Review by Kay
I’ve seen several comments on Twitter indicating that Guardians of the Galaxy is a group running around where everyone is Han Solo. Well, that’s not quite true.
Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is the Han Solo that charges around a corner on the Death Star only to have to turn and run for his life. David Bautista’s Drax is the Han Solo with his own agenda. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is the Han Solo who can see things the others are missing. Rocket, as voiced by Bradley Cooper, is the Han Solo who can’t believe he’s going along with this whole thing. And then there’s Groot. Groot is not a Han Solo. Groot is a more forgiving Chewbacca with the sweetest puppy dog eyes. Seriously, I hope whoever animated Groot’s eyes was given plenty of money and high fives. Vin Diesel’s vocal inflections were great, but the eyes (and that one whole facial expression) really made the character. And as much as I love Han Solo, at the end of the day Groot is the one I’d want on my team.
Han Solo-ness aside, the cast is good. They’re all clearly invested and they all have something that pulls the spotlight on them now and again. The emotional heart of this movie comes and goes though. One instant it’s taken seriously and feels genuine, then the next go-around it’s not. While I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten teary-eyed while watching a movie, and Rocket had some moving moments, the Guardians banding together and calling each other friends was totally cheesy. The whole note comes off shallow and temporary. Similarly, when Peter saves someone from a frozen death in space, it’s supposed to be a big turning point for him. But he’s been so likeable, it seems like something totally normal for him to do.
There was also something off with Karen Gillan’s Nebula. She could have been a Loki. I’m not sure if her part got trimmed down in a script revision or something didn’t make the final edit, but her potential as a foil to Gamora condenses into someone who stomps around and yells a lot into empty spaces. More strange choices present themselves. Sometimes the more evil you are the lower your voice is artificially made. Sometimes it seems like no one explained to the extras what was going on in the scene.
It’s my understanding director James Gunn and crew were going for a more B-movie feel, but how much can we write off for that?
And yet, I wouldn’t call this a bad movie. There’s a lot to enjoy in Guardians of the Galaxy. I happen to be a fan of all the songs in “Awesome Mix Vol. 1.” Peter’s dancing through the opening credits sets the right tone. From Drax’s literalness to Rocket’s messing with people to Peter’s reference slinging, there’s plenty of laughs to go around. And the joke isn’t that there is a talking raccoon and a walking tree; those two fit in seamlessly with the world around them. A visit to The Collector’s place has plenty of visual winks and treats. It’d be easy to just look around and not pay attention to the plot points that happen there. My brain kept yelling “He has a dark elf!”
There’s something to celebrate with Gamora too. She doesn’t only exist as a part of a male character’s story. She’s breaking out of being defined by a relationship to another character and charting her own path. Gamora is strong, smart, and resourceful. She has expressed feelings. And she makes an impact on the story all the way through to the end. It’s sad we don’t always get that in one package for female characters, but it’s nice to see here.
So… What the heck is Guardians of the Galaxy?
While I appreciate some of the gritty sets and details like Peter having to shake gadgets to get them to work, it’s not a particularly beautifully shot or designed movie. I wouldn’t call the whole package sleek or particularly clever. I’m not sure it’s claiming to be any of those things, either. It was an opportunity to show that you don’t need a comic to be widespread well-known to base a film on it.
In the end Guardians of the Galaxy was a lot of fun. Sometimes that’s what we really need from the movies… that and the legend of Footloose. We’ll always have the legend of Footloose.
Guardians of the Galaxy was part of my Top Ten Movies to See in 2014 aka Only Grand Captain Mockingjays of Future Tomorrow.
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path for now, but she’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart who enjoys surprising people with how geeky she really is. A photographer and voice actor who also consults on communications and marketing, Kay spends any free time reading, learning, getting outside and, of course, making pew pew noises. You can follow her on Twitter.
Kay is FANgirl's resident geek fashion expert and co-host of the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She reviews books and movies for the site with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. Kay's been a guest on various podcasts sharing her love and knowledge of storytelling, film-making, fashion, and of course, Star Wars.
Most days are filled with her work as a creative services professional - designing websites & branding, photographing, voice acting, editing, and more. Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, costuming, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.
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- The Secrets of the Jedi Review - November 12, 2019