Guardians of the Galaxy - Groot but not great - 3.5 stars

Guardians of the Galaxy are here to save the universe, but don't take them too seriously.  

Walking into the cinema...

As one of the most anticipated films of the season, Guardians brings with it a certain level of skepticism. Lack of familiarity with the characters presents one of the biggest challenges on entering the theatre. The source material would not be familiar to many outside of the local comic book store (which seem to only exist on The Big Bang Theory). The other challenge would be determining the audience for this film. Will the story connect with the average audience member who cannot quote lines from the elvish hymns of Lord of the Rings or may not be aware of the chronological life cycle of Han Solo? 

Cinematic value: 4 stars
The premise of the story is based the on the life of Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (), a profit-focused thief. He steals a mysterious orb on a decimated planet. In the process of trying to sell the orb, he becomes the focus of a manhunt and becomes the target of assassins and bounty hunters. Then through a twist of events, he manages to bring together this motley crew and they become the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Marauding bounty hunters, an assassin and a behemoth that will need to to save the universe from Ronan the Accuser (). This feat is small in comparison with this 'team' striving to work together before they can battle against one of the great evils of the galaxy. 

 (Slither) has the opportunity to deliver this new Marvel franchise. as stated before he has the daunting task of introducing new characters that are not part of the Avengers or the X-men franchises. Even if you have not seen the previews or if you are not an avid graphic novel fan, the introduction to this band of anti-heroes will be refreshing. Gunn puts forward the story by developing the alternate universe. He slowly brings forth the character's back stories and delivers new stylings to the comic book genre. A style that works on most levels through effective comedic dialogue and fresh CGI special effects. Thankfully the film does not take itself too seriously, but manages to honour the source material of past films. With a mix of The Clone Wars, Serenity, and even Buckaroo Banzai, this film will be a dream for Comic-con attendees and will bring along the non-comic book bunch to this unique ensemble. 

Besides the awe-inspiring CGI effects, the strength of the film falls squarely in the connections between this unsuspecting band of misfits. Chris Pratt (Her, Moneyball) was the ideal pick for the role of the quick witted, Han Solo imitating, Peter Quill. Taken from earth after a childhood trauma, he exists in a time warp between Earth's early '80's pop culture and the futuristic gadgetry that gives his character a surprising depth. (I look forward to the development of his character in future films.) The layers of Quill develop throughout the film and primarily through his relationships with the rest of the Guardians. Rocket (voiced by ) and Groot (voiced by ) bring the comic relief and emotional magnetism to the group. Cooper's character is cleverly written in the film and the script capitalises on the actor's comedic skill. The excellent effects give this pair multiple dimensions and most might forget they are not real.  plays the femme fatale, Gamora, the assassin with a heart of gold. She has a strength that adds the needed layer of sexual tension and healthy verbal combat that keeps Quill off balance. The dialogue between the characters and how they are forced to work through impossible situations makes for an enjoyable adventure. Guardians of the Galaxy is reminiscent of '80s sci-fi/buddy films, which are not to be taken too seriously, but give audiences great one liners to quote for years to come. The final ingredient that makes this film unique within this genre is the nostalgic soundtrack which helps the film to reach out to multiple generations.

The film was good, but not great because of some key difficulties. Every good graphic novel inspired film needs a great villain to balance with the persona of the heroes. The villain is the catalyst for the coming together of any ensemble to fight for the greater good.  Ronan () does not quite succeed at inspiring terror or humour as the villain. He seems to sit uncomfortably between the brilliance of Tom Hiddleston's Loki and the camp-style of Ming the Merciless of Flash Gordon fame. He is not terrifying and he is not comical, unfortunately even his make up seems to be an afterthought. Most of the other characters have been given great consideration, but Ronan fails to achieve great villainy. Gunn, also seems to have forgotten the need for all characters to have a purpose, which leads to the second fail of the film, Drax (). He obviously was hired for his physical prowess, but not his ability to communicate verbally. He is an impressive physical specimen, but when Groot's ("I am Groot") delivery exceeds the acting ability of Bautista, he remains the weak link within the group of protagonists. Finally, the biggest difficulty with the film had to be the story line. Many of the explanations for some of the characters abilities, their back stories and some of the complete illogical components of the action causes confusion and leads to a poorly thought out conclusion. 

Even with these weaknesses, the film is out and out fun. Gunn manages to unashamedly take from films of an earlier era and honour them with a fresh spin. The film has great characters that leave you wanting to know more about them and the world that they reside. Can this film be considered a classic? No, but it is deserving of more than one viewing and there should be hope for a follow up film. Guardians of the Galaxy is a film that is not to be taken too seriously, but is serious fun. 

Family value: 3 stars
This film is marketed for teenage boys. It is meant for fans of Star Wars, The Avengers, and The Big Bang Theory. The language and the violence of the film should be cautionary for anyone under 13. The key warning to parents would be that Guardians is not your typical super hero film. It is fun and has great effects, but it is not meant for young children or for anyone who did not get the appeal of Star Wars, The Avengers or The Big Bang Theory. If you have to explain the inside jokes (Kevin Bacon) to someone, they should leave the theatre promptly. 

Leaving the cinema...
Guardians of the Galaxy falls into the good, but not great film category. You do not have to have an annual ticket to Comic-con to enjoy this film. It is fun and has all of the elements for a great film, but we might have to wait for for the next instalment to the franchise to see if they can develop the characters and to understand more of their stories.

Overall Rating:  3.5 stars

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 
1. Should we seek revenge?  ( Matthew 5:38-39, Romans 12:19)
2. What part does loyalty play in your life? (Ruth 1, 1 Corinthians 13)
3. What does it mean to be a 'true' friend? (Proverbs 17:17, Proverbs 18:24, Proverbs 17:17)

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews