This past weekend, so many people showed up at theatres to see Marvel’s newest film, Guardians of the Galaxy, that it became the biggest film to ever open in the month of August. It’s one of those summer blockbusters that actually lives up to the hype; a film that deftly combines action, comedy, and genuine heart, while fiercely defying being pigeonholed into a single genre.
Guardians of the Galaxy follows Peter Quill, a brash, space-faring adventurer and would-be thief who goes by the name of Star-Lord, as he’s chased across the cosmos by some very bad guys. It wouldn’t be wrong to think of him as a successor to Han Solo and Indiana Jones, as he shares many of their same traits, from his way with women to the ample supply of dangerous rivals who seek him out along the way. There’s also his mouth, which he just can’t seem to keep closed, choosing to fling quips at everyone in earshot, even in the most dire of circumstances.
It’s not long after he comes across a particularly powerful relic on a long-abandoned planet that Quill finds himself the subject of a healthy bounty, and he quickly accepts all of the attention that comes with it. Next thing you know, he’s sitting in a prison cell; perhaps he isn’t quite the thief he thinks he is. It’s here that he makes some new friends, in the form of a walking, talking raccoon with a very bad attitude named Rocket, a tree-creature of very few words who calls himself Groot, a muscle-bound maniac named Drax (the Destroyer), and a green-skinned assassin, with an interstellar rep, named Gamora.
Together, this band of misfits will be the eponymous Guardians of the Galaxy, but first they must learn to trust each other, work as a team, and actually earn that title by doing enough good to offset the years of bad they’ve already accrued. As a group, their dynamic is fresh and fun, and it becomes easy to forget the incredible amount of movie magic that had to take place in order to make us believe that a raccoon can talk, and a tree can uproot itself and walk around on two legs.
Visually, Guardians of the Galaxy is a stunning film. The alien worlds are incredibly well conceived, feeling organic and lived-in while also completely new. Beautifully colorful nebulae glimmer and stretch off into the infinite space beyond every window and balcony. It would be an incredible challenge to tell where practical and computer-generated effects begin and end, and the film features many elaborate sets such as spaceship interiors, stormy wastelands, and high-tech control rooms.
The final piece of the Guardians of the Galaxy puzzle is the soundtrack: a series of ‘70s pop hits that add a toe-tapping drive to the entire film, and drench it in a familiarity that softens the sci-fi strangeness that otherwise might dominate a less smartly-constructed film. (At one point, the crew happens upon a colony called Knowhere built within the floating head of a giant, ancient alien referred to in this particular universe as a “Celestial.” Yes, really.) Hits like “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Come and Get Your Love” are favorites of Quill, and are featured prominently in the film.
Like another series of summer films featuring a less-than-law-abiding lead character, Pirates of the Caribbean, Guardians of the Galaxy is a PG-13 movie. It has some very harrowing action scenes and explosive interstellar battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and a bit of salty humor, the likes of which you might expect from a super squad formed out of a prison for intergalactic felons. But for those of you in the market for a summer movie experience that is somehow both the blockbuster movie you want, and the surprise adventure you never expected, Guardians of the Galaxy is worth your time. And if you haven’t been won over by the antics of Rocket the raccoon and Groot the tree-creature, it might be time to examine if it’s your own heart that’s made of wood.
You can catch Guardians of the Galaxy in theatres everywhere.