Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana (the new Star Trek's Uhura), Dave Bautista, and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper as the titular heroes - as well as Lee Pace, Karen Gillan and Josh Brolin as villains Ronan the Accuser, Nebula and Thanos - Guardians of the Galaxy is very different from previous titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both in tone and in scope.
Chris Pratt is Peter Quill, a Terran who was abducted from Earth when he was just a child, shortly after his mother's death. Now a grown man, operating under the alias of Starlord, Peter has turned interstellar outlaw and is imprisoned after stealing a mysterious orb from an ancient ruin. Teaming up with an unlikely band of fellow misfits - including an assassin sent to kill him (Gamora), a genetically engineered racoon-like creature (Rocket), a sentient tree (Groot), and a muscle-bound inmate (Drax) who takes everything literally - Quill escapes and together they go on the run from the fanatical Ronan, who is seeking the orb at Thanos' behest, with the aid of Thanos' adoptive daughter Nebula.
Plotwise, don't go into this expecting anything more or less than an action-packed, camp comedic space opera and you will have a good time. This is not a film that takes itself too seriously, so viewers shouldn't take it seriously either, just sit back and enjoy the thrill ride. Like I said, it's very different from the other MCU movies. The tone is a lot more tongue-in-cheek than any of the other films, and - as should be expected from the title - the action takes place on a more cosmic scale. For those unfamiliar with the comics universe, the only thing to connect it to the previous films will be the presence of Thanos and a brief appearance by Benicio Del Toro as the Collector. For comics fans, there's probably a lot more references in here that went over my head, but even I picked up on a few (which I'm not going to talk about, because SPOILERS).
As far as characters go, Rocket kinda stole the show as far as I was concerned. I mean, come on: how can you not love a snarky, gun-toting sentient racoon? But besides that, the voice actor (who I don't actually know from his previous roles) did a really good job of bringing the character to life. That's not to say the other characters weren't fun as well.
It felt very fitting to me that Chris Pratt's character is named Peter, because he's pretty much a Peter Pan figure. Whisked away from a normal life at a young age - not to mention at such a traumatic point in his childhood - and thrust into a strange new lifestyle, Peter Quill hasn't matured much since. He's a loner who takes nothing seriously, and is out only for himself and his own pleasures; he ran away from his mother's deathbed, and has been running ever since. But this adventure sets him on the path towards resolving those issues, forcing him to face up to reality, take on some responsibility for once and learn to play well with others. That emotional core is mirrored in the other characters as well, they all have troubled pasts, they're all lonely - with the exception of Rocket, who has Groot - and have trouble fitting in, and all have done the wrong things. The moment in which this shared character arc pays off at the film's climax might come across as a bit too corny for some, but it's appropriate in the context of all that precedes it.
For myself, there were only a couple of things about the movie that truly disappointed. First of all, Karen Gillan's Nebula didn't really get much to do in the movie, besides one intense fight sequence towards the end. As a fan of Gillan's from her Doctor Who days, I would have liked to see her play a villain with a bit more depth than she was given to work with here. Second...that post-credits sequence. It wasn't worth waiting after the credits for the bad 80s movie flashbacks it induced. All I'll say is that, if you're familiar with the special guest character from the original comics, you'll probably be more pleased than I was. Ugh.
In short, if you're looking for a light-hearted sci-fi romp, Guardians of the Galaxy will not disappoint, with no shortage of action set-pieces and space opera spectacles, and there's a decent dramatic arc for the characters to give it some heart.
Undecim Rating: +3 (Pretty good/cult classic)