I’ve been more excited about Guardians of the Galaxy than I have most other Marvel films for some time now. I’m a huge fan of director James Gunn (Slither, Super) and the potential for strong authorial voices gets me more excited for tentpoles (see also Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 and Edgar Wright’s unfortunately cancelled take on Ant-Man). While I generally like Marvel movies, there’s something about the humor in all of the Guardians of the Galaxy promos that I’ve seen that has colluded with my fandom of Gunn to raise my expectations for this film. So when an invitation came my way to preview 17 minutes of the film in 3D IMAX this evening at the TLC Chinese Theater, I leapt at it despite the fact that I would essentially just be watching 17 minutes of footage I’d be seeing in a more complete context within a matter of weeks.
Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker, Peter Serafinowicz, and the voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Josh Brolin. It opens in 2D and 3D on August 1st. Hit the jump to read my Guardians of the Galaxy footage reaction!
The footage started off with what seemed to be a (slightly) condensed version of the prison break sequence we’ve been hearing so much about. Our main characters are processed by John C. Reilly in a scene that expands upon the “lineup” segment of the earlier trailers, only we learn a little bit more about each characters backstory, including Gamora’s relationship to Thanos.
From there the guardians are sent to the Kyln (a maximum security space prison that relies on a complex artificial gravity system) intake where we see Star Lord fighting to get his walkman back before they are all hosed down with an orange cleansing goo (which provides us with the obligatory “Chris Pratt is ripped” shot). We definitely get the feeling that the Guardians have only recently met, Star Lord is still trying to get around Groot’s limited vocabulary, but their chemistry together is already fairly strong at this point. Things really fall into full swing when Rocket Racoon is outlining a plan for the break to Star Lord and Gamora while we see Groot in the background prematurely enacting the procedure being discussed. Alarms sound, armed drones swarm into the prison’s general population, and our heroes are faced with assorted challenges while trying to escape.
I don’t want to give away all of the beats, but it’s a well thought out sequence with a good sense of escalation and a great sense of geography. You know precisely what the objectives of the characters are and where they are in relation to achieving them. Not being familiar with the comics, I actually learned a lot about Groot’s utilities in battle (whether they be extending his branches up a bad guy’s nose or acting as a ladder for the other guardians). There’s not a lot of setup for Drax in this sequence and, as a result, his character doesn’t really gel with the rest of the crew until right up near the end (even though he joins them in the fight to escape early on).
It also took me a second to get used to the film’s tone, which was odd because it wasn’t actually any different than what I was expecting. It’s just weird to enter the film during this sequence and not the opening proper. The scene was executed just fine, but it feels like the Guardians universe is so specific on a tonal level that it’s not wise to just drop the audience into the movie at this very point. I imagine the immersion into this world provided by the full film will work much better.
So yeah, aside from minor quibbles about being dropped into a scene that looks to take place right near the end of the first act, I was very excited by what I saw (even if I’m not excited for too many more of these “one scene screenings”). The film has a charmingly lo-fi aesthetic, not in terms of the way it’s framed or shot, but in little touches like the prison guards’ armor and security devices. The 3D looked good (one of the best post conversion jobs I’ve seen actually) and there was just the right amount of humor peppered throughout the action beats. No overkill there. One thing the footage hammered home was that this is definitely more of a kids’ movie than something like Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3, but in a fun way. It’s nothing that any reasonable adult that’s a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would find untenable.
After that we got the extended sizzle reel that had already hit online by the time I exited the theater, which was something I was just as excited to discuss as the prison break, but you just saw it so I doubt you need a recap.