It’s generally accepted that film critics must maintain a high, if not absolute, degree of detachment and objectivity when evaluating a film. A critic, it is thought, must “leave their baggage at the door” and review a film dispassionately, not letting their personal biases, impressions or background influence their feelings on a film.

I think it’s a load of old bullshit, myself.

Granted, a film can be evaluated purely on its formal merits, and a degree of objective evaluation is possible, but the reason I prefer writing in the first person (and in my particular hyperbolic, snarky style) is that my impressions of a film are generally that: my impressions. If I like a film it’s just as often because it appealed to something of my personal taste or sensibilities as because I can appreciate it’s formal qualities objectively.

And while I do try to maintain a degree of this supposedly essential critical detachment, there are certain films that I know going in that I cannot be objective about. Films that I want to be good, that I want to like. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of these films, which means you should probably take it with a grain of salt large enough that Grand Admiral Thrawn is liable to fit it with a cloaking device and park it next to Coruscant (Christ, that’s an obscure reference, even for me) when I say that I loved it to little bitty bits.

Guardians posterAnd those who know a thing or two about my personal tastes should understand why, I mean a movie directed by a former Troma Studios writer about a guy who was abducted by aliens in the 1980s and went on to become a wannabe space adventurer, all the while endlessly listening to a mix tape of 70s classics? A movie that completely and utterly shirks any aspirations toward realism and high cinema with its crass humor, a gun-toting talking raccoon and more space opera adventure and excitement than has generally been seen on movie screens in bloody decades? Of course I’d want to like this movie, it might as well have been made for me!

But while I went in hoping that Guardians of the Galaxy would at the very least be good, imagine my delight when it turned out to be not just good, but great, and for reasons I wasn’t even expecting. By now much fuss has been made about the film’s action, comedy, likeable characters and direction laden with personality and charm by Director James Gunn. But what made Guardians connect with me more than any of that was how once in a while it would gently pull back the fun, jokey atmosphere and actually get serious for a moment.

Oh sure, most of the time things are all quips and wisecracks, but once in a while the facade will drop away and you’ll realize that that raccoon is dealing with some serious emotional trauma. The biggest example of this is, though, is Chris Pratt’s character Star Lord.

The film starts with a pretty serious emotional gut punch that, for very personal reasons, hit pretty close to home for me and made that personal connection even stronger. See, I told you, I’m biased. Guardians is one of these increasingly rare summer blockbusters that not only asks its audience to form a connection to the characters, but succeeds in doing so, and doesn’t feel phony or pandering with its attempts. That alone makes Guardians a triumph.

But on top of having more emotional chops than any other blockbuster on the, well…block, Guardians succeeds by just being fun. The action is crisply filmed and creatively executed, and cast in something other than the usual sci-fi colors of gunmetal gray and rusty brown. The soundtrack, as has already been talked about to death, doesn’t just do the usual thing of ape Hans Zimmer or John Williams, but uses actual songs to give mood and character to scenes.

The characters actually enjoy themselves from time to time rather than go through the whole thing with determined grimaces and heroic stoicism. There’s a sense of fun and enjoyment that permeates every single frame of the thing and makes it almost impossible to leave the theatre without a smile on your face.

Much of this comes from the cast, who all deliver excellent performances, and beyond obvious favorites like Vin Diesel’s Groot and Bradley Cooper’s future fan-favorite character Rocket, I found myself having far too much fun with supporting cast members like Yondu, played in full hillbilly glory by Michael Rooker.

Guardians Yondu

And no, it’s not perfect. The main villain, Ronan, isn’t exactly the most exciting bad guy ever. Another adversary using ill-defined bowers and legions of dull-looking footsoldiers to obtain the all-powerful cosmic mcguffin du jour, but he has enough presence and enough of a theatrical, operatic charm that puts him leagues above Thor: The Dark World‘s Malekith and whoever the fuck Guy Pearce was supposed to be in Iron Man 3. And sure, once in a while a delivery will feel a bit flat, but those moments are few and far between in a sea of fun, interesting performances.

But whatever scant flaws the film may have are vastly outweighed by everything I just adore it for. It feels fresh and dynamic, with real personality in its direction and some of the best sci-fi visuals in years. Everywhere that Man of Steel was drab, dull and joyless, Guardians is vibrant, exciting and utterly joyful.

But importantly, it doesn’t let that joyfulness keep it from trying (and succeeding) to have some emotional depth. And it’s that depth, more than anything else, that makes Guardians an absolute treasure, undoubtedly one of Marvel’s best films yet and so beautifully unlike any other blockbuster you’ve seen all year.

This week, Marvel Studios gave me one the best birthday gifts I could hope for, dropping a new trailer for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy and kicking the pre-release hype machine into overdrive so hard the engine is in danger of exploding. And unlike the first trailer, which to be honest was hurt pretty bad by some truly awful exposition, this one’s pretty much an all-out win. But really, it still suffers from the problem that to the layman, most of it is unintelligible noise and sight. And given that it landed me a spot on local radio the last time I attempted to clarify this hole rigmarole for the normies, I figure why not take a good hard look at some of the less than clear elements of the new trailer and take you through what you need to know. Though really, a lot of it will probably just make things more confusing.



So far the main villain of Guardians has been prettymuch absent from all of the advertising, barely scoring a few seconds of screen time in any of the trailers and totally absent from every poster released thus far. Hell, you can only really see what he looks like through freeze-framing and action figures, and at this point you’d have better luck finding info on Bigfoot than poor Ronan.

Ronan is a member of the Kree, an imperialistic alien race mostly known for being colossal dickbags and being at war constantly. Ronan, in the comics anyway, is a member of the Accusers, the highest dickbags in the land, who act as military leaders as well as judges and executioners. Though he spent a long time as a villain, mostly to the Fantastic Four and Avengers, Ronan became something of an anti-hero after the Annihilation storyline revitalized the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe in the mid 2000s.

In the movie, it seems Ronan will mostly be serving as an enforcer for Thanos, this big purple smiling guy at the end of The Avengers, the Darth Vader to Thanos’ Emperor Palpatine, if you will. If Palpatine was bright purple and looked like he could bench-press that bigass new dinosaur they just found.


No, your eyes did not deceive you, that is indeed a big, floating severed head in the trailer.

Knowhere, introduced during Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s revamp of all things space-faring in Marvel, is the severed head of a Celestial, a race of all-powerful space entities that fly around mucking with developing races for kicks and looking like modernist sculptures.

Knowhere serves as the Guardians’ base of operations, as well as that of The Collector, the blonde alien guy from the post-credits scene from Thor 2. More on him later.

Knowhere exists on the very edge of known space and acts as a kind of junction point that can be reached from anywhere in time or space. Because of this, it plays host to scientists and travelers from across the known universe. It’s sort of like the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but inside a dead space god’s head and overseen by a psychic Russian dog in a space suit. Who will apparently have a cameo in the movie, because James Gunn laughs at the idea that some thing are too “out there”.

Glenn Close GOTG

Nova Corps
Despite looking like a refugee from The Fifth Element, Glenn Close is actually the leader of the Nova Corps, Marvel’s unabashed answer to DC’s Green Lantern Corps. The Novas are your basic space police group, tasked with maintaining galactic order, and apparently the best way to do that is with big bucket helmets and pretzel hair.

In the comics, the Nova Corps all have superpower that allow them to fly and fire energy blasts, but by the looks of things the Corps of the movie will just have plain ole’ guns. A large part of me finds this a tad boring, but I suppose you can’t throw too much else at the audience when your movie is headlined by a talking racoon.

John C. Reilly’s character in the film is also a high ranking Nova Corps member named Rhomann Dey, who dies and gives his powers to an Earthman named Richard Rider, because Marvel felt they hadn’t quite ripped Green Lantern off enough yet.

Del Toro collector

The Collector
Taneleer Tivan, better known as the collector, doesn’t get much screen time in the new trailer, but given that him and his weird Oompa-Loompa lady assistant were our first look at the world of Guardians of the Galaxy, he probably needs some explaining for those who still haven’t asked their nerd friends.

In the comics, The Collector is actually one of the oldest beings in the universe, who all decided that the best way to spend eternity is to give themselves exactly one role/name and stick to it. There’s The Collector, The Trader, The Obliterate, there’s even The Gardner. As the Collector’s name indicates, his schtick is collecting things, and he spent a lot of time flying around space collecting life forms, technological and artistic achievements, and whatever else caught his fancy. He’s like the space-faring equivalent of that one crazy uncle we all have whose house is full of old newspapers and bottlecaps.

By appearances, two things have changed for the movie. One, the Collector is less of an ancient cosmic being and more of just a dude who really likes collecting things, objects of great cosmic power in particular. Second, as we all probably figured out less than a minute into the Thor 2 scene, is that he’s campy as a bedazzled Unicorn. I mean damn, with the fur trimmed outfit and all the extravagant hand movements? This could go so Schumacher, it really could.