Guardians of the Galaxy
– for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (Voice), Vin Diesel (Voice), Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Benico Del Toro, Josh Brolin (Voice)
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Theatrical Release Date: August 1, 2014
An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits—Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon, Groot, a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand—with the galaxy’s fate in the balance. (from Marvel)
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, it’s not surprising to see the the studio branch out to some of their more obscure properties. While their brand choices so far have made a lot of sense–and have turned their titular heroes into nationwide household names–the little known “Guardians of the Galaxy” raised more than a few eyebrows. However, with the direction that Marvel is taking the series in, this final film in Phase 2 (before Avengers: Age of Ultron next year, that is) seems right at home. Iron Man had grounded the world in a sense of tangible reality (in that “hey, this could maybe happen in our world” kind of way), with the series gradually getting more sci-fi and fantastical. Things like introducing aliens in Avengers–and a flash of Thanos’ face at the end–has helped pave the way to this moment: the first Marvel movie entirely set in space (save for the flashback in the first scene).
Following films like Star Wars and more modern efforts like The Fifth Element and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those films that defies all expectations to bask in its own weirdness and make the absolute best of it. It surprises the viewer at nearly every turn, poking fun at itself where it sees fit. It’s the movie Mystery Men only dreamed of being, as it unites a band of unlikely heroes – losers even – and makes them heroes. Chris Pratt plays Star Lord (AKA Peter Quill) as a goofier kind of Han Solo, with unusual allies being found in a female warrior; a talking, trigger-happy raccoon; a brawny but slow bruiser out for revenge and a walking plant creature that can only say its own name. On paper, it seems like the kind of mixture that could only work in a cartoon series or ongoing comic book, but it translates amazingly well to the big screen. But, again as Mystery Men proves, it takes the right scope, the right director, the right cast and the right script to pull it all together just right. And Guardians of the Galaxy has that– in spades.
Going back to Star Wars, there was something truly unique and special about that big screen sci-fi romp. It was Star Trek (the original series) for the wider pop audiences, and it helped shape where sci-fi and action has gone since the late 70’s. That legacy alone makes it hard for anything new to top the impact of something like that. Even the Star Wars prequels couldn’t hold a candle to or make the impact that its three predecessors could; too many better sci-fi movies had been made in between the trilogies and since then. Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film in recent years to even come close to the imaginative, inviting, and all-out fun of something like Star Wars; it makes us aging Star Wars fans feel like kids again. And I have to tip my hat to the sheer genius of the construction of Guardians. Sure, one could probably sit down with a pen and pad and draw enough comparisons between Star Wars and Guardians to attempt to make a case that the latter ripped off the former, but the fact that it takes a few cues from the famed game-changing blockbuster does not make it in any way a rip-off; it only ever feels like it attempts to capture the spirit of it.
Park and Recreation‘s Chris Pratt plays a lovable, dimwitted, musically-inclined buffoon on that show, and the television series is better because of that fact. Pratt seems like an odd choice for a movie like this, but upon his first scene, everything makes sense as we get a clear image of the tone that Guardians is going for. Its prologue is semi-serious as we meet an 8-year-old Peter Quill at the bedside of his dying mother in 1988. But it sets it all up beautifully and helps show you, without being too cheesy (X-Men Origins: Wolverine is Exhibit A for exemplifying just how cheesy the childhood origin of a hero can be), just how the human Peter ended up deep in space among a sea of different races of aliens. Guardians ends up being a hearty mix of silly, ridiculous and gritty, and it just makes for good, solid entertainment. But even with all of that, it manages to stir in a necessary dose of heart as well. Star Lord’s most prized possession is a mix tape of 70’s and 80’s hits his mother made for him as a kid and the music not only plays perfectly into the film and its tone itself, but it acts as a thread that’s neatly woven from the very first scene throughout the entire movie. It’s a really nice touch.
Supporting Pratt is Avatar/Star Trek‘s Zoe Saldana as Gamora, heartthrob Bradley Cooper voicing the raccoon Rocket, WWE‘s Dave Bautista as the beefy Drax and Fast and Furious‘ Vin Diesel as the voice of the tree alien Groot. The Hobbit‘s Lee Pace is the creepy villain Ronan, and Michael Rooker plays Yondu Udonta, the leader of another band of thieves who tangles with Star Lord throughout the movie. Cooper easily steals the show as the coarse talking Rocket, who’s quickly offended at being called things like “rodent” and “hamster” and will readily blow someone away for making that mistake. Pratt channels the comedic energy of his Parks character into Star Lord, but balances the needed heroism and seriousness to make his leading role work as well as it does. However, if Guardians wasn’t such a delightfully fun sci-fi adventure, he’d probably prove to be sorely miscast.
The only downside to the film is really within its content (and I may have given it a solid 5/5 if it weren’t for that). It’s a pretty violent film at times (yet not nearly as jarring as Captain America: The Winter Soldier or the recent and very bloody Hercules), even if it’s seldom very graphic, but the language and occasional crude reference is most unfortunate. Pratt stops short of saying “What the f—” by just halting his mouth before making the start of the “F” word (it’s unmistakable what he was going to say), while there are a few uses of the “S” and “a” word, a couple of “d*ck,” 2 exclamations of “G-d” (“Good G-d” and “For G-d’s sakes) and the rest mostly being “h*ll.” Then there are several references to Star Lord having many fleeting flings with women throughout the galaxy in his life, with a gag about how dirty Gamora thinks his ship is leading to him saying a black light would reveal just how gross it really is. Some other sexual jokes are made (but nothing too direct), and the alien body count is definitely high. An infinity stone, when grasped, causes the flesh on characters to crack and start to float off of their bodies before exploding, and we see one prolonged moment where this happens to multiple characters all while screaming intensely in agony. (That has a positive outcome, but it’s still an intense scene.) All in all, it’s not a family film, so the younger ones should be left home (The couple in front of us had a toddler and an infant and it is highly inappropriate for those ages especially).
As a part of Marvel’s cinematic “Phase 2,” Guardians of the Galaxy is very loosely integrated — unless you’re really paying attention. Thanos was the mysterious figure shown in profile only at the end of Avengers and he makes his first full-on appearance here, voiced by Josh Brolin (the character is mostly CG), setting him up further for future films. Benico Del Toro reprises his role as The Collector, who appeared in the closing scenes of Thor: The Dark World. These snippets rope Galaxy into the string of Marvel films, but it’s more likely that we’ll see just how much this fits into the context of the already-established cinematic Marvel universe in succeeding films. Guardians ends with a promise that “The Guardians of the Galaxy Will Return” and a projected date for the release of a sequel has already been set by Marvel for 2017.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a wonderful cinematic surprise. It’s about as fun as popcorn films can get these days, and it’s also visually exciting too. (And man, Pratt is 2 for 2 this year with the wonderful LEGO Movie being his other big hit this year, as he voiced the main character in it.) It’s one of those movies that has so much going on and so much meat to its imaginative world, that multiple viewings are necessary to really take in all it has to offer. And before the film reached its equally fun finish, I already couldn’t wait to see it again. Marvel has continued to raise the bar on itself this year. (For those wondering about a post-credits additional scene, there is one, but it’s quite silly and adds absolutely nothing to the film or the Marvel universe. It’s a cameo from another comic book character that suffered from a horrifyingly bad 1986 cinematic adaptation. It probably is not worth staying in the theater and waiting for.)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/2/14)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see the bare side of Ronan lying on the ground and a darkened view of his bare butt from a distance as he gets dressed; Women are often shown wearing tight attire or outfits showing cleavage; Drax calls Gamora a whore; Gamora tells Peter she won’t be seduced by his “pelvic sorcery” (or something like that); Peter brags about sleeping with various female races. Drax later refers to him as “The One Who Laid with a” (and names the race of one of them). Peter defensively adds that it just happened once; Gamora complains about Peter’s ship being so filthy and he proudly jokes that she would be surprised just how gross it is, and that if you shined a blacklight on the walls it’d look like a Jackson Pollock painting (meaning bodily fluids are probably dried on the walls); When Peter and Gamora fall into a room, he lands on top of her (clothed) and the two seem to almost share a romantic moment but he ruins it with a joke and she pushes him away; and some other innuendo.
Vulgarity/Language: At least: 1 incomplete “What the f…” (before any of the “F” word was spoken), 3 “S” words, 7 “h*ll,” 4 “d*mn,” 3 “d*ck,” 1 “Good G-d!”, 1 “For G-d’s Sakes,” 2 “cr*p,” 1 “b*tch,” 3 “a” words, 2 “a-hole” (said just like that); Star Lord gives the middle finger to people who arrested him (and jokingly tries to put it down but it springs back up); Rocket uses “fricken,” “fricking” and “friggen” several times each.
Alcohol/Drugs: People drink several times during the film. In one scene, at a bar, Rocket and Drax appear drunk and fight; In the post-credits scene, we see a couple of people drinking (and one of them is smoking while drinking a cocktail).
Blood/Gore: Groot’s tree branch-like limbs get cut off multiple times in the film, but they grow back; We see some ugly scarring on Rocket’s bare back for a moment (revealing some kind of cybernetic implants); We see Ronan about to behead a victim and when he brings his hammer down toward the man, the camera cuts away and we just see a black liquid run across the floor (presumably the man’s blood); We briefly see a man with a prosthetic robotic eye protruding from the front of his head; A woman who’s some kind of robot or evil machine is thought to have been destroyed, but we see her twisted and mangled arm and wrist spring to life (it’s kind of creepy) as she pops back into her usual shape; We see the same robotic character sever their robotic hand to escape doom; As an infinity stone creates a large blast of energy, a person screams as their skin cracks and bits start to float up from it; Later, after another person grabs the infinity stone, they scream intensely as their skin cracks and bits start to float up from it. This is a much longer scene and it happens to several characters at once this time. It ends with another character exploding; At the end of the movie, Star Lord has some blood on his face.
Violence: Lots of sci-fi action violence. We see Peter’s mom, when he was a boy, dying in bed from cancer. We see her bald and sickly looking. She does die while he’s there; Young Peter screams as an alien ship beams him up; Adult Peter dances in a cavern and grabs a nearby creature, singing into it like a microphone while squeezing it. He kicks other small creatures while dancing (played for laughs); Some alien soldiers shoot at Star Lord and he shocks them with blaster rounds as he escapes. A fire fight breaks out; Gamora tries to steal something from him but the two fight and Rocket and Groot get involved. They manage to bag Star Lord who then escapes before getting shocked with an electrical charge and subdued. Gamora is knocked out too, while Groot’s arms get cut off (to which Rocket reassures him will grow back). They all get arrested and imprisoned; While shirtless, Peter is hosed down with an orange liquid (in prison); We see many threatening criminals in prison (some really scary looking). A group of them threaten to kill Gamora, but Peter intervenes; We see a man with a prosthetic robotic leg with Rocket telling him Peter needs to get it from him for their escape plan. We later see it detached from the man’s body. Peter briefly uses it as a weapon; Rocket races to do something on a command console while the windows around them are shot and cracked with exploding missiles; A riot and battle breaks out in the prison; We see Ronan about to behead a victim and when he brings his hammer down toward the man, the camera cuts away and we just see a black liquid run across the floor (presumably the man’s blood); Yondu Udonta has a sharp tool in his belt that he summons by whistling and uses to threaten to kill people. In one scene we see it blast through many aliens’ chests before they all fall down dead at the same time. He usually just holds it to the throat of people he’s threatening though (like Peter in one instance); Gamora ends up floating in space about to die when someone rushes out to rescue her, almost dying as well. They’re then captured and ultimately saved; Rocket threatens to blow up a ship if they don’t do what he wants (but doesn’t); Ronan and Drax fist-fight with Drax almost dying. Ronan throws him into a pool of yellow liquid, but Groot fetches him out of it, jabs a dagger-like finger into his chest, spilling the liquid from his lungs (and otherwise saving him); A few large space battles have intense destruction involving ships, and cities below; Rocket violently kicks a patch of grass repeatedly in anger; We see a bunch of ships protecting a city by unloading firepower on smaller attacking ships; A villain is endowed with an otherworldly power that makes him nearly unstoppable; A weapon fires on the villain, creating a big blast/explosion, but they end up being okay; Gamora fights a robotic female character in a brutal fight; POTENTIAL SPOILERS: The grand battle continues, but as the Guardians are stuck on a crashing ship, Groot encloses them in a shell of his roots and branches for when they crash. Rocket mourns his splintered remains afterwards; Earlier, as an infinity stone creates a large blast of energy, a person screams as their skin cracks and bits start to float up from it (and they eventually explode in a huge blast, destroying a room and some people and creatures inside of it); Later, after another person grabs the infinity stone, they scream intensely as their skin cracks and bits start to float up from it. This is a much longer scene and it happens to several characters at once this time. It ends with another character exploding; …and other sci-fi action violence.