Well, after much goading and assertions that "the trailers don't do it justice, go see this film, you'll love it," and after several false starts due to car trouble and sceduling conflicts, The Husband and I finally got to go see "Guardians of the Galaxy" at a matinee showing in a nearly deserted ampitheatre-style cinema here in San Antonio. In other words, we had the place to ourselves, so we felt kinda priviledged.
To begin with, I was totally wrong in my assumptions about this film, based on the trailers I'd seen. This film is refreshingly original, lots of fun, and despite a lot of violence, it contains very little gore. The characters have depth, but are not so complex as to require a lot of tedious backstory, because they're archetypes--the tough girl, the smartass guy, the wisecracking crook, the big, gentle, "dumb" lackey, and the noble strongman with an axe to grind, preferably into his hated enemy's throat. Of course these five unlikely heroes would become friends.
There are also several bad guys. At first you think Nova Corps are "bad" cops, but they turn out to be decent blokes doing their job of protecting their planet from harm--and despite the fact they maintain a prison that's half torture chamber, half looney bin, you end up liking them. Then there's the pirates that "adopted" (kidnapped) Peter Quill the night his Terran mother died. They're pirates. I think Disney has it written into all its film contracxts nowadays "add pirates." Their captain is a nasty blue-skinned customer with bad teeth, but he's got the coolest weapon to appear in a movie so far--a rocket-powered arrow that responds to Border Collie whistle commands. One of the best scenes in the movie involves his dispatching of a whole platoon of enemy soldiers with this arrow, including their hovering ship, so quickly that the arrow is back in its quiver before the men fall down.
There's also Thanos, a crossover character (there are several) who seems to have, or desire, godlike status, and Ronan, a genocidal religious fanatic who seeks to avenge his father and grandfather by destroying the planet of Nova Corps, despite the peace treaty they'd signed with his people, the Kree. To accomplish his ends, he is trying to get his hands on a mystical crystal encased in an Orb which will grant him unlimited power. Quill, our protagonist, had been hired to find this Orb by The Collector, and that's where the story begins, with Quill using some pretty slick tech devices to find the Orb in a ruined city on a hellish, abandoned planet.
Well, it doesn't quite start there--it starts twenty-odd years earlier, on Earth, on the night Peter's mother dies of cancer, and gives him a present which he carries around with him after he gets abducted by aliens and joins the space pirates.
The movie feels long, but that's probably because it crams an awful lot of action and story in, lavishly decorated with CGI effects that enhance the story the way SPFX are supposed to do. This movie is Star Wars on steroids, right down to the thrilling dogfight around the looming enemy ship. Only thing is, all the characters are Han Solo. Well, except for Groot, he's more of a leafy Chewbacca.
"Guardians" was drawn from a small-press Marvel series, so the characters and plot have not been done to death like many of the top-tier superhero myths have been. This gives the film a freshness and an originality that have been lacking from the movies for years now, as we get tired retread after derivative reboot. The actors all do a great job of bringing their characters to life, to the point that you forget you're watching humans in costumes and start to empathise with the characters.
I'm not saying it's a great film, it does have its probems--for one thing, I can't remember the names of places or characters without reference material, and I think that's because there were a lot of them and a ton of action and plot. And despite my earlier complaint that it takes a long time to get through, it also felt like their bonding was rushed, so that the brotherliness they experience feels a little forced, but then I've never had to escape from a hellhole prison and defend a planet from an all-powerful homicidal maniac before, so I dunno.
The main characters are all entertaining, but even the minor characters get to have a good bit of development, so you feel for them, too. This, I think, has a lot to do with the casting; all the actors gave very good performances.
There were places where I choked up with emotion, and there were places where I laughed out loud. The film does its job, and does it well, even if it feels like a TV miniseries that's been run together as a feature film. The story is complex, but not so complicated that one gets lost trying to follow it, but a second or third viewing would probably help to get all the details.
One other minor quibble is that, after the climax where the Guardians destroy Ronan, there are several feel-good vignettes that set up the sequel, and show the "happily ever after for now" conclusions for some of the characters. This feels, to me, like "Oh, and another thing..." Maybe if my bladder wasn't under a lot of stress by this point, I wouldn't have minded, and really, the vignettes do make one feel happy, which is rare these days in cinema; but it also felt rather anti-climactic in a way that the Throne Room awards ceremony in "Star Wars" did not.
Finally, about Rocket Raccoon...my early objections were mostly erased. He was a fun, well-developed and fully-realized character, even if I still don't think his voice was quite right. The scene where the muscle-bound, perpetually angry, literal-minded Drax comforts the snarky little animal after Rocket's buddy Groot sacrifices itself to save them, is very touching.
I guess in conclusion I'd say this film is definitely worth seeing, and on a big screen, too, because it's going to lose 90% of its visual effectiveness on a small home screen.