As parents know, it is impossible to pick your favorite kid. After sitting down and watching Guardians of the Galaxy in IMAX this weekend, I have that feeling again. I simply can’t choose a favorite Marvel movie. I adore the Avengers. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of the most dynamic action movies I’ve ever seen. Iron Man started this whole thing. And yet I think Guardians is right up there. The mix of action, humor, and mind-blowing special effects puts this in the discussion for best Marvel movie so far.
But my dilemma isn’t limited to the film itself. Not only can I not figure out where this movie fits in the Marvel ranking, I also find myself unable to pick a favorite Guardian. James Gunn did such a masterful job divining the best parts of each character, I’m stunned. This movie absolutely packed with characters and locations, and yet it flows together. I’m a comic nerd, so it is no surprise that I was able to follow it, but my 9-year-old daughter was happily along for the ride too.
Chris Pratt has been an affable doofus on Parks and Rec for so long that seeing him anchor a huge movie like this is almost like seeing a friend make good. His Star Lord is heroic, doofy, and laugh-out loud funny. I didn’t think I’d care for his costume, but frankly, a mask would have been too constrictive. Besides, Gunn makes sure to put Pratt back in costume when it is time for a “splash page” worthy moment. Gunn knows his comics.
I had confidence in Vin Diesel as Groot. We’ve seen him make a lot out of a little with his vocal work in Iron Giant, so seeing him bellow out “I am Groot” is quite satisfying. The visual effects work is above reproach, at no moment did my eyes doubt anything about the huge anthropomorphic tree up on the screen.
The toughest thing for me to admit is that I was totally wrong about Bradley Cooper. I think I forgot he was an actor. I was terrified of a smooth-talking, frat boy Rocket Raccoon. But Cooper instead delivers a pitch-perfect performance as the wise-talking rodent. Rocket is basically the second Han Solo for this film (with Star Lord as the first). Rocket has some of my absolute favorite lines, and he’s my favorite character from the Guardians comic. I was afraid Gunn had made a mistake here, too. But no, Cooper is absolutely perfect.
Zoe Saldana has the unenviable task of being the straight woman in a pack of outlandish characters, and she anchors the film by taking everything seriously. Her back and forth rivalry (both physical and emotional) with Karen Gillen’s Nebula is the most personal connection between the antagonists and our heroes.
As a WWE fan, I had some sincere concerns about “Big Dave” Bautista’s abilities to act alongside these other professionals. Again, my fears were assuaged when Batista actually got on screen. He looks great, he fights great, and he has some of the best lines of the film. In fact, in the few days since I saw the movie, I think I’m quoting Drax the Destroyer the most! I was pulling for Bautista to not look bad, and instead he just about steals the show. Come back to wrestling, Bautista! I think you’ll get cheers now!
Lee Pace’s Ronan, Josh Brolin’s Thanos, Michael Rooker’s Yondu, and glorified cameos from Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, and John C. Reily round out a stellar cast that makes this world feel full. Alien, human, or CGI, the characters make this movie move.
One of my favorite things about this film is that it isn’t an origin movie. These characters have exciting lives and stories that have been going on for years. Gunn trusts us enough to throw us in the race and expect us to keep up. This movie is EXCELLENT and recommended for absolutely everyone with a pulse!