With Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, R), Marvel Studios embarked upon something entirely new: risking a ton of money making a sci-fi action flick based upon some obscure comic book characters that most of the American public had never heard of. Would the public respond positively to a Marvel movie without easily recognizable headline characters like Spider Man, Thor or Wolverine? The flop of DC's Green Lantern film might have suggested that featuring anyone other than the biggest notables was perilous. Yet Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded where Green Lantern failed miserably, succeeding as a wonderfully woven and thoroughly entertaining movie in its own right.
The plot centers on the drama of Peter Quill, a space-pirate kidnapped from Earth by aliens as a boy after the loss of his mother. The only relic Peter has of Earth is a headset with a mix-tape from the 1980's that he values as his most treasured possession. Everything is hum-drum for space pirate Peter - or "Star-Lord", as he prefers to be called - until he inadvertently steals a mysterious orb which proves to be the most important object in the galaxy and which immediately puts him in the cross hairs of several fierce antagonists. With the aid of a team of losers, including a bio-engineered raccoon and a walking tree, Peter must get the orb into safe hands, sort out friend from foe, and destroy a few bad guys along the way.
While the supporting cast is great, the movie is really driven by Peter, who is half Han Solo, half Westley from Princess Bride. Besides being a great sci-fi action flick, this movie is downright funny. Most Marvel films have a little bit of comedy, but director James Gunn (with nothing notable in his resume until now) went out of his way to make certain that Guardians of the Galaxy was a sincerely funny movie. My wife and I were laughing uproariously throughout much of the film right from the first scene. Even in the most intense battle sequences, you are never a few moments away from a good chuckle. And all to a great 70's and 80's soundtrack, which is integrated into the film through Peter Quill's walkman.
One thing to watch out for - this film is certainly comedic, but it is a dark comedy. There are a couple of sex jokes based around the motif of Peter/Star-Lord being a womanizer, including one joke about blacklights that was over my wife's head but which I understood and which was pretty risque. There is some bad language, including "bitch", "slut" and "sh*t". No blasphemy that I noticed. It is also dark in the sense of violent. If you are used to the typical Marvel violence of Captain America and Thor, take this one notch up. It's nothing excessive, but it made my wife wince once or twice. Taking this all into consideration, I'd definitely say Guardians of the Galaxy is not for kids under 14.
But it still worked out for me, and amazingly well. I think in the end, maybe the reason Guardians worked so well is because I really don't have any conception of Star-Lord, Drax or Groot from the comics. Had I read these comics, I probably would have been making continual comparisons between the two. When I first saw Fellowship of the Ring, I had never read the book and thought it was phenomenal. When I first saw the Hobbit, I was very familiar with the book and somewhat disappointed with the film. I do not know whether Star-Lord and the others sync up with the comic well, and frankly I don't care. This movie is enjoyable in its own right without reference to the comic. Because most viewers will have never seen the comic, I expect Guardians of the Galaxy will have a very broad appeal.
I give it 2.5 tiaras. The film was extraordinarily well done; it was unfortunate that they had to make so many sexual innuendos and make Peter/Star-Lord into a womanizer. The blacklight joke crossed the line. Had these few parts been omitted, I would have easily given it a 3.
Review by Boniface