Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy ★★★★½

I loved loved loved this movie. It's a glorious space action-adventure comedy with serious dramatic beats, exciting characters, and great execution. I doubt any movie this year is going to be able to beat this one for sheer fun, and it's almost certainly my favorite Marvel movie (I'd have to rewatch Avengers to be sure).

I knew I was hooked after the opening emotional gut punch, but to successfully follow it up with a scene that evokes sheer joy and delight shows the delicate control over tone James Gunn was able to exercise. There are multiple times in the movie where it wants us to move from sorrow to excitement and back, and Gunn manages to nail every single one without letting them feel schmaltzy or manipulative.

But through all the strong emotional beats this is an extremely fun and funny film. The sweet 70's and 80's soundtrack is used diegetically to great effect, and every character is funny much of the time - even the sullen Gamora. Groot and Rocket Raccoon are almost certain to go down as this year's best new characters, and we'll be quoting them for years to come.

For the most part the characterization is great - something which has been a problem in weaker Marvel movies. It's clear what everybody wants and what drives them. It's clear why the gang is all profit driven towards the beginning of the film, and equally clear why they become more altruistic towards the end. Even Ronan gets a line or two establishing his motivation as an extremist upset by a recent peace treaty. He has a definite goal and is taking specific actions to advance it, something which could never be said for, for example, Malekith.

There are a couple of weak spots to the movie. The first is that the action is occasionally muddy, like Gunn still needs practice shooting it. It's not the worst problem for a film to have, and it certainly doesn't get in the way. The other problem is more serious. Gamora's part can't help but feel underwritten, and she's definitely the weakest character of the Guardians. I don't think this is Zoe Saldana's fault. I'm sure that with a cast this large it can be difficult to give everyone a fair share, but it's a shame that the one losing out here was the sole woman.

But even with those issues, this is a fantastic movie. Walking out of the theater I kind of wanted to just turn back around and go in for another showing.

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