EDITOR’S NOTE: We here at Comic Riffs have been monitoring it for so long now: How “Guardians at the Galaxy” seemed to be wending its way onto the broader public radar with just the right mix of thrust, velocity and mass-advertising — like a sleeper hit gradually building to a sure thing. If nothing else, we were convinced Rocket Raccoon would be Marvel’s next breakout star (fire up production of those Halloween costumes!). Now, “GOTG” is trending toward a nine-digit opening weekend. As the world climbs aboard to root for Groot, here are 10 Reasons Why the film works so well, courtesy of freelance contributor David Betancourt.
“GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY” is a Marvel experience all its own. Although no two Marvel movies are quite the same, there is a certain superhero template that Marvel Studios’ phase-one and phase-two movies have followed like a magic road map.
With this weekend’s new outing, though, “Guardians” feels like a fresh superhero movie, in part because there are no heroes in this film — just rebels who come together for the greater good if the universe is going to survive. Thankfully, fans get to enjoy the greater creative good.
Watching “Guardians,” you realize you are witnessing the birth of the next great Marvel Studios franchise — a work more on par with “The Avengers” than with any of Marvel’s solo-superhero flicks. The Marvel movie universe looks as though it has a bright future in deep space.
Here are our Ten “GOTG” Takeaways:
1. Lord of the Stars
You got the sense from the “Guardians” trailer that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, is a guy who doesn’t take things too seriously. But don’t underestimate him. He’s quick to put heroic boot to face, if provoked. He also has two cool phaser guns and an awesome space helmet. Quill is a reluctant leader who rallies the “Guardians,” keeping them together when they just want to rip each other apart.
He was abducted from Earth as a child and you get the sense that he is still very much the same kid at heart. He’s also Tony Stark-hilarious, and whatever you do, don’t mess with his Walkman.
Speaking of that Walkman: Despite looking like prehistoric technology among the various space-tech featured in “Guardians” (there are no smartphones in space; there are, however, sharp FaceTime-like video-conferencing screens), the Walkman is a major part of the movie. It is both a symbol of Star-Lord’s brief time on Earth and a soundtrack provider to the audience. Marvel movies usually depend on dramatic musical scores, and there is one in “Guardians,” but it takes a back seat to Star-Lord’s “Awesome Mix,” a collection of some of the 20th centuries best pop-music offerings. It’s a unique movie/music experience that surprisingly works for a film set in deep space. Prepare to jam.
3. Daddy issues
We meet Star-Lord’s Earth mother in the film. But what about his father? Fans of the “Guardians” comic book already know the secret behind Star-Lord’s paternal genetic provider. If you’re getting to know the Guardians for the first time, it should be fun going along that journey of discovery with Star-Lord. Space paternity issues. Where have we seen that before?
4. The Nova Corps
A fist-pump moment for Marvel-geeks in “Guardians” is the inclusion of the Nova Corps (space cops of the Marvel Universe). And though the No. 1 Nova officer –the one everyone hoped would be in the film — isn’t there, the Nova Corps does provide one spectacular scene when attempting to defend its planet from a galactic threat.
5. Gamora and Nebula
The adoptive daughters of Thanos do not disappoint. Who is the strongest? Which is Thanos’s favorite? When fatherly advice comes from the most feared baddie in the Marvel universe, you can expect a little lethality. Zoe Saldana is more than believable as Gamora, the supposed “most dangerous woman” in the universe and future Guardian of the Galaxy. Karen Gillan as Nebula is surprisingly alluring; she is aligned with the film’s baddies (whether this is willingly or reluctant, it’s hard to tell). The two sisters do clash in the film as hinted in the trailers, and it is one memorable scene.
If his daughters are running around in “Guardians,” can the Mad Titan Thanos (who revealed himself at the end of “The Avengers”) be far behind? We don’t want to tip off yay or nay, except to say that his presence IS felt throughout the film.
7. Groot and Rocket
Meet your two new favorite Marvel bashers of bad guys: a tree and a raccoon. The latter, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a scene-stealer. He’s the brains and the firepower, and before the movie is over, he will be one of your favorite Marvel characters. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesle), despite being limited by his vocabulary (he says only, “I am Groot”), proves that though being far from loquacious, he’s solid-as-oak heroic.
8. Drax the Destroyer of Sarcasm
With Drax (played by Dave Bautista), you’ve got to be straight to the point with him; he’s not one for sarcasm. Really. He doesn’t get it. And it provides another level of humor to an already funny movie. He is, um, also quite large and not to be messed with.
9. A new directorial direction?
Given recent directorial changes on other properties (“Thor: The Dark World,” “Ant-Man”) you get the sense Marvel studios already knows what they want out of their movies. Some might even say that any Marvel director is just an extension of studio honcho Kevin Feige. With “Guardians,” it feels as if director James Gunn was given an opportunity to try something really different: “Guardians” comes off as a unique, one-of-a-kind space adventure, and the start of something special at Marvel.
10. Better than “Avengers”
Before you set cap-locks to stun in response, hear me out. I said earlier this summer that I thought “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was Marvel’s best movie yet — even better than “The Avengers.” That’s not to take away from the financial phenomenon that was “The Avengers’ ” box-office success. “The Avengers” was something we’d never quite seen before: a billion-dollar, comic book-inspired, on-screen universe build. The mega-box office was partly a celebration of something many thought couldn’t be done.
But Marvel Studios surely never intended for “Avengers” to stand as its best work. The studio’s creatives want to get better. And they have. “Guardians” is the result of Marvel being so successful with introducing its movie-universe that it had the confidence to make a movie with characters most people have never heard of.
If Marvel can make a movie this good with a raccoon and a tree, a big kid and two green aliens, then who knows what they’ll next greenlight from their back lot, if not back pages?
Follow Betancourt on Twitter @adcfanboy.