Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Chris Pratt dominated 2014. From reprising his role as the lovable Andy Dwyer on the hit comedy Parks and Recreation to his starring roles in blockbuster smashes The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, which will garner the attention of this review, he seemed to be everywhere you looked. While I assert that Pratt was at his best in Guardians, his attempts at seriousness in various parts of the film felt a bit like he was trying too hard. But, his first scene in the film was absolutely brilliant, as he gets a little funky and sings into a space rat as though it were a microphone. This scene sets the stage for the tone of the remainder of the film: a collection of comical ridiculousness that you simply can’t take your eyes off of.

Guardians is a borderline Star Wars spoof, while at the same time paying all due respect to it. The genius of the film is found in the clever dialogue that evidences this point. One scene that comes to mind in particular is the one in which all the guardians decide to fight together against Ronan, all standing up to somehow state their dedication to the cause. Bradley Cooper’s hilarious Rocket comments, “Great. Now we’re all standing. A bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.” While the mocking of the cliché trope that is standing up to display emphasis is something I found to be tremendously clever, I also recognized the themes, such as devoting oneself to a just cause regardless of the dangers attached to doing so, that are so similar to those of the original Star Wars trilogy. Thus, Guardians is a sort of revitalized Star Wars reboot that stresses humor over drama but nevertheless paints a potent emotional portrait when it needs to, despite Pratt’s overacting at times. In addition, the film resolves itself in an incredibly familiar way. A band of outlaws come together to save the galaxy and are rewarded with impunity and heralded as heroes by the galactic authorities. Sounds a lot like A New Hope to me. To take it one step further, I honestly wouldn’t have been disappointed had this film instead been titled Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Vin Diesel puts on an inflection clinic that any aspiring young actor should be sure to check out. With only three different words at his disposal, and in the exclusive order of “I,”, then “am,” then “groot,” his job of delivering a comical performance should be pretty damn hard. But Diesel’s ability to say these words with different inflections, as well as with various spacing in between the words, almost enables him to steal the show. Bradley Cooper also turns in one of my personal favorite voice-acting performances. I hope not to offend Cooper by saying this, but his voice so perfectly fits the role of a space outlaw mutant raccoon that I don’t want to even imagine anyone else taking on the role. The writing for this character is especially fantastic, and Cooper’s delivery is of an equal quality. Furthermore, wrestling icon Dave Bautista provides a totally bizarre but lovable and extremely funny addition to the squad. The overly literal nature of his tribe is what makes Drax the Destroyer so humorous. I think the best of his lines comes during the escape-from-prison sequence in the middle of the film. Rocket comments that metaphors go over the heads of Drax’s people, and Drax comes back, “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.” Brilliant.

Writer and director James Gunn has really made a name for himself with this film, as has Chris Pratt. Admittedly, this is the only one of Gunn’s films that I have consciously seen, but I did love it and can’t wait to see more from him. His writing was so clever and quick, and I love that in any script, and his ability to capture all the fight scenes and space chases with great clarity and awesomeness displays his remarkable filmmaking potential. I truly believe that he has the creativity and uniqueness to become a Tarantino or Martin McDonagh-esque director. Pratt, while trying a bit too hard to convince audiences that he can, in fact, be serious, was so much fun to watch, as he is in everything that he does. His brand of humor is more subtle than that of comedy juggernauts like Jim Carrey or Will Ferrell, and I have faith that he can use this characteristic to his advantage when taking on dramatic films with clever and humorous dialogue that suit his style, thus becoming a serious player in Hollywood.  Long story short, I can’t wait for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.