Galaxy Quest and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and it’s one of the most fun sci-fi adventures that I’ve seen in awhile.
Guardians of the Galaxy is based off of a Marvel Comics storyline that had its first issue in 2008. The film stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, who goes by his alias, Star-Lord. Taken from earth by space pirates as a child, Quill is now an intergalactic thief who gets thrown into prison along with three other criminals, Thanos’ daughter Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, the bounty hunter Rocket Racoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, and Rocket’s inarticulate partner Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. While in prison, they run into Drax the Destroyer, played by Dave Batista, a muscled-up convict whose family was killed by Ronan, the villain of the film. It turns out that Peter had earlier stolen an orb that Ronan requires to conquer the galaxy, and the reluctant group of five sets off on a journey to sell the orb to another party and get Drax the vengeance that he desires.
Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely hilarious. Chris Pratt has proven that he has matured far beyond his role as Andy Dwier, his character on the TV show Parks and Recreation, and his portrayal of Star-Lord feels like an even more humorous version of Han Solo. Bradley Cooper’s performance as Rocket Raccoon is also fantastic, and many of the lines delivered by these two resulted in gut-busting laughter that was felt throughout the entire theater. Batista’s and Saldana’s characters were definitely the more grounded people in the group, something that a film like this needs if it wants to be taken seriously at all. The chemistry between the five main characters could rival that of the heroes in The Avengers, and it was great to see a film like this succeed on that level.
I also thought that the sci-fi aspects of this film were very well-done. The designs of many of the spaceships were very inventive, and some of the scenes during the film’s conclusion gave me the same feeling that I would get watching the space combat in the original Star Wars. I also thought that many of the tools and weapons used by the characters were unique to this film, such as Star-Lord’s mask and the arrow used by one of the space pirates. I love when sci-fi filmmakers are still able to think of futuristic technology that we haven’t seen implemented before, and Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t disappoint in this department.
One thing that surprised me about the film was the heart that was put into the story and the characters. The film began with a scene from Peter’s childhood that I felt uneasy about at first, but later realized that this scene was integral to his character. All of the characters in the film have interesting backstories, and even Rocket Raccoon gave a monologue about his insecurities that I could relate to. I thought that Guardians was just going to be a straight-forward sci-fi with lots of humor, but I soon found myself becoming invested in these characters. This gave the film a different type of value throughout, something that I greatly appreciated.
Most critics are saying that the villain, Ronan, is a bit disappointing, and I have to agree with them to some degree. The problem with Ronan isn’t that he’s a bad villain; he’s certainly effective. The problem is that we have to compare him to the other villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of which is his own boss, Thanos. It also doesn’t help that every other character in this movie is unforgettable, and Ronan’s best attributes are his black metal face paint and giant hammer. Besides that, there’s not much to the guy. Lee Pace did a fine job with the material given to him, but many audience members are going to wish that Thanos was given a larger presence in the film. There will no doubt be a Thanos-centric sequel to this movie, which I’m sure will give us a more memorable villain.
Ronan’s disappointments didn’t distract from the overall fun feeling of Guardians of the Galaxy. This movie made me laugh, cheer, and even tear up at the end. It had some of the greatest and most likable characters to grace the big screen this summer, a hard feat to accomplish given the high number of quality of films released since May. This was a great addition to the Marvel canon, and I can’t wait to see wait the sequel has in store.