Guardians of the Galaxy Review: Marvel Phase 3 or Phase Fail?

If you would have told me five years ago that Star Lord, Gamora, Drax The Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and something called Groot would make 94 million dollars in three days and be bigger household names than Daredevil, Punisher, and Ghost Rider, I would have asked for a hit of whatever bomb ass weed you were smoking. I grew up reading the Vance Astro/Major Victory version of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the 90’s and even that only lasted about ten issues before I found other books that weren’t as sleep inducing. Therefore, I reacted with a side eye when Marvel announced the live action film featuring the updated roster. I rushed out and caught up on this new team, Gamora and Drax had been mainstays throughout the Marvel books in titles like Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity Watch, Infinity War, Infinity Buffet, Real Housewives of Infinity, and whatever title Marvel Comics could push out that revolved around the Infinity Gems. But the Raccoon, the tree, and even Star Lord were unfamiliar to me. Like the original series, my fascination with this new Guardians comic book lasted a few story arcs and I was left thinking, “How the F**k are they going to turn these losers into the next Avengers?”

The answer became, let us make a movie so far removed from the Whedon world of The Avengers; a movie so different from any superhero film that it can’t even be called a superhero film, and let’s get back to having fun like it was 1985!

The Guardians of The Galaxy didn’t break the mold, it reset the mold and redefined what it means to be a Marvel Film. With more in common with Raiders of The Lost Ark and A New Hope, than Iron Man and even Thor, this isn’t Phase 2, it’s Phase Fun, a standalone movie that doesn’t need Nick Fury cameos, an end of movie setup, or a pop in from Tony Stark to take its place on top of mount geek. There will always be “Is it better than” debates when it comes to Superhero films, but this isn’t a Superhero Movie at all. Putting Guardians next to Winter Soldier is like putting Pulp Fiction next to Apocalypse Now. It’s that different.

What’s it about? It’s about a young bastard who can only watch as his mother dies babbling on about how his father was an angel made of pure light who will one day return to earth for him. This young bastard grows into an even bigger bastard, now in space, but still running from his past, with only his soundtrack of 70’s Pop classics to remind him of that life on earth. This bastard is Peter Quill, who no one calls Star Lord, a Ravager whose gone rouge from his adopted crew of thieves with intentions on making his own fortune by stealing an Infinity Gem. Much like Han Solo in the original Star Wars, Quill soon begins to pick up a rag tag gang of the galaxies most off beat character. Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos who was sent to retrieve the gem. Rocket, the genetically altered genius raccoon who hates to be called a raccoon. Finally Groot, Rocket’s bodyguard whose stuck on Pokemon setting verbally, only able to say, “I am Groot.” After an entertaining battle between the four, the Hole In The Wall gang end up in a Xandarian prison where they pick up there last recruit, Drax, a no-nonsense skull crusher whose only purpose in life is to avenge his family's death.

Honestly, the generic hunt for the Infinity Gem plot isn’t even what’s most important in the film, it’s seeing these individual assholes come together to form a team. Unlike The Avengers ego battle between Rogers and Stark, Guardians delivers on a much more personal level. Each one of these characters is tragic, and when showcased alone, not very likable. It’s through learning to compromise and work together do they all begin to shine. I won’t spoil the major points of the movie; it truly is something that’s hard to explain with words because it is such an off-beat film, but I will give you 5 reasons why you must see it.

 1     Rocket Raccoon: All the actors are great… and Zoe Saldana can get it no matter if she’s brown, blue, or green, but Rocket is the star of this film. Bradley Cooper is one of those actors that you either love or hate, because he has that ability to play the vanilla leading man or the epic douche odd ball, depending on the movie he’s in. In Guardians, he shines as the voice of Rocket, stealing the show anytime he is on screen. He’s more sadistic than Wolverine, has better one-liners than Spider-Man, and he’s as genius as Tony Stark. Oh, and he’s a talking raccoon!

 2      Xandar: Marvel’s Phase 3 will revolve around the Infinity Gems, and Xandar, for those of you who are not familiar with the comics, is doomed to go the way of Krypton. As a huge Nova stan, I clearly saw the set up for the Nova movie where hopefully Rich Rider will take on the mantle of the fallen planet. Many of the characters that play a huge part in both the Nova and New Warrior series make appearances as background characters, leading me to believe that Nova may be the lead up movie before Avengers 3.

 3      Thanos Returns: Most fanboys came in their pants when they saw Thanos at the end of Avengers… others were like “who the hell is that purple thing?” Either way he’s back in Guardians, where he’s firmly cemented as the most powerful force in the galaxy

 4      Dance Battle: It’s only fitting that Kevin Bacon and Footloose would play a pivotal role in such a strange and far out film. Forget Nebula versus Gamora, when it comes to action, it’s the climatic end scene dance battle that’s worth the price of a 3-D ticket. Don’t question it, just trust me.

 5      The Soundtrack: X-Men films are about equality. Spider-Man films are about coming of age. The Avengers is about Scarlett Johannsson switching down halls in an ass hugging catsuit. Guardians of the Galaxy is about having fun. This movie is one big party! Project X in Space with photon cannons as party favors, and multi-colored hoes as eye candy.

Are there any negatives to be taken away? There is a lot going on that is never explained fully in terms of plot while other things are glossed over, like Gamora’s true motive, Peter’s dad, and the Kree/Xandarian history that fueled Ronan’s anger. Nebula is wildly underwritten, but with so many characters, it was easy for her to be lost in the shuffle. Ronan the Accuser is the movie’s Big Bad, but he never reaches Loki status, much like the Elf from Thor: The Dark World he’s another in a long line of generic Marvel world conquerors who brood and hit things. Even with that said, the core cast and the wacky 80’s movie vibe they capture mask the flaws. In the end, you’re not talking about Avengers 2 or when will Nick Fury show up, you’re too busy exhaling because it’s such a f**king fun ride.

Oh. What about that end scene? (Highlight text to read)

What better way to pay homage to nonsense in such a nonsense movie than bring back the most unlikely Marvel character who gained infamy in the 80’s? Howard the Duck pops up with the Collector at the end, for a wise crack. Is it as dramatic and fanboy inspiring as Apocalypse Building a Temple or Thor’s Hammer being found? No! But it’s funny, and that’s what this movie is all about.
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