Over the long weekend, I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy and The Giver. I'm going to review Guardians first, because one, it's been in theater for almost a month now, and two, my feelings about The Giver are much more complex.
I loved Guardians more than I thought I would. And I thought I would love it a lot. It's easily one of the best Marvel movies to date, up there with The Avengers and Iron Man, and easily the best movie experience I've had so far this year. (Seeing as I watched this within minutes of The Giver, and considering I had a wisdom tooth to contend with as I did so, that's saying something.)
My brother and I have a long-standing habit of going to see the newest comic book movie when it comes out. We've only missed one or two since The Avengers. For months, I've been reminding him about this one, growing progressively more excited as I heard more and more good news (trailers, reviews, etc.). But he was reluctant. In the end, I almost had to find somebody else who wanted to go see it, though he came through at practically the last moment.
Why was he so reluctant? Rocket Raccoon. He didn't think he could take the vulgar little fur ball seriously. Anything that strays too far into Sci-Fi or Fantasy tends to lose him.
I'd bet there are others of you out there who are the same way. Who haven't gone to see it specifically because of the more "out there" elements. Rocket, Groot, and so on. I'll say the same thing to you that I said to him.
One, they expect that reaction. They anticipated it. And they account for it by giving you almost half the movie to laugh and get used to the setting and characters, before you really have to care. By the time they need you invested, you are.
And two, there's a reason that they chose famous movie actors for the all-CG roles of Rocket and Groot. Bradley Cooper's performance as Rocket is as good as any performance by any voice actor I've ever heard. I don't hear the actor at all in the character. And Vin Diesel put more subtle inflections and emotion into three words than anyone ever. I'm willing to bet on that. It helps that Vin provided a good deal of the motion capture for the Ent-like bounty hunter.
Chris Pratt gives a star-making performance, making Quill imminently likable despite his many, many flaws. Zoe Saldana is wonderful as always, granting a vulnerability to Gamora without ever letting you forget why she's known as "The most dangerous woman in the universe". Bautista disappears into Drax the Destroyer (save for the occasional blink-and-you'll-miss-it nod to his roots in the physicality of his action scenes), and gives a performance that reminds me why I always believed he could make it outside the ring.
The visuals are fantastic, the humor is hilarious, the action is spellbinding, the drama is believable. The villain (Ronan the Accuser, AKA the kind of villain Thor 2 deserved) is terrifying. Thanos speaks, and is AMAZING. The soundtrack is one of the best in the history of soundtracks; there's a reason it had a stint as the #1 album in the US.
If I had a single complaint, it would be this: Due to the format of the movie, our heroes do not get quite as much screen-time alone as they could use for character development. There was nothing to be done about that, and nothing to do about it, except maybe split them up for a while in the sequel, forcing them to develop by themselves. This isn't to say they're flat--they all have their own mannerisms, personalities, back stories, and motives, not to mention their own specialties and deficiencies. But I'd love to have more time with them, to know how they are apart.
Final thoughts: I'd give Guardians an easy 9 out of 10. I'll have to watch it again to decide if it 's a 9.5. If you have ten bucks and two hours, go see the movie! At the very least, you'll laugh throughout the entire thing, and you'll learn to love a tree.
My sister-in-law, who also went to see the movie, would probably add (with SPOILERS, because of course she would):
"Howard the Duck? Really? But dancing Groot makes up for it."
As for The Giver... I'll post that in the next couple of days.