‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated August 8th, 2014 at 10:47 am,

Marvels Guardians of the Galaxy Reviews starring Chris Pratt Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Guardians of the Galaxy may blast off another successful franchise for Marvel, but it has a few parsecs left to go before it can truly claim greatness.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy transports us from one young boy’s traumatic experience at a hospital to the other side of the galaxy, where that boy becomes Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – a.k.a. Star-Lord (who?) – an orphan of Earth, raised in an alien gang of thieves led by the infamous Yondu (Michael Rooker). Quill starts out his adventure with a simple misdeed in mind: snatch Yondu’s latest bounty before the boss man can collect on it. Unfortunately, nabbing said object instantly makes Quill the target of bounty hunters like Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), as well as assassins like Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

After a few scuffles and many bruises, Quill and his pursuers land in a prison where their oddball circle is completed by the lethal Drax (Dave Bautista), a man living only for vengeance against the Kree terrorist, Ronan (Lee Pace), who is also very much in pursuit of Quill’s stolen goods. With murder, betrayal, and greed as their common ground, the five inmates strike a temporary alliance to help each other reach their respective goals; but when the entire galaxy is put in danger, each outcast learns that sometimes, thieves, murderers, thugs and madman are the exact types needed to save the day.

Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Benicio Del Toro in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

With James Gunn’s  Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has rolled a decidedly different product off of their movie assembly line. It’s an odd cocktail, no doubt – but like a mixologist’s potion, it’s a pretty delicious (and effective) one in the end. And yet, while the characters and concept of this more obscure comic book property are brought to life (and sold) on the screen, the intergalactic world around them is not as fully realized, and the typical Marvel movie hangups once again weaken the overall cinematic experience. In short: Guardians of the Galaxy may blast off another successful franchise for Marvel, but it has a few parsecs left to go before it can truly claim greatness.

Let’s start with the positives: This film’s primary goal is selling audiences on the odd and obscure Guardians of the Galaxy characters, and it does that in spades. In Gunn’s indie filmmaker hands, we get a Marvel film that is deliciously off-beat and sardonically witty – which is why it’s almost like whiplash whenever it suddenly becomes gut-wrenchingly serious and emotional, as well. All of those qualities radiate from the five characters (both human and CGI) that serve as our titular team – who are themselves brought to life by five actors who help sell this oddball vision with great ensemble chemistry.

Visual Effects 3D in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Here are the negatives: The “Marvel Cosmic” universe Guardians attempts to build feels green screen thin and sound stage hollow. This film is already drawing Star Wars comparisons, but really it’s more in line with the Star Wars prequels in terms of lack of substance to the alien environments we encounter. The enclosed sets (like the prison set piece, or inside Ronan’s warship) tend to be more convincing (as do the fully CGI sequences of spaceship battles, chases, etc); but when mixing live actors with fantastical CGI environments, the results are less than convincing, and once again we get that “TV budget” effects problem common to Marvel Movies. Establishing shots of alien worlds look more like concept artwork in motion, rather than actual, believable, landscapes.

The post-converted 3D turns out to be surprisingly worthwhile, as the film makes pretty consistent good use of the format (thanks to solid pre-planning on Gunn’s part). But while the visuals may generally be solid – at times gorgeous – the actual character of space (and all the worlds therein) is not established all that well. Guardians often feels like Galaxy Quest sci-fi adventure satire, and while that may be intentional in terms of narrative content, the fact that it sometimes feels that way in terms of visual form is evidence that Gunn and Co. still have some better world-building to do in the sequel. Still, as a first foray into blockbuster filmmaking, Guardians is a very good achievement for Gunn.

CGI Green Screen Effects in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Chris Pratt similarly does not let opportunity pass him by and steps into the leading man spotlight with all his comedic, dramatic and physical attributes at the ready. Pratt is so engaging and so charming that he’s often the most convincing reason why we can believe in the far-out (and sometimes goofy) sci-fi world that Gunn has envisioned. Less credit is likely to be given to Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista – though the former does notably well as the straight (wo)man in the comedy act (often a thankless achievement), while the latter turns acting inexperience into off-kilter, awkward delivery that works to both his character and the film’s advantage.

The CGI characters Rocket and Groot are no doubt the secret weapons behind this film’s success. Between the impressive visual effects and motion-capture used to create them; Gunn’s understanding and implementation of the characters; and great voice work by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (in just three word repetitions) … let’s just say Marvel has two bonafide merchandising cash-cows on their hands, and moviegoers have two new CGI characters to “root” for. (See what I did there?)

Rocket and Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Like the majority of Marvel movies, the villains are a definite weak link in the narrative – and Guardians compounds the crime by reaping weak returns out of several antagonists.

Lee Pace is fully committed as the fanatical Ronan; too bad the script (written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman) isn’t as fully committed to him. Djimon Hounsou is probably the most interesting villain, Korath; too bad he’s got the smallest role. Karen Gillan’s Nebula has a great design and makeup job – but the character gets precious little to do in the film besides hovering in backgrounds looking twitchy.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan in Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Thanos (Josh Brolin) is still plotting from the shadows with a big grin – though our motivation to care about him is still as mysterious as the titan himself. Finally, appearances by the likes of John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro tend to do more to break the world of the film, rather than build it up.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy may be a mixed bag as a cinematic work, but it’s definitely another victory for Marvel Studios – which will likely be able to milk sequels and spinoffs galore out of what this film started. Marvel movie fans need to be wary that they’re getting something a little different from what they may be used to; but for anyone coming to this property as a blank slate, with little prior knowledge, Gunn and Co. have painted a fun defining portrait of who these Guardians of the Galaxy are: A band of pretty awesome (and lovable) A-holes.


Guardians of the Galaxy is now in theaters. It is 121 minutes long and Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

Want to discuss the film without SPOILING it for others? Read our Guardians of the Galaxy Spoilers Discussion. Unsure of what happened in the post-credits scene? Check out our end credits scene explanation! For a more in-depth review, listen to our Guardians episode of the  Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

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  1. It was pretty good for not knowing anything about the characters. All in all it’s a fun movie.

    My only complaints is not knowing back stories (many of times I go to the spoiler threads or look up the comic book characters beforehand just because of this problem.) The soundtrack was great, the typical Marvel score was horrible. We don’t need the epic music chords every time 3 or more of the good guys, er creatures, work together.

    I do think the superheros being victorious in every movie is getting a bit old though. I’m not saying killing off good guys, just getting their pride knocked in at the end may make for better build ups.

    All in all, it was great time for a couple of hours.

    • “We don’t need the epic music chords every time 3 or more of the good guys, er creatures, work together.”

      It’s going to get to the point where people are watching a movie of some 110 year old grandma sewing and there’s going to be loud choir music that would better suit Middle-Earth being completely destroyed in one fell swoop, lol.

      This obsession with “epic” is pissing me off.

    • Your post is more foreboding that you know…Josh Whedon has teased, “Death, death, death” as his philosophy for Avengers 2. Of course when it comes to Thanos, his mistress is death so I am sure this theme will carry over in Avengers 2, 3 and most likely 4. Anyone who is familiar with the multiple Thanos storylines can relate, I see nothing but mass destruction on the horizon. It shall be interesting to see how they handle it. Many have speculated with the advent of the Avengers 2 poster that Hawkeye looks like he just might be in a bit of a dilemma. Is that foreboding as well? Time will tell…….

    • Hello Jason, my name is Jason lol Anywho I thought the main villain, the guy in the hood like thing had almost no personality. He reminded me of Darth Maul, he looks cool but their no charm there to like say Darth Vader (and he was in full mask-to be fair it did take several people to pull him off in voice and body) or even in Indiana Jones the villain dressed all in white at least made me believe he was ambitious or Star Trek’s Khan both original hand new were interesting, the older one was down right Shakespearian and dominated the screen every time he was on. So that left me liking the blue guy with the red fin /ridge on his head as by favorite villain or I guess middle man. That was, to me the movies only main flaw.

      • Hmmm a lot of my words were weird after I posted, sorry I don’t know what gives? Hope enough got through to make some sense. Meh’ it will feed the trolls looking for something to do anyhow. For normal folk. Sorry about that.

  2. My2cents only, but I thought the movie was great fun. My wife enjoyed it as much as I did. I thought I’d mind that they basically made Dax into a punk and the Xandarians even more so, but all the name drops and little cameos was pretty darn cool. No big fights for me to pick about, so that helped even more. I’m really looking forward to seeing who they add to the sequel.

  3. I really enjoyed this movie. I’m not famikiar with the comics and I found that I enjoyed it more because I didn’t have anything to pick at. Glad it’s turning out to be a success.

  4. “but when mixing live actors with fantastical CGI environments, the results are less than convincing, and once again we get that “TV budget” effects problem common to Marvel Movies. Establishing shots of alien worlds look more like concept artwork in motion, rather than actual, believable, landscapes.”

    I 100% disagree with you on this statement. I actually LOVED the environments. I thought there were beautiful. The CGI was amazing.

    • We have to remember that the environments are meant to support the cast. They are not the stars. As long as no Cessna is seen in the sky to be pulling a long banner behind it which reads, “Eat at Joe’s Crabshak!”, I’m cool with it.

  5. This film is extremely overated. The film was not bad, but it certainly was not great. It was mediocre. Not worth seeing again.

    • i completely agree…don’t for the life of me understand why this is being so overpraised

      • You’re not alone…Just saw it, mediocre at best. Why is the reviewer highlighting some seriously devastating flaws and then calling it a good movie? It’s beyond me.. A subpar pop corn flick at best, lacked depth or motive.

    • The reason why I liked it I have read various books in sci if and fantasy where they have whimsical characters we use to not get to see in movies. They usually only lived in books because it was difficult to pull them off well in movies and I still think using a combination of make up, props and CGI for the more fantastical ones will always be better then just CGI. I still think return of the Jedi’s Rancor monster looks pretty darn good but that may just be me. With Harry Potter we got, I though a decent little elf, with Lord of the Rings we got Golem and now I really like Rocket Raccoon because in some ways he’s like bat man or the punisher, he needs gear to get by or he can also use his wits and I thought he was likeable. Movie makers have learned from the dreadful mistake of Jar Jar Binks. If the audience over all don’t like the higher fantastic characters they just won’t work in the film and stick out like a sore thumb.

    • I concur. The fanfare surrounding this movie mystified me until I read a little bio about Chris Pratt (“Star-Lord”) himself. He said that the successful birth of a new baby to himself and his wife had restored his faith in God. Maybe this statement was a clarion call to a certain massive, MASSIVE audience…the under-served Christian market.
      This demographic, comprised largely by parents who would like to have movie choices more pro-family (which may appeal to ALL religions), though in a super-hero and/or sci-fi context, IS ROARING LIKE A LION IN NEED OF SUSTENANCE. The wild success of this movie which really wasn’t that good seems to prove this.
      What are producers afraid of? Becoming obscenely wealthy?

  6. Saw it yesterday. Loved it. Agree with everything in this review except for the knock on some of the environments looking low-budget. No idea where that’s coming from. Never noticed any quality issues like in, say, Once Upon a Time. And while I was disappointed Nebula only had a few more speaking lines than Darth Maul, it was pretty cool to finally see Thanos and hear him speak.

    It would have been nice if some of the cosmic locations were more fleshed out, but these introductory movies are often the weakest in that respect since the bulk of the story has to stay on the main character(s). There was so much going on in this film and so many new locations & people being introduced, it’s great they managed to keep it all from overshadowing the Guardians themselves. Glad they stayed focused and didn’t try to do too much.

    Overall, one of the best sci-fi movies in years. Glad Marvel rolled the dice with this one b/c it seems to be paying off.

  7. “once again we get that “TV budget” effects problem common to Marvel Movies”

    I’m sorry… what? I couldn’t take this review seriously once I read that – not only do you think Guardians has “TV budget effects”, but you think it’s common to all Marvel movies?

    Wow. Just… wow. I can’t get behind that at all. That’s the biggest lump of nonsense I’ve ever seen on this site. I can almost always get behind what you guys are saying at Screenrant, and often love your reviews, but that’s just… you have got to be kidding me.

    Side note: saw Guardians in IMAX 3D and was not at all disappointed by the effects. Nor did it looks anything as low quality as a TV show. What a joke.

    • I will say though that the final battle aboard Ronan’s ship (that’s not a spoiler, is it? we’ve seen it in the trailers) was awesome… but too dark at times. Wish they would have brightened up that sequence because the action was hilarious and awesome.

  8. Movie deserved 5 stars…IJS.

  9. I havent been so immersed in a movie since Avatar…I literally sat marveling at how beautiful the GOTG worlds were. The special effects were top notch…aha thats what ive been missing about movies.

    I laughed from beginning to end…literally, at times it was so hard to hear what the actors were saying because the whole movie theatre was laughing…what a win for Marvel & Disney.

  10. So what?
    We get what seems will be a decade to get to Thanos to accomplish what could have been done in this movie. If every one of these movies are just a piece here and there leading up to that final battle then it seems that Marvel is willing to squander a chance to build something people will come back to.
    I’m already sick of Thanos, and the Ultron detour for Avengers 2 seems redundant. The difference between huge crossover stories in comics is that it comes in monthly installments. Marvel and Disney seem to be putting all their cards on the 2 movies per year method of unfolding this. No other vehicles seem to be available. MAoS was a complete waist of time that totally ruined Deathlok.

  11. I would repeatedly pay to see that movie just for BABY DANCING GROOT! uhhhh…so cute

    • LOL, I love how he stopped dancing when Drax was watching him, haha.

    • Yep. Loved that part too. Worth sitting through the credits. Would have enjoyed it even better had Drax’s attempts to catch the ‘lil toothpick moving been more carefully timed.

  12. Who is star lord/peter qills father??????

  13. GOTG was good with Awesometacular bits.

    The overall tone wasn’t my favourite, already went in with a pre convinced notion.

    Will Always love Rocket Racoon (some great work by Bradley Cooper I must say)

    Visually stunning film, the cosmos and space bits, ships etc ….

    The disappointment with what Gunn did to the Nova Corps is overwhelming. Maybe they’re saving for an actual standalone and this was they introduction but I expected those oh so awesome suits and helmets. The ships made up ….a bit.

    Nebula, that costume and makeup is award worthy.

  14. I loved the movie.I thought Gunn gave it a very light fun tone,not cynical,and without all the insider jokes that can get tiresome.I would have preferred a little more backstory on Ronan,and truthfully,they could have just had Nebula walk about eating breakfast and I would have been happy. I loved the production design,sets costumes and makeup,they were superb,had a bit of a 5th Element or Heavy Metal vibe to it,very welcome! Great characters,amazing FX and musical choices,I could find little fault in the whole thing.I think Gunn nailed it and created my favorite Marvel movie so far. It was fun,plain and simple,joyous fun.

  15. This movie was hard to sit through. The writing was pitiful. The acting was worse. The ENTIRE movie was slapstick, and really bad slapstick at that. So much so that it felt like a kids movie. I was expecting to hear bowling pin noises when bad guys were knocked over. And the constant barrage of attempted comedy did little more than remind me I was being targeted as a consumer. Comedy is a good thing, right up until it composes 98% of the script. You can’t make EVERY character the comic relief character. And call me new school, but I’ve had enough of hero’s spouting out witty one liners while engaged in firefights.

    On that note, the characters are never once in danger in this film. Despite being at the mercy of a dark lord villain guy with the power to destroy entire planets running through his blood and his war hammer. Despite being fired upon at point blank range by a fleet of hovering machines gun equipped prison guard robots, despite being inside an exploding space pod, and then floating out into space unprotected, despite riding a carrier sized spaceship into the ground… you get the idea. It’s the usual Marvel formula, massively epic action sequences of danger and explosions followed by something along the lines of “phew, close one.”

    The film was also peppered with the occasional melodramatic sequences that just made my eyes roll. Overdone, underacted, and out of place. Typical Marvel style, IE: a 6 year old child screaming “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” when his mother not-so-suddenly dies of cancer. Or star-lord, shedding a tear, or an eye drop anyway, at the memory of his dying mother. Was the 10 seconds of melodrama crammed in after Star Lord’s dance off distraction sequence supposed to tug my heart strings?

    Aside from the poor writing, the CGI destroyed this film. Rocket looks straight out of an animated film, as did Groot. I never got the impression they were actually part of the scene.

    The Characters were paper thin. Evil dark lord type has a vague ambition of becoming powerful in order to …. do something evil, for some reason. He is 2nd in command to some other evil dark lord type, and the predictable power struggle ensues.

    Star lord is a a witty, lucky, witty, lucky, witty, lucky, renegade type, who happens to always be witty, and always get lucky. Did I mention he’s witty? Like, all the time. Oh and he gets lucky a lot. He’s also full of wit, especially when he gets lucky. Same can be said for Rocket. Not sure what Batista’s character was supposed to be. His dialogue was about as random as the collection of characters. Which is pretty random. So random it’s obvious it was intentionally random. Like Lady Gaga in a meat dress and tin foil hat random.

    The supporting characters were lazily done. I’m supposed to accept any given character as an entirely different species because he’s been painted blue. Or green. Or has really long hair for a male. The generic bounty hunter with the whistling arrow for instance. Someone who’s supposed to be a threat, but when it comes down to it, can’t seem to do anything more menacing than punch star-lord in the stomach a couple times, and then join sides with him. Flimsy.

    Adam Mcckay shows up. I laughed when he appeared on screen, before he even said anything, because I was expecting him to be funny. He wasn’t. Still not sure if this was a cameo appearance done for the sake of comedy, or if he is just out of work.

    The plot was patchy, vague, and more predictable than weather in San Diego. Everything felt like less a genuine character, or a powerful gem stone, or what have you, and more like a plot device. The details of the film are never given attention enough to really have a grasp on what’s going on or why. I didn’t know half of the characters names, who they were, or why they were doing what they were doing. At the climax of the movie I found myself asking, why exactly is the dark lord guy attacking this planet? Oh and what planet is this exactly? And where did the squadron of fighter crafts come from, and why are they taking orders from an outlaw raccoon?

    • I didn’t know half of the characters names, who they were, or why they were doing what they were doing. At the climax of the movie I found myself asking,
      1 – why exactly is the dark lord guy attacking this planet?
      2 – Oh and what planet is this exactly?
      3 – And where did the squadron of fighter crafts come from,
      4 – and why are they taking orders from an outlaw raccoon?

      1 – Xandar and Ronan’s people were at war for 1000 years. Ronan was not okay with the peace treaty, nor the deaths of his people, and wanted to eradicate Xandar from the galaxy. They discussed this when introducing Ronan.

      2 – Xandar.

      3 – Xandar’s police, or law enforcement of some sort. They capture Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora in the town square after a huge battle, and bring them to prison. This was a fairly large scene in the movie.

      4 – Not really sure why they opted to give Rocket the lead on this one. It really doesn’t make sense. I agree with you here.

      Outside of number four, I really have to question whether you were even paying attention to half the movie, or doing something else while half-watching it.

  16. 2 words :
    1. Footloose
    2. rotfl

    i had fun, thanks James Gunn :)

  17. I’ve seen Guardians 3 times and I rate it as the best movie of the year. It’s entertaining, funny, and has the best music ever. Even though it wasn’t shot in native 3d, the post 3d is very well done and worth it.

  18. That’s really amazing movie …. Specially Starlord looking astonishing in his costumes like Jacket and Coat and this time I decide to buy a Guardians of the Galaxy Coat from “Slimfit Jackets” online store. Really inspiring by Peter Quill :-)

  19. Has anybody realised that the guardians are essentially three Han Solos, a stick and a WWE Wrestler. Starlord is a complete copy, Gamorrha is green and female Han Solo, And Rocket is a small, raccoon Han Solo. !!

  20. Finally saw the movie. I’m happy to see so many people being more realistic about reviewing the film.

    GotG was a really good movie, no doubt about it. I was impressed with a lot of things. Not to mention I just really like Chris Pratt, and I was glad to see a return of a lot of physical special effects to go along with the CGI. I also work in the comic book industry, and one thing I like about Marvel movies (compared to DC) is they allow their characters to have FUN and their movies to not take themselves as seriously (you see this trend in comics too). SO overall, the movie was a good time for sure.

    However, it didn’t live up to the hype for me. It was a thrill ride. A great one! But still a ride that is forgettable and I won’t be needing to see it again anytime soon. I had the same experience with Gravity (another excellent film, but still mostly just a ride). I was hoping for a movie with more substance, and not a nonstop onslaught of action, yelling, and explosions. Yeah, that stuff is fun, but I feel to make a movie truly “timeless” you need to mix it with the right amount of heart and correct pacing to really “feel” the atmosphere in the environments. The setting ideas were super cool, but only at the beginning, when Star Lord is walking through the ruins, was I the viewer allowed the time to absorb the cool feel of the area. After that, environments are introduced in quick establishing shots (which can really jolt you out of the movie sometimes) before quickly pushing forward.

    Another problem with movies made like this one, is that after the aforementioned constant onslaught of action, explosions and yelling, my nerves feel deadened and the action just doesn’t feel that important to me anymore. Without the anticipation of something cool coming (which can only really be given when you allow it time to build) the amazing action sequences have little impact on me, which is a shame, because much of it was cool looking.

    I often compare it to films like Jurassic Park, a move timeless to me, and my children. Not only are we introduced to a new environment (the Park island) and are allowed time to be properly introduced, but most the action was able to build anticipation so when that T-Rex came out it’s impact was memorable for decades to come. Imagine if the movie had already shown us four T-Rex sequences before that scene. It would not have been as powerful. The movie Aliens was also another good example of how to properly mix environment, character, and action to produce a very impactful film. I thought the newer Star Trek (first one) did a pretty good job, but it did teeter towards the flaws of newer movies.

    I feel this art of balance in movies has been lost for a long time, and replaced in favor of pushing as much “stuff” in a film as possible. I hope we find our way back!