For those who have been living under a rock, Marvel Studios has been killing it since Iron Man in 2008. With a reputation for near-perfect casting, and an ever expanding canon, Marvel is undoubtedly a cinematic superpower. It’s no surprise that this year’s current summer installment, Guardians of the Galaxy, is one of their best efforts to date.
Guardians seemed like a risky franchise to pick up even for Marvel. Their previous ventures have focused around heroes that have been established as pop-cultured mainstays for decades now: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the coup de grace, The Avengers. Casual audiences are for the most part unfamiliar with the ragtag gang of space heroes, but the faithfulness to the sci-fi genre cements the film as a solid space opera. Therefore unlike The Avengers, little time (or movies) need to be dedicated to origin stories.
With that in mind, director James Gunn (Slither), manages to strike a great balance between the cast, creating engaging characters while avoiding the trap that often-times ruins sci-fi forays: not every character can be Han Solo. Luckily, everyone onscreen creates dynamic characters that are justifiably badass in their own way; from Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, who reads as a mix of Firefly’s Malcolm Reynolds and Futurama’s Philip J. Fry, Zoe Saldana’s suitably cold, but not irredeemably merciless Gamora, and Dave Bautista as the unexpectedly hilarious muscle-headed Drax the Destroyer. However, the standouts of the cast come from the Vin Diesel as Groot, who draws a surprisingly huge range of depth from only three words, and of course Bradley Cooper, who steals every scene that he’s in as an eternally pissed off space raccoon. The portrayal of which, is arguably comparable in quality to Robert Downy Jr.’s Iron Man and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
The only real qualm this writer has with Guardians of the Galaxy, is that the villain, like so many in the Marvel (save for Loki of course), is a bit lackluster, but this is forgivable given the onscreen chemistry between the principle cast (along with knowledge of who the real big-bad is… cough, Infinite Crisis, cough…). Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best that Marvel Studios has put out to date, and one of the best sci-fi movies in recent memory.