PG-13, pretty much for making the term "a-hole" commonplace. This one is on the older side of the MCU. I know that there was an animated series for this movie. I am kind of flummoxed that this translated so well for kids. I mean, it's really not a kids' action movie. I'm not saying it is wildly offensive, but it is a tame James Gunn flick. Rocket is a terrible role model and Drax is a psychopath. That said, I kind of like that Henry really likes Rocket and Groot. Ah well, some battles are losing battles. There's also some dirty jokes in here. Also, per Disney, the opening is wildly depressing. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: James Gunn
I don't like James Gunn...normally. There are film nerds who really dig James Gunn and I wish I had that kind of street cred. He seems so cool. Like, he doesn't care about the system. But then he became the system. I mean, making a Marvel movie is as legit as it gets nowadays. You are a full-on Disney employee, mouse ears and all. So how does someone who prides himself on indie anti-structure do with a property from Marvel that no one's ever heard of? (I have. I have and always will be a Marvel Zombie.) I guess by putting a rocking soundtrack to it.
I have to admit. I don't love Guardians of the Galaxy as much as I say I do. I've seen it so many times. The first time, the wife and I drove out to the middle of nowhere to see it at a drive-in. We had to park a million miles away and the sound was garbage. You'd think that seeing Guardians of all of the Marvel movies would only be enhanced by seeing it at a drive in with all of its overt love of the late '70s and early '80s. Nope. Sheer garbage time. My wife wasn't in the mood to watch the movie, but I pulled one of my whiney nonsense things and watched it anyway. There are times that I think that I'm a bad husband. My kids are playing in the backyard with Lauren right now as I continue writing a review a day for a self-goal that doesn't really matter. This may have tainted the movie for me a bit, but I also knew that I also kind of liked it at the same time. I mean, I went into it already kind of hating James Gunn. I saw it under the worst possible circumstances and I still came out of it fairly entertained. Lauren swore that this movie was sheer trash, but even she likes it now. There's something really charming about this movie that allows it to work. There are terran Marvel fans and there are cosmic Marvel fans. I've always been about Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Men, not Annihilation Wars. But James Gunn made space fun. Guardians of the Galaxy works because it doesn't care about expanding the MCU. There's no one out there to run into besides Howard the Duck and Cosmo. Guardians of the Galaxy has one goal: have fun. That it does. This movie is about the soundtrack and jokes. I'm not saying that there isn't more meat to the Guardians. There is. But first and foremost, this movie is about having a good time, despite the fact that the movie is barely lit.
I'm not making a shrewd observation here. Guardians of the Galaxy is Exhibit A in how a soundtrack can make a difference in a film. Everyone has this soundtrack. It's great. Like, I listen to it a lot. The weird thing is that I didn't really discover any of the songs on here. In isolation, these songs are annoying earworms. They have permeated popular culture. But when combined with this movie, something amazing happened. It has to be the juxtaposition of the imagery and the music. It's so odd how the opening credits of this movie might be the most memorable thing about the movie. (You and Baby Driver, dude.) The opening credits are preceded by SPOILER Peter Quill's mother dying and Quill using a hologram to show the people who have been killed in some sort of mass genocide. Creatures are trying to attack Quill and eat him. This movie has established the bleakest mood imaginable and then what happens? "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone. Peter Quill and his Walkman has somehow become as important as Captain America and his shield. The even part is that the music is in world. Peter is experiencing the same emotions that we are. These rat creatures are no longer a threat, but rather a microphone. I mean, he punts a couple of those rat creatures around...and it's fun! Why? Because that song is catchy and contrary to the footage as it can get. That makes this movie super cool. Yeah, I don't like Gunn's other movies, but the one thing that he is consistent with is the fact that he is good at making things cool. I don't know what it is about indie directors coming into a corporate framework. I know that corporate filmmaking tends to be toxic according to the stories I've heard. But these are usually movies that kind of suck and come from Sony. (Sorry, I got into a debate about the Venom trailer and how much it looks awful.) But I keep thinking about the comments that Joss Whedon made about his time with Marvel. He knew how much money he was responsible with and he knew that he had to make something that would be successful. Marvel seems to hire all these quiet small time directors and they seem to know that they have to deliver. They bring the cool elements of their indie films and attach them to these major projects. Perhaps I'm turning into an old man with old man sensibilities, but I tend to like some of the entertaining studio films that they make. I mean, I didn't watch The Belko Experiment, but I heard that it kind of sucked. I really wanted to like Super, but that movie was just the worst. I mean, I tried. I tried really hard. But that movie is just not good. Same thing with Slither. These are taste things, I realize. But James Gunn with Marvel is just the best. Everything he writes on Twitter, I just hardcore nod. "Yes!" "Testify!" I love Marvel Gunn so so much.
But Guardians 1 kind of suffers in the shadow of Guardians Vol. 2. How unfair is that? Guardians 2 is a near perfect sequel. It capitalizes on what works in the first one while treading new ground. But there are a few moments that are just blah in the first movie. The story in the first movie is threadbare. The MCU Phase 2 is so obsessed with setting up the Infinity Stones that it rests on those laurels a bit too heavily. (I know I said differently earlier. I'm discovering what I think about these movies as I write it.) As such, Lee Pace as Ronin might be another example of Marvel's early villain problems. I don't care about Ronin even though it is Lee Pace. He's one of those actors that I get really excited about and I know that he can do wonderous things with a part given to him. But Ronin is criminally underdeveloped. Compare Ronin to Ego and you can see where Ronin as a villain falls flat. The craziest thing is that Ronin is directly linked to Thanos. Thanos was teased in the post credit sequence of The Avengers. He's the guy who set everything up in that movie and Guardians of the Galaxy is the last movie before the next Avengers movie. Yet, Thanos doesn't really get a fair shake in this one. We get to see him act. We get to hear him talk. But Ronin is that much of a blah villain that Thanos almost seems wasted. How? This was the chance to really lock him into the canon of great villains. He is the second in command to Thanos! Ronin the Accuser! I mean, the guy smashes someone's head in with a giant cosmic space sledgehammer in his introduction. That should be the thing that is remembered forever. But then he's got this wishy-washy backstory. Really, his motivation is just a copy of Drax's motivation, and even Drax's motivation is kind of ambiguous. The second movie plays with Drax's pain, but no one really takes it seriously. (I'd like to comment on how much I love Drax. Drax is a perfect character and he should never change, but his dark motivations are so secondary to the story that it is almost silly that these come from the same character.) I know that Ronin is coming back for Captain Marvel and thank God. That character could be so cool, but right now he's kind of just a pile of hot garbage. I can see where the mistake happens. I keep complaining that superhero films burn out the good villains on the first movie, which is an origin story. This used Ronan, who no one cared about, but that's too much in the wrong direction. Anyway.
While part of me gets really bored at the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I still get really excited to watch it when people bring it up. Gunn is still figuring out the dynamics of the characters in the first one. Some of the jokes don't land as hard as they do in the sequel. But the movie is still a marvelous amount of fun and I really do love it. It's just that it isn't the second one, which isn't the worst thing in the world. Can you get from this review that I really like the second movie? I really like the second movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.