In years to come, we’re going to look back and forget Marvel was ever “taking a big risk” with Guardians Of The Galaxy. The property was based off one of their most obscure titles and focused on weird galactic space adventure featuring no household name characters. And to lead it all was a lesser proven lead, Chris Pratt. With both the hugely positive response from critics and fans alike along with being the year’s biggest box office success, both those things are soon to change. It’s fantatstic to think this all was the product of a man whose filmmaking roots come from Troma, James Gunn. And he doesn’t forget where he came from either. Did you spot Lloyd Kaufmann in the film? Also, who WASN’T jamming out to “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” after this movie dropped?
After being taken from Earth as a child following the death of his mother, Peter Quill has become Star Lord, an intergalactic space smuggler brought up by space pirates. When he encounters a mysterious orb, he gets the attention of Ronan the Accuser who desperately wants it. Quill has also ticked off his mentor Yondu by not giving him the orb either and a bounty has been placed on his head. This winds up having Thanos’ “daughter” Gamora and two bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon and Groot after Quill. Serving time in prison, they break out together along with a revenge-driven Drax. Together they seek out to sell and then find the truth about the orb they possess.
Marvel’s space opus is an incredibly fun and adventurous journey that is bound to remind you of that feeling you had when you first watched Star Wars many moons ago. For those not familiar with the comics (And I’m sure that’s a majority), this was a whole new galaxy that felt fresh the whole way along. The environments, the tech, the species, no matter how much screen time all felt natural and well thought out in this world. James Gunn gives the film a vibe unlike many films of this nature trying to ape that space opera epic, and has this film feeling loose and free throughout its runtime. Guardians Of The Galaxy confidently makes its own rules and never feels handcuffed to any sort of “way it should be” feelings that some of these movies have.
Star Wars is the obvious go-to here, but there’s many other films I was thinking added elements to the film. The closest in sort of tone and vibe for a movie like this that I got was that of The Fifth Element. This movie wasn’t afraid to go a little avant-garde with some of its settings and characters. And like that movie it had its more modern approach to character and things, but kept it true to its place in the galaxy. Like another George Lucas production, this movie marries Star Wars with Indiana Jones as well. Its sense of exploration, mission and purpose all rival the fedora hero’s films very much. In fact, I think more of this film is Indiana Jones in space, than it is Star Wars.
Speaking of, many of the characters in this film are very much a mix of Han Solos and Henry Jones Jrs. By the time Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 rolls around in 2017, I have a feeling Chris Pratt is going to be a mega superstar. The tables were set for this year and next (Jurassic World) for him to break out and he did even bigger than expected. With this film, he’s proven he’s capable of doing so. He’s bringing a much needed light heartedness to the action hero. The man is perfectly cast here as you get a terrific sense that this is a young boy trapped in grown man’s body. But, when its time to get down to work and get serious, Pratt is able to convincingly pull off any and all action. He’s made Star Lord a household name, and I think he’ll very much be associated and attached to the role like that of Connery to Bond or more recently Robert Downey Jr to Iron Man.
Supporting him are characters that get just as ample time. Well, I guess except for Gamora. Zoe Saldana is fine here, but her character is given probably the least amount of meat compared to her counterparts. We all know by now that Dave Bautista absolutely steals the movie where it seemed either the raccoon or living tree would do so. His dead pan is something of brilliance from a guy with not much acting experience to his record. Seriously, watch how much he has improved just from Riddick (Which he’s not back in) to this. Bradley Cooper is great as Rocket Raccoon and the best thing he brings to the table is that you can barely tell its Bradley Cooper voicing him. I think it gets by many people because its one line and a mo-cap character, but Vin Diesel’s work here as Groot is outstanding. He is able to make one line that consists of three words mean so many things and go so many places. Plus I think some of his bravado seeps through the CGI and brings so much depth and strength to the character. Vince was offered much bigger roles at Marvel and apparently chose this. It seemed weird at the time, but after seeing the movie and the mass popularity of the character, I suppose Vince knows what the heck he’s doing.
We finally get a scene with the mighty Thanos after being introduced to him during a credits tag in The Avengers. Josh Brolin had since been cast then, and his voice really gives us a powerful overlord feeling with the character even if its just a brief scene. Lee Pace is vicious, if not a little monotone as Ronan the Accuser. This is a Marvel movie, where the focus is on our heroes, but he’s given enough to be menacing. Stealing a lot of this movie for me was Nebula, played by Karen Gillan. No, not just because I’m a Doctor Who fan. She’s sort of a Darth Maul or Boba Fett kind of character that you are given just enough to think they are badass, but left desiring more in the future. Karen is great and creepy in the role and the character’s look and design just fascinated me quite a bit. I do hope we get more of her in the future, but in chunks just like she’s given in this movie.
Action sequences in Guardians feel wonderfully thought out and wonderfully orchestrated. Every part of them falls like a nice series of dominos leading to little traps and contrivances along the way. Impressively, I feel that the space battles felt very new and unique where they could just as easily been route, seen it before. The sort of energy blanket formed around the enemy ship toward the end of the film felt like something not seen before and a unique twist on ship battles in a science fiction fantasy film. In the future, I hope there are more space battles, and some action moments that are JUST primarily a space battle and not cutting to other things, that display some intricate fresh dogfighting.
Guardians Of The Galaxy isn’t a perfect film. It has some clunky and forced expository dialogue at times. And its main villain sort of just sits around ‘being evil’ until the final act. None of that truly matters though, as the film is just so damn fun and features a bunch of fun and colorful characters to share an adventure with. For a film “taking a chance” it sure exudes a complete sense of competence and confidence throughout (I mean, you know you have cajones when you toss Howard the Duck in the film). There is a lot of perfectly married, humor, action and fantasy to make anyone feel like a wondrous kid again viewing the film. Most importantly, with one film, its carved itself a nice spot in the Marvel universe without assistance from any of the other franchises. As it stands, this franchise almost feels like it should just be explored on its own merits and has no need to try and “fit in” with the rest of the Avengers world. Personally, I’m far more eager to get Guardians 2, 3, 4, 5, 20 than I am seeing them link up with Iron Man and Cap. But, we know that’s inevitable. Guardians will no doubt go down as one of the most important films in the Marvel canon, because it success opened the gate for them to try and do anything they want to. It proved their brand was bringing people to the theater.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Clarity/Detail: Well, I don’t have to tell you how great this looks, right? Details are abundant in this film, and pausing to take a look you can wow yourself by looking at every little dirt smudge on a spaceship you can find. Clothing shows every bit of fabric or leather crack possible. Ship and exterior environment detail is grand enough you’ll know what it feels like. Also great is that the CGI has transferred very well to the home format and looks quite natural and fits the live-action aesthetic. Rocket and Groot both look as close to live action personalities as you can get.
Depth: While this particular release wasn’t 3-D, this movie was primed for it and everything looks wonderfully 3 dimensional. Objects floating around show particular grand distance between object and environment.
Black Levels: Blacks are inky and natural. Space looks great here. Wonderful use of shading and enhancing sharpness.
Color Reproduction: Colors look marvelous and pop right off the screen. They both come in vibrant and bold, natural forms. Greens, blues and pinks stick out quite a bit.
Flesh Tones: Green, blue, pink or you know, human, these skin tones are quite natural and consistent. Detail is very high whether it be stubble, wrinkles, markings or raised emblem/tattoos. Gamora’s face and Drax’s skin are quite awesome looking if you just pause and “marvel” (yok yok yok) at the detail.
Noise/Artifacts: Do you think the good folks at Marvel and Disney would allow such things on their most prized possession of 2014?
Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Dynamics: As expected, this track is very awesome. It truly puts you in the middle of the action. Every interior and exterior environment encountered in the movie is well accounted for and feels genuine. The music is wonderfully woven into the mix and makes its presence felt as it’s a character of its own. There is a great balance of score, voice and effect in the mix as well. Everything sounds crisp and clean. Perfection, its what we expected and its what we’ve been given.
Low Frequency Extension: Not just for explosions, rocket boosters and blast fire…no. The “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” gets some great kick from your subwoofer as well.
Surround Sound Presentation: There’s some great atmospheric ambiance coming from the rear speakers. Also some wonderful battles going on back there during the space dogfights. This 7 channel track covers all your bases with accuracy from front to back and side to side.
Dialogue Reproduction: Crisp, clean and a natural volume in the mix. Voices and pitches are accurately placed according to on screen position.
All I was sent for the review as the disc itself. These extras are pretty much your run of the mill Marvel bonus features. I’m sure some editions come with a DVD and a digital copy. Best Buy is offering sweet steelbook for the film that looks like Peter Quill’s Walkman from the movie. I suggest you pick one of those up!
- With Director James Gunn
- Guide To The Galaxy With James Gunn (HD, 20:56) – James Gunn leads a nice look at all the preparation and depth that went into the look, the characters, the sets and the execution of certain action sequences. The actors as well as some crew chime in with their experiences as well. Includes on set footage, behind the scenes footage and previsualization video. In between each segment is this 16-bit Guardians of the Galaxy game, which is super cool.
- The Intergalactic Visual Effects For Guardians Of The Galaxy (HD, 7:11) – Focuses on bringing Rocket Raccoon and Groot to life. Features on set footage, visual effects mock ups and interviews with Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, James Gunn, Chris Pratt and others. Allows you to see every step of creating them.
- Exclusive Look At Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron (HD, 2:17) – Some fluff interview clips with Joss Whedon, Kevin Feige and Elizabeth Olsen mixed in with behind the scenes footage of the film.
Deleted & Extended Scenes With Optional Commentary By James Gunn (HD, 4:22)
Gag Reel (HD, 3:54)
It’s a shame they don’t put more effort to the bonus materials on these marvel films, but Guardians Of The Galaxy is strong enough film to sell itself on. Bare bones this movie would be a high recommend. It looks and sounds absolutely terrific on Blu-ray. I did find the Guide To The Galaxy featurette to be better and more intricate than most of the “Making Of” Marvel documentaries they put forth. I guess this just gives you more time to watch the movie over and over and not spend time on the bonus materials. You already know you’re going to, so pick up Guardians Of The Galaxy on Blu-ray the minute it hits the shelves or pre-order it now (If you haven’t already!).