The best talking tree movie since Lord of the Rings is also the most fun Marvel movie yet.
The Guardians of the Galaxy, the superhero team, was an odd choice for a Marvel movie. They’re not famous, which should make them a hard sell to the mainstream audiences that these movies are expected to attract. It could have gone really wrong, but because they’re oddballs operating out in space where they can’t interact with our earthbound heroes, the movie Guardians of the Galaxy is a delightful throwback romp.
The film does start on earth, where we first meet Peter Quill (played as an adult by Chris Pratt), aka Starlord, as he witnesses the death of his mother and is immediately abducted by aliens. Tough night, kid. We’re then treated to some exposition that is at times plenty of fun, but absolutely drags with the repetition of weird character names and planet names. Once you learn that the names of all of these things doesn’t matter, it’s better. The anime trick of making everyone look very different from one another is used here, so you can just say “that guy” instead of worrying about what they’re calling this person currently onscreen. Just go with it.
As we planet hop around the galaxy meeting our main heroes and villains, we’re treated to beautifully rendered planetscapes and exhilarating action scenes. And then, before we know it, we’re introduced to Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), interplanetary hustlers and best of friends, and the movie really takes off. Oh yeah, Groot is a talking tree who can only say “I am Groot.” Just go with it.
The production design of this movie, both visually and musically, was far beyond my expectations. The sets and costumes are colorful and extremely well done. Action scenes look exciting, and with a couple of minor exceptions, feel consistent to the world that was built on screen by director James Gunn. The musical cues come very close to the line of being cheeseball, but Peter Quill’s mixtape has the dual effect of keeping his own memories of earth alive as well as reminding the audience that this is meant as throwback fun. Remember Ice Pirates? Battle Beyond the Stars? Hawk the Slayer? This film is part of that brotherhood.
The movie is at its heart a MacGuffin movie, and the entire plot basically boils down to: Everyone wants the orb. Who will get the orb? There’s some noisy, expensive set pieces that are highly unnecessary and can be a bit tough to follow, but for every one of those, there are three really fun action scenes that are easy to follow and peppered with fun character moments. This isn’t quite a Turn Your Brain Off movie, but it is a Turn Your Nitpickery Off movie. If you know how to turn off your nitpickery — and this is not easy for me to do — you’ll definitely enjoy this movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy is playing everywhere in the galaxy, or at least the Bay Area, on August 1.