I pulled this from my review over at Letterboxd.
I’ve been following this movie and the director since it was announced two years ago at Comic Con, and the payoff was better than I could have hoped for. When I say the talking raccoon and walking tree are among the lesser weird in this movie, it’s true. This movie was batshit crazy.
James Gunn’s affinity for sheathing an emotive narrative with humor (as exhibited in Super and, to a lesser degree, Slither) bleeds through with masterful brushstrokes that can shift the audience from laughing to crying on a dime. It got me musing upon the merits of comedic storytelling and how it can be just as effective as its dramatic counterpart. Marvel has built an entire brand of rejecting the notion that superheroes need to be dark and brooding to be taken seriously, and I couldn’t be happier as we’re whisked further and further from that ridiculous zeitgeist (looking at you Nolan).
Regardless of one’s preconception, you really forget the plausibility of a talking raccoon existing in the same Marvel Cinematic Universe populated by Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, much less our own, because you actually, to quote one of the lines, “give a shit” about these outrageous characters. Rocket Raccoon has a great scene in which the essence of his persona is encapsulated in a very human way and the audience is given a glimpse into how and why he is. Suffice it to say, the technology behind the Rocket character is amazing, and Bradley Cooper continues to astound.
One of my favorite things about the movie was its approach to the universe it cultivates. It makes no attempts to create an everyman through which the audience learns about and acclimates to the world we’re watching unfold. The exposition required otherwise usually endangers the pacing of a film by bogging it down with redundancy. Instead, we’re plunged right into the muck of it and Gunn elects to allow the audience to piece together the fabric of his universe and how things work as the events pertaining to them occur. The second scene of the film in particular is an incredible example of this, employing an action sequence – as films of this genre often do – that informs as much as it thrills.
I think I could watch Chris Pratt be Star-Lord all day. Though his character wears a functional mask sometimes, the more powerful veneer is his goofiness because it hides his volatility and unpredictability. This might sound like a description of RDJ’s Tony Stark, but Peter Quill isn’t as confident or self-aware as Iron Man and doesn’t pretend to be. The result is a cocktail of a character infused with humor, humanity, and impressive dexterity.
While Tom Hiddleston’s Loki continues to permeate as everyone’s favorite villain (and justly so), Lee Pace makes a strong case with Ronan the Accuser. Rife with cinematic gravitas and religious zeal, Ronan is a force of nature, and the hierarchy of power of those immediately involved is quickly established with him placed firmly atop the totem pole as he pushes forward with his campaign and vendetta to rectify an alleged thousand-year wrong in the name of “his father and his father before him.”
At the heart of the film, though, is heart. This movie is a thematic anthem to friendship and the power in unity. Every single one of these characters is a selfish criminal, and they still don’t completely understand each other by the film’s end. They acknowledge a common denominator after they are forced to but choose to embrace it as each member realizes the imperative for change in their life.
Movies of the superhero genre are always trying to come up with the best way to dub their heroes and teams, but this one takes the cake, in my opinion, with the most badass christening I’ve ever seen. Go see it.