Three years ago, I attended San Diego Comic Con. The con is all of the fun that it is cracked up to be and more, but as I sat in hall H of the San Diego convention center, I had a bomb dropped on me. Marvel announced that they were making a Guardians of the Galaxy live-action film. The roar from the crowd was so loud I thought I had misheard them, but then I saw the titles. As a long time fan of the comics and all things related to the Marvel space-heroes, I was ecstatic in that moment—but I would have to wait.
Then, at the end of Marvel’s Avengers, a cameo from one of the baddest villains in the Marvel universe left a confused look on the face of everyone but a select few people—me being one of them. Seeing Thanos on a big screen if only for a second was enough to get my heart racing, but still, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. The date was getting closer and with each day, the film became a little bit more real. Following the credits to Marvel’s Thor: The Dark world, we received another glimpse into the future when The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro, made his first appearance on screen. At this point, my blood was hot with anticipation.
I followed the movie as closely as anyone who wasn’t actually involved in making it could, right up until they released the first trailer, which was so exciting that I practically fainted when I saw it. However, after the first trailer, I cut myself off from the movie entirely—as not to spoil a single second more before I could watch the glory of new age cinema bring some of my favorite characters to life. Finally, on the 31st of July, my wait was over—the future is now.
With a film this big and this great, it’s hard to pick a starting point, but let’s start with James Gunn. Since Marvel made their studio, they have consistently been churning out successful movies featuring the characters we all know and love, but Guardians is really the first movie they have done without “mainstream” heroes. It seems only fitting that for a whole new cast of heroes, Marvel introduce a director who is no stranger to cinema, but has never busted his comic book cherry. James Gunn is probably most known for his movie, Slither, released in 2006, but for my incredibly bias dollar, Guardians is his best film to date by a landslide.
Gunn’s unique style of directing was present even in the trailer and it persists throughout the film. Because Gunn co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Pearlman, his style comes through in a very action-packed and relentlessly funny story about this motley crew of characters. The story of the film, while original, makes excellent use of the source material. For anyone who is worried about the movie straying to far from the comic, you can rest easy and enjoy multiple references to the material that might also be set ups for the confirmed sequel. Aside from being packed with breath-taking action (see it in 3D!), the film is also heartwarming and offers tons of great jokes to make sure you don’t end up seeing a space opera instead of story that uses space as its stage.
Moving on to the characters, I am thrilled with the cast they picked to portray everyone. Chris Pratt, who plays Starlord in the movie, is fantastic. Pratt’s natural comedic instincts are a constant refreshment from the more serious tone of the plot, and it helps to maintain the charm that Starlord has on the page. Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, fits the role perfectly. Audience members are familiar with Saldana’s other roles as a professional badass in movies like Columbiana and The Losers—this one is no exception. Gamora is a war-hardened fighter and assassin who also happens to be the prettiest woman with green skin that I have ever seen.
Rocket and Groot, played by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively, are some of the most funny characters in the movie, and they add a lot of heart to the story as well. Both characters are one hundred percent CGI, but their vocal performances are so grounded in the characters that I might not have recognized their voices were it not for my obsessive need to know the entire cast. Lee Pace plays the villain of the film, Ronan. Ronan himself was done very well. He is a character that has a determination and conviction that can only be described as religious, and Pace gets that feeling across without even having to speak—though when he does, you can practically feel the fear that the characters surrounding him do at all times.
Michael Rooker, a veteran in the acting game, plays the role of Yondu. Yondu is a bounty hunter and junker who’s responsible for thrusting Starlord onto the path of a mischievous, dilettante/thief. Yondu isn’t the smartest of criminals, but he commands respect, and those who don’t give it to him quickly find out that he is not to be trifled with. Finally, the one person I had reservations about in the cast was Dave Bautista. Bautista has never had a role this big on a movie this scale, and I thought that they were taking a risk in using a known wrestler for the part, but after having seen the film, I can say with pleasure that Bautista and Drax the Destroyer were made for each other. Bautista is best known for his time as the famous wrestling persona, “The Animal Bautista,” which I’m sure lent itself immensely to the role of Drax.
There are other notable characters portrayed by actors who all give great performances such as: Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Benicio Del Toro, and Glenn Close. I cannot stress enough how complete the world they created felt, and how true it was to the books in many ways. The Kyln and Knowhere are locations of interest from the comic, and they made their way onto the screen. Gunn even went through the trouble of explaining the celestials and the infinity stones, which indirectly brings more authenticity to past films like Avengers (you have to be paying attention to pick up on that one).
Also, the film’s soundtrack is practically another character in itself. Using oldies songs to connect people to the character of Starlord reminded us that he is from earth, and more than that, it reminded us that at heart that Peter Quill is a kid that misses his mother. I can imagine kids who go to see the film will learn what those songs are and fall in love with them the same way Starlord does because now they are attached to something that they love. Everything, from the look of the film to the cast to the story, gels in a way that makes for an epic cinematic adventure—one that we have all been deprived of for far too long. I purposely didn’t discuss the movie in depth because I want to avoid spoilers. It is my belief that in movies today, money is what dictates success. It dictates who gets to be in movies, who gets to make them, and which ones get made, but this is not a good model for film. It saddens me to think that most everything in theaters today is either a reboot, a remake, a book or sequel.
Trying to turn everything into a franchise for the sake of getting paid has turned mainstream film into an ocean of murky water where only sharks swim. It saddens me because as a writer, I study what I study because I saw Jurassic Park when I was four, or The Matrix when I was nine. Film as a medium for story telling has the potential to effect people in a profound way, and it is important to keep that possibility alive. It is important to take risks on new actors and directors and stories, and to make them as real as possible because creativity feeds creativity. Guardians took those risks and came out on the other end with a film that is not only great, but also potentially inspiring, and for that I must applaud everyone involved. Do yourself a favor and go see Guardians of the Galaxy.