Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel Studios' Best Film Yet (Blu-ray)


The Film:

Everyone knows by now that Marvel has a pretty standard formula that they use when it comes to their various superhero films, one that consists of a very light storyline packed with lots of action and little else. That’s not to say that they haven’t been enjoyable, most of them certainly have, but it becomes a little difficult to shake things up when you use the same guidelines each and every time. Enter “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which, while it still adheres to the formula pretty closely, at least tries to venture out into other areas in an attempt to be something more than another entry in the long list of overly-familiar superhero flicks.

The story concerns Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) (Chris Pratt), a young man who was abducted from Earth back in the 80s, and has now become a kind of treasure hunter with a gang of thugs. In a betrayal of his comrades, he decides to act alone to collect a mysterious orb that, once obtained, makes him the target of a powerful being known as Ronan (Lee Pace). Coincidentally, when one of Ronan’s underlings, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), tries to steal it from him, a talking raccoon, Rocket (Voice of Bradley Cooper), and his partner, Groot (Voice of Vin Diesel), try to capture Quill himself for the bounty on his head. This scuffle ends up getting them all arrested and sent to a high security prison, where, along with an inmate named Drax (Dave Bautista), it is decided that they all must cooperate not only to get out, but also to sell the orb for a vast amount of money. However, once they find out what’s inside the orb, they realize that there is much more at stake than they ever imagined.

So what is it about “Guardians of the Galaxy” that makes it stand out from the other Marvel films? For starters, the characters are far more interesting that what we usually get, starting with a young man who was taken from his home planet in the minutes following the loss of his mother. Peter Quill is quite adept at the future technology he is surrounded with, but he still holds onto the past with his classic mix tape that he plays with his Walkman and a fancy tape deck on his ship. Gamora, a kind of adopted daughter to an even bigger villain than Ronan, and Drax, a seemingly violent inmate with a grudge against Ronan for killing his family, seem like somewhat flat characters at first, but are soon revealed to be more than they appear.

Finally, we have the greatest pairing of characters in a Marvel film yet, Rocket (a talking raccoon) and Groot (a living tree that can only say three words), two bounty hunters who seem like they have no business being together, but we end up being all the more fortunate because of it. All of these characters, and the outstanding ensemble that makes them come to life, bring more depth to what would be an otherwise standard Marvel outing.

What also makes it a little different is that it’s a lot funnier than your standard Marvel fare. These films usually have a decent amount of humor in them, but the writers of “Guardians of the Galaxy” have taken the trouble to make sure this film had an extra dose. Honestly, these are such great and unique characters, especially Rocket and Groot, that it becomes hard to imagine a scenario where the film isn’t as funny as it is.

These elements start to make up for the fact that the film still falls back on the same old cliché of having a large, tedious battle/confrontation at the end, with this one lasting around 30 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s probably not many other ways these films could end, but that still doesn’t excuse it from being as stretched out as it is. However, that doesn’t stop the film from being a fun and highly-entertaining ride that easily stands as the best example of a Marvel film to date. Again, most of the other Marvel films have been entertaining as well, but if you want one with a little something more, then “Guardians of the Galaxy” is definitely the one to see.

Video/Audio:

There’s been a noticeable trend in receiving excellent quality when it comes to Marvel’s films on Blu-ray, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” is no exception. The 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer is flawless, giving you a beautifully sharp picture throughout the presentation, while the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio allows you to hear every bit of dialogue, soundtrack, and sound effects in perfect clarity. Overall, you really couldn’t ask for better quality than what you get here.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary with Director James Gunn: This is a somewhat bland commentary with the director, but at least you get a few interesting tidbits of background info along the way.

A Guide to the Galaxy with James Gunn: An engaging look behind the scenes that has director James Gunn and others taking you through various elements of the making of the film.

The Intergalactic Special Effects: Another interesting featurette that focuses on bringing Rocket and Groot to life.

Deleted & Extended Scenes: About four minutes of extra material that doesn’t really add much to the film, but it’s still interesting to look at.

Gag Reel: A gag reel that has a few amusing moments, including an epic dance-off.

Exclusive Look at Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron: A brief look at the upcoming Avengers sequel with Joss Whedon himself.

Conclusion:

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is the new template that Marvel films should aspire to. With its fantastic ensemble of characters and great sense of humor (not to mention an incredible soundtrack), it rises above the standard formula to make an entertaining and thrilling ride that leaves a lasting impression. It’s not without its flaws, but you’ll simply be having too much fun to care.

Score: 4/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

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