George Bartlett’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review contains absolutely NO SPOILERS from Guardians of the Galaxy.
I AM GROOT.
Guardians of the Galaxy is perhaps Marvel Studios' most ambitious movie yet, teaming up such unlikely (and unheard of) heroes as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and, of course, Groot. Marvel Studios took a huge gamble producing a movie that includes such out-of-this-world elements as a gun-blazing raccoon and a walking, talking tree, and presenting it to audiences, hoping it to be received as well as such successful franchises as Iron Man, Captain America and The Avengers. Having seen the film, however, I can safely say that Guardians of the Galaxy is a gamble that paid off handsomely. This may just be Marvel Studios' strongest entry into their Cinematic Universe so far.
Right off the bat, Guardians of the Galaxy throws us in the middle of an all-new universe, packed with a diverse range of intriguing characters, incredible locations, and fascinating storylines, all of which work together to create a comic book movie unlike any we've ever seen before. James Gunn has created a living, breathing world in which there's a surprise around every corner. Within every scene, it's clear that so much hard work has been put in by Gunn and his team to make the world they've created feel as alive as possible. The unique costumes and makeup worn by the cast, as well as the magnificent motion-capture performances, the spellbinding set design and the impressive CGI all work together, through a healthy mixture of practical and digital effects, to immerse the audience in a fantastic world that they'll be in a hurry to revisit. It also has to be said that Gunn's use of the IMAX 3D format makes this an unforgettable cinema experience; one that allows audiences to be immersed on a whole new level.
Guardians of the Galaxy could have easily fallen flat had it not been for a perfectly-cast ensemble of actors, every member of which earns his or her time to shine. It's their entertaining performances, and the hilariously written banter they exchange with each other, that makes Guardians of the Galaxy such a fun ride. However, for as much humour each character brings to the table, there's an equal amount of heart. Behind Star-Lord's cocky and rebellious demeanour, is a troubled and surprisingly vulnerable young man. What separates the Guardians of the Galaxy from The Avengers is their many faults. These unlikely allies are far from perfect. However, within the film's 2-hour runtime, we see why each and every one of them has the makings of a true hero, whether it be their bravery, their loyalty, or their refusal to give up and let evil be victorious.
Not only is Guardians of the Galaxy packed with humour, whilst maintaining an emotional core, but it's also full of action. The film is relentless in its presentation of spectacular set pieces, whether these be incredibly shot space battles or intense one-on-one showdowns. Despite so much conflict, however, and the presence of such dark, twisted villains as Yondu, Nebula and Ronan, James Gunn never falters in making the film a fun experience. It's not just the entertaining performances or the very quotable lines of hilarious dialogue that are to blame, but, more than anything, it's Gunn choice of soundtrack that breathes so much joy into a film that never should have taken itself seriously. The soundtrack, however, isn't just here to create some interesting examples of juxtaposition (think in the Teaser Trailer when Peter Quill is viciously electrocuted to the sound of Hooked on a Feeling), it's also there to make the film feel, for lack of a better word: cool. Hearing such 80s classics as Come and Get Your Love by Redbone whilst Star-Lord is exploring a dark, chilling cavern gives the film a unique style; the likes of which I've never seen before. It solidifies the fact that James Gunn knows how to make an enjoyable film experience, and makes me excited to see him return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is, by far, the strongest entry in Marvel's Phase 2 so far and, perhaps, their greatest achievement yet. The film's narrative may feel a little bit formulaic, which isn't helped by a fairly one-dimensional villain, but this shouldn't come as a surprise, as Guardians of the Galaxy never tries to be anything more than a neatly-wrapped superhero flick with heart, charm and humour. As opposed to feeling like two hours of set-up to the next film from Marvel Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds in standing alone. It's two hours of non-stop fun for audiences of all ages, whether they be comic book fans or not. Marvel Studios' excellent track record continues here, and Guardians of the Galaxy only makes me even more excited for what they have in store for us next. Their only struggle, however, will be improving on Guardians of the Galaxy, which deserves to be ranked amongst the greatest comic book movies of all time.