Review: Guardians of the Galaxy – Bring the Kids?

Guardians of the Galaxy posterIt’s no secret that we’ve loved just about every Marvel movie that has been released in the last several years. We’re a family of geeks, and Marvel and Disney are two of our favorite fandoms. (Along with Doctor Who, the Whedonverse and a few others, of course.)

But when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, my first reaction was, “What’s that?” Aaron, far geekier in all things comics, had to explain the storyline to me. And I was immediately worried that Marvel was becoming too smug with their chain of film successes. A space drama with a talking raccoon who likes to shoot things and a giant walking tree as two of five main characters? Seriously? It originally sounded completely ridiculous and I wasn’t sure how they would get audiences interested in this story.

I can now look back on this and see how wrong I was.

Aaron and I attended a preview screening last Wednesday, and then we took Cordy and Mira to see it on Saturday afternoon. I was concerned if it would be appropriate for our nine and seven year olds, and even waiting for the movie to start on Saturday, I was still a little concerned how they would handle parts of it.

So, should you bring the kids? Read on for my more in-depth (and mostly spoiler-free) review.

Synopsis (from the studio)

From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team–the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits–Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand–with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which first appeared in comic books in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969), stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio del Toro as The Collector.

The Guardians

What I liked:

This movie felt like a gritty space opera, complete with a throwback soundtrack thanks to the Awesome Mix, Volume 1. It’s fast paced, fun, and full of action. No, really: LOTS of action. The humor maintains its endurance right alongside the action, too.

All five of the heroes are fully realized characters, with flaws to match their talents, and I appreciated that all five of them are not your “typical” heroes. They’re essentially a group of criminals who, when brought together and faced with impending doom, choose to work together to save the galaxy.

While they do discover new aspects to themselves during the climax of the film, this single event of heroism doesn’t transform them into model citizens, either, and that’s okay. It would make the story seem too much like a fairy-tale to think they would entirely change their personalities as a result of stopping Ronan and live happily ever after.

It’s also important to note that the heroes aren’t rewarded for their bad behavior. For example, Peter Quill (Star-Lord) acts like an entitled man-child occasionally during the movie, but this never works in his favor and he’s not rewarded for it.

“I’m Star-Lord, man.”

The CGI in this film is amazing. Two of the five main characters are computer generated images next to their more human-like allies, and yet they feel as real as everyone around them. Groot and Rocket were masterfully inserted into the film with more realism than I’ve ever witnessed in a live-action film. You could see the individual strands of Rocket’s fur, and Groot’s branches have solid weight to them in each scene.

Rocket RaccoonHe’s adorable…and deadly.

The performances by the actors in this film shouldn’t go unnoticed, however. They ranged from the over-the-top antics of Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt, to Karen Gillan’s extremely subtle, yet precision-sharp development of her character, Nebula.

Best of all: Gamora does not become a love interest for Quill – and the mostly naked shot of Zoe Saldana from the rear which is so prominent in the trailers did not make it to the final cut of the movie. I was happy to see that the writers didn’t include the old cliche of having the male lead and the female lead fall for each other.

Gamora and QuillThey’re teammates, that’s it. And for much of the movie she questions even that much involvement.

What I didn’t like:

While I think this is a well-made movie, it wasn’t perfect. My primary complaint is that if you haven’t read the comics, you may feel a little lost or have the urge to take notes to keep up with this new universe and everyone in it. There are new races, feuds and characters to learn quickly at the start of the film. It’s overwhelming.

Unlike Avengers, where we learned the back-story of the major characters previously in their own individual films, this film has to take on the back-story of all five main characters, the state of relations between worlds, and then deliver the current action of the story as well. Having not read the comics, I did have trouble keeping names and details straight. On the second viewing, I felt better at keeping all of the details straight, but there were still some names I couldn’t place.

And while the heroes are well-developed characters, Ronan – the primary villain in this film – was flat. We didn’t get much of his history, and we’re presented with a guy who is determined to wipe out the people of Xandar, with little explanation as to why after we’re told the two races have recently agreed to a peace treaty. And why do the Kree seem unwilling to protect the treaty they just signed and let Ronan go on a killing spree? His motivation is weak and poorly explained, likely cut for time. Hopefully we’ll see more of his development in the extras section of the DVD. (Aaron tells me he’s a deeply complex and interesting character in the comics.)

RonanI want to know more about this guy.

Bring the kids?

If you’re a big Marvel fan, this part is probably not for you, as you probably saw it on opening weekend, and you most likely knew your own kids’ interests in the movie. But a few of you might have kids (like ours) who saw the trailers and said to you, “Awwww! A talking raccoon! I want to see this movie!” without knowing much about the actual plot, and so you may be concerned about if it’s a good fit.

There are a few aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy that might make you pause before bringing the kids. First, there is the violence aspect. There are a handful of space battles where minor characters die, several punches thrown and plenty of knock-back injuries, lots of blaster fire (although most are stun blasters, it seems), and an Infinity Stone that will rip apart any person who tries to hold it – and does. Those moments can be a little scary for some kids.

The humor and language can also border on the crude at times, too. At one point a character is called a “prick” and a few other choice curse words are used, too. While there is no actual sexual content in this film, there is a joke about how a blacklight could prove Quill’s ship to be far more dirty than they assume, but that joke should go right over the heads of most kids. Actually, most of the more questionable jokes and comments were completely missed by our two kids, and they didn’t even ask about them. If you have a kid who is more inquisitive,  just be prepared for a few questions.

One additional concern to be prepared for (slight spoiler here): at the start of the movie, we see Peter Quill as a child at his dying mother’s hospital bedside. Only a few minutes later, his mother is dead, and he’s quickly torn away from his family. This might be tough for a sensitive kid to deal with – I was even teary-eyed in that moment. We (wisely) told our kids about this scene before we went to the movie, making sure it wouldn’t be a surprise to them or a scene that might make them re-think the movie.

Originally, I was more concerned that Cordy and Mira would not enjoy the film, while Aaron was convinced that they’d be fine. For Guardians of the Galaxy, Aaron was right. We chose to tell them a lot of the plot up-front and let them decide if they still wanted to see it. Cordy brought her stuffed Rocket with her to hug through the movie, just in case it got too scary.

And? They loved it. Both kids were engaged through the entire movie, and while some of the finer details of the plot were beyond their understanding, they followed the story and enjoyed the action. Cordy loved all of the humor, while Mira danced in her seat to all of the music throughout the story. They each loved Rocket more than before the movie. And they are both demanding a dancing Groot sprout toy before Christmas.

Dancing Groot sproutJust watching this GIF makes me happy.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy a film to see? Yes, absolutely. If you like superheroes, sci-fi, space dramas, and/or silly humor, you will enjoy this movie. Aaron has a more in-depth review of the film on his site if you want more specifics.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy a film to take the kids to? I’ll answer that with a qualified yes. Kids will like the characters and they won’t be bored with the constant action of the film. I think it’s appropriate for most elementary-age kids and older, but those who are more sensitive to violence or language might want to hold off. You know your kids best to decide where the line needs to be drawn.

I was very happy with this film, and I’m excited to see the start of another section of the Marvel cinematic universe. We know a sequel is already in the works, and the extra scene at the end of the credits provides a quick glimpse of an older Marvel character that we just might see again.

Once again, Marvel has proven they’re on the right track with their films. While DC is still wringing their hands over how they could have a hit movie with Wonder Woman as the solo (female) lead, Marvel has created box office gold with a talking CGI raccoon and a walking tree that can only say “I am Groot.”

Keep up the good work, Marvel.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes for the screening event only. Affiliate links may be used in this post.

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  1. I can’t comment on the kids angle of things, since I have none, and don’t make decisions about what they should and shouldn’t watch.

    But as a girl who has never picked up a comic book in her life and knows nothing of the Marvel universe, I still THOROUGHLY enjoyed this movie (although I was, in the nature of full disclosure, dragged by my boyfriend because I didn’t think it’d be up my alley). It had action, it had comedy, it had a cheesy mix tape to back it up….I’d happily watch again. I agree that the backstory was a bit to pick up but I just kinda went with it.

    Also, I thoroughly enjoyed imagining Vin Diesel in a studio saying “I am Groot” about 1000 times in different volumes, tones, etc because that’s the dude’s only line! (Interesting tidbit I read: he apparently recorded the line in a bunch of different languages so even when the film is dubbed, Groot will always be Vin Diesel).

    Anyway, I’ll be all over seeing the sequel, and that’s from someone who’s not usually interested in comic stuff, so that should tell you its a pretty solid film.

  2. Great review! I rarely post comments, but had to tell you this was the best review I could find. It was so informative and ultimately made me feel comfortable enough to take my six year old daughter. Though that may sound young, she is already a huge Justice League fan, and has already seen every movie in the Avenger & X-men series (all of which I had the opportunity to preview first). Your review gave a nice and clear explanation of what to expect without any spoilers which was refreshing. You were right, the inappropriate or questionable comments and jokes went right over her head. We loved the movie and soundtrack, and can’t wait to add both to our collection!