Guardians of the Galaxy is being billed as Marvel Studios’ “different and risky” movie because it ditches Marvel’s standard Earthbound superhero approach and sets the stage in space. It also doubles down on that risk by trying to be “cool and edgy” as an action-space epic-meta-comedy.
By trying to be everything at once, Guardians of the Galaxy ends up being nothing in particular. While it’s not the mega-hit fanboys are hoping for, it’s not the bomb that lots of people (including myself) predicted that it would be.
The bad news is, Guardians of the Galaxy is without a doubt Marvel Studios’ worst movie to date.
The good news is, Guardians of the Galaxy may be the best SyFy Channel movie never made.
Peter Gunn (Super, Slither) directs Chris Pratt (Parks and Rec) as Peter Quill, space-bro and would be outlaw, as he leads a group of misfits as they learn to get along and save the galaxy. Guardians of the Galaxy tries so hard to emulate the fun of Star Wars with the swagger of Firefly that it never really manages to find a voice of its own. It isn’t space opera, it is space karaoke. Fun when inebriated, but pretty awkward at times too.
It is not Chris Pratt’s fault, he does everything he can to keep the movie afloat. Pratt is a very talented comedic actor, and he gets the lion’s share of laughs in the movie, when there are laughs to be had. Pratt does everything short of smirking directly at the audience to show us that we’re supposed to think this is funny, but tonally the movie is all over the place. While the jokes work, the self-aware 70’s soundtrack, constant pop culture references, threadbare plot and slapstick depiction of violence detract from Guardians of the Galaxy’s ability to tell a compelling story. Pratt’s goofy charm just can’t fill the void of what’s missing in the narrative.
As for the rest of the Guardians cast… Bradley Cooper does a good job in voicing Rocket (a cyborg raccoon who shares some of the best interplay with Pratt) but the rest of the crew don’t really get much to do. Vin Diesel voices Groot, a sentient tree occupying the Chewbacca-type role; Dave Bautista (Drax) and Zoe Saldana (Gamora) share screen time playing one dimensional “bad-ass” roles. The only real difference between the two is that Bautista has some cool makeup, while Saldana has to suffer through her lines coated in horrifically green body paint. Veteran actors like Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro and John C. Reilly blithely show up in paycheck-collecting roles, which add nothing to the story.
Although there are some good laughs to be had, the overall inconsistency of Guardians of the Galaxy undermines it. It’s not a huge surprise that Marvel released Guardians in what typically begins the “summer dump period” where box office risks are mitigated. Marvel fanboys will protest with, “It sets up the Marvel Cosmic Universe and unless this is a hit then there won’t be any other non-superhero Marvel movies!” but “setting up what’s next” is not a substitute for a movie that should be interesting as a stand-alone.
Unfortunately, the best way to make sure mediocre movies continue to get made are to continue to pay to go see mediocre movies like this one. It’ll probably have a great opening weekend thanks to its relentless advertising campaign and rabid Marvel fans, but compared the rest of the Marvel movies Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t measure up.