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Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray Review

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) movie poster Guardians of the Galaxy

Theatrical Release: August 1, 2014 / Running Time: 121 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: James Gunn / Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (screenplay); Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (comic book)

Cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Lee Pace (Ronan), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), John C. Reilly (Corpsman Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector/Taneleer Tivan), Laura Haddock (Meredith Quill), Sean Gunn (Kraglin, On Set Rocket), Peter Serafinowicz (Denarian Saal), Christopher Fairbank (The Broker), Krystian Godlewski (On Set Groot), Wyatt Oleff (Young Peter Quill), Gregg Henry (Grandpa), Ophelia Lovibond (Carina), Nathan Fillion (voice of Monstrous Inmate) / Uncredited: Josh Brolin (Thanos), Seth Green (Howard the Duck)
Guardians of the Galaxy is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100  Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Guardians of the Galaxy ranks 33rd in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

Buy Guardians of the Galaxy from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Guardians of the Galaxy is the first Marvel Studios film since 2011 that is not a sequel, a reboot, or a crossover. That distinction is integral to its appeal.

We open in 1988 on Earth, a planet on which we spend little time. Unexpectedly highly dramatic, this prologue sees a young boy having to say goodbye to his mother,
who is evidently near the end of a losing fight with cancer. Running out of the hospital as Mom flatlines, the boy encounters a giant alien spacecraft that apparently takes him aboard.

Jumping ahead to the present day, that boy, Peter Quill, is all grown up (now played by an uncharacteristically fit Chris Pratt) and enjoying life in this distant place where he still treasures his Walkman and his one-night stands could have skin any color of the rainbow. Upon acquiring a small orb of considerable power, Peter, who is trying hard to make his self-assigned nickname Star-Lord stick, is pursued by various parties. They include the green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana, hiding her looks far less than she did in Avatar) as well as cynical, genetically engineered upright raccoon bounty hunter Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, doing his best Baby Herman) and his tree-like humanoid protector of very few words, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).

All four of these wind up in a maximum security prison, where they are eyed shiftily by their fierce fellow inmates. Frequent prison escaper Rocket hatches a plan for the four of them, plus new ally Drax (Dave Bautista), a muscle-bound widower hell-bent on vengeance, to bust out of jail en route to a lucrative sale of that mysterious orb to a buyer Gamora has lined up. It's The Collector (Benicio Del Toro, in what amounts to little more screentime than his Captain America 2 end credits cameo). The deal goes awry when the orb's powers are revealed. Our fugitive heroes are endangered and lose that MacGuffin, only to conceive a plan to keep the device out of the hands of Ronan (Lee Pace), a powerful individual sure to use it for evil.

Protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), alias Star-Lord, is a hero only in his own mind. At maximum security prison The Kyln, genetically engineered raccoon Rocket announces he has a formidable protector.

Ah, original characters. We've gotten far too few of them from Marvel Studios the past three years. It's true there aren't many characters in Marvel films you can call completely original, including the ones in this film. But Guardians is based on a not terribly well-known line of comics that began in 2008. This is altogether different from bringing superheroes who have long been part of pop culture, like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Spider-Man, to the big screen. That's a good thing for moviegoers, even if it makes shareholders nervous.

The bold and diverse personalities that comprise the titular team arrive with no baggage or discernible legacies. There are no iconic performances or interpretations for Guardians to be judged against. Though many comic book fans approach Marvel films with long-held appreciation and familiarity, that's almost impossible here, with very few able to claim they grew up with these characters. Such a blank slate doesn't eliminate expectations altogether. The film still has to live up to the strong reputation of the thriving Marvel Studios brand. It also had to perform well enough at the box office to justify the $170 million production budget that's really quite steep for such an unknown property.

But everything works out in the favor of this film, which is the most enjoyable entry to the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe born out of Disney's purchase of the company.

Where there is darkness, Groot provides light for the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians succeeds more on personality than plot. These ragtag heroes are liberated by their lack of history and pre-existing admirers. They are complex, unconventional, and a great deal of fun.
Quill is basically the live-action version of Pratt's Lego Movie protagonist; not traditionally heroic, but able to fill a void. His likable everyman charm is agreeably upstaged by three eccentric colleagues: the sardonic badass belied by his cute furry exterior, the sentient tree man whose one statement ("I am Groot") comes to take different meanings, and the blue-gray muscleman whose ignorance of metaphors gives the film some of its biggest laughs. In such company, Gamora makes for kind of an underwhelming leading lady, albeit an active one who eschews love interest status. The real weak link is Ronan, a feared villain who does almost nothing noteworthy the entire film. That could be problematic, but it isn't here, with minimal time and thought given the opposition.

Marvel films rely heavily on comedy, but Guardians seems to take it to another level with its humorous hijinks. This is a very funny movie and it sustains an atmosphere long enough to be classified as a comedy. In terms of sci-fi, it is perhaps most indebted to the original Star Wars. The humor seems directly descended from the cantina scene and from C-3PO and R2-D2's amusing banter. Here, though presented with stunning visuals, the hero-heroine-villain material isn't played so seriously or traditionally. Still, the story, thankfully not really an origin one, engages sufficiently and stands up to scrutiny. Guardians also provides some genuine heart, no small feat amidst such a steady stream of laughs. Despite the prevalence of colorful alien characters, creatures, and locations, there's also plenty of humanity. Even if you question the realism of the extremely eclectic musical tastes Peter's mother shows in the "awesome" mix tape she made for him that functions as the film's soundtrack (it includes everything from Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" to David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" to The Five Stairsteps' "O-o-h Child"), you've got to appreciate the logic behind using popular pre-1988 tunes to score key sequences.

Contrary to what naysayers feared would come from a Disney-Marvel partnership, the film is perhaps a little less family-friendly than previous Marvel tentpoles. I can't remember hearing this much profanity in any of the Avengers' standalone movies or their behemothic team-up. Violence and scary moments are plentiful without exceeding current PG-13 limits. Most of the time, most of these characters are decidedly not role models, but friendless, anti-social outlaws and convicts. Even so, they unearth virtues and remain redeemable as they form a kind of dysfunctional family. There's far more complexity and ambiguity to this team than The Avengers and the viewer isn't able to remain so certain that all the good guys will end the film alive and victorious. Such unpredictability has been missing from the past several Marvel adventures.

Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) scores big laughs with his ignorance of metaphors. Peter's blue-skinned surrogate father Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) grows impatient in his pursuit of the plot-driving orb.

Needing long end credits to just narrowly surpass the two-hour mark, Guardians is brisk and diverting entertainment. The announcement out of summer's San Diego Comic-Con of a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel being in the cards for 2017 might have been met with some skepticism or trepidation. But the pre-emptive measure wasn't merely a display of confidence.
There was no doubt that audiences were going to love these characters and want to spend more time with them. I know I do.

With this film, director James Gunn, also credited on the script alongside newbie Nicole Perlman, gives his career a huge shot in the arm, redeeming himself after his previous film, the dark superhero comedy indie Super starring Rainn Wilson, lost money, divided critics, and cast doubt over the promising critical reception given Gunn's acclaimed 2006 debut Slither.

Many experts suspected that Guardians would be a hard sell for audiences used to superheroes that are conventionally heroic. Nonetheless, quality was rewarded; the film currently stands as the year's runaway domestic box office champion. Its $332 million and counting North American earnings aren't just outstanding for a non-sequel, they're just plain outstanding. Only Sam Raimi's three Spider-Man movies, Christopher Nolan's two Dark Knight sequels, The Avengers, and post-Avengers outlier Iron Man 3 have grossed more at home than Guardians and they all did it with infinitely more pre-existing brand awareness. With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 not performing nearly as well as its predecessors and expected, the race for 2014's domestic box office crown should come down to the wire, with Guardians likely emerging victorious. Let that be a lesson to Hollywood that taking chances isn't inherently bad and that audiences don't need to know all their movie characters in advance.

After revealing August to not be the box office wasteland it usually is, Guardians hits home video at just the right time for holiday gift-giving. It reaches stores in a DVD, the Blu-ray reviewed here, and a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD set not made available for review.

Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish),
Dolby Digital 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $32.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP), Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray +
Digital HD
($39.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


In 2014, it's a given that the new Marvel movie will be treated to amazing picture and sound on Blu-ray. And Guardians indeed is. The 2.40:1 video is some of the sharpest and most detailed I've encountered on the format. The dynamic default 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is full of life and activity. It's always nice when you can give your home theater a workout with something of worth, like a Pixar or Harry Potter movie. Or this, which is sure to stand as one of 2014's most exceptional home video presentations.

Let's hope James Gunn avoids metaphors while directing Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). A real raccoon examines a bust of Rocket's head in the visual effects featurette.


The Blu-ray's surprisingly modest collection of extras begins with a Featurettes section.

Though it opens looking like an 8-bit video game and often reprises that design,
"Guide to the Galaxy with James Gunn" (20:56) is a pretty standard making-of featurette most of the time. As the title implies, Gunn is front and center, explaining the philosophies he brought to the film. Touching on all the bases you expect, from make-up and production design to characters and Easter eggs. This fine piece is full of valuable behind-the-scenes footage and well-implemented cast and crew remarks.

"The Intergalactic Visual Effects for Guardians of the Galaxy" (7:11) explains how the film incorporated two all-CGI characters among its leads. It shows how a mix of live actor reference, a real raccoon, and the recording studio performances of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel all went into making Rocket and Groot look and feel real.

Elizabeth Olsen talks in costume as Scarlet Witch in the Avengers: Age of Ultron that is more "giant tease" than "exclusive look." Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly) deals with a blinky chest light in this deleted scene.

The section concludes with an "Exclusive Look at Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2:17), a brief promotional making-of teasing one of next year's big sequels. It's mostly on location talking heads and some production B-roll. It's definitely not the trailer some may have hoped to see.

A Deleted & Extended Scenes section holds five short clips (4:22). They offer additional moments of Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly), Gamora, Nebula, Rocket and Groot, plus a prison guard dancing to Pilot's "Magic" (which must have just missed out on making the Awesome Mix...maybe Vol. 2). The scenes, which feature a bit of crude animation, are accompanied by optional audio commentary by co-writer-director James Gunn, which explains why they were deemed expendable.

Star-Lord's dancing catches on with the others in the gag reel. Ooga chaka! The simple yet satisfying Guardians Blu-ray menu plays Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling" on Star-Lord's tape deck.

Next, there is the obligatory gag reel (3:54), which strings together an assortment of between-take tomfoolery, in-character goofs, a cast dance party, and even a few animated gags. Predictably, it amuses, especially when it loses the score and goes easy on the editing.

Last but not least, we get a feature audio commentary by James Gunn. For an undertaking as large as this, it's surprising to have a solo commentary, but there's no denying that if only one person is to spend two hours talking over the movie,
Gunn is the guy for the job. Exuding the passion he clearly brought to the project, Gunn engages with his personable, screen-specific chatter. Despite misinterpreting "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" and mentioning a couple of deleted bits that aren't included here, Gunn generally holds our interest and lends insight to the film, its music, and its making, even explaining why some perceived goofs are not errors.

The disc opens with trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel Cinematic Universe films, "Ultimate Spiderman: Web-Warriors", and the app Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing repeats those, dropping ads for Marvel on Disney XD, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, and Disney Movies Anywhere.

The menu creatively places Awesome Mix Vol. 1 into Peter's ship's wood-paneled tape deck, which proceeds to play (and then, repeat) "Hooked on a Feeling" nearly in full. Too bad it doesn't play anything else from the fun soundtrack. The Blu-ray doesn't resume playback but does remember where you left off in the film and getting back there is a breeze with the right buttons.

I can't comment on the set's packaging because Marvel continues to be the only studio I know of that sends review discs in paper envelope instead of the actual retail product. They're just lucky their movies are good and important or else us journalists might really have to take a stand! The disc sports a plain blue label like almost all of Disney's Blu-rays do these days.

The Guardians of the Galaxy -- Rocket, Groot, Star-Lord, Drax, and Gamora -- discuss the part of a plan they've formulated.


With bold and lovable new characters, sharp and creative action, and a killer sense of humor, Guardians of the Galaxy easily qualifies as some of the most fun cinema has to offer this year. Though not quite perfect (its chief villain is totally uninteresting, for one thing), it's the closest the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come. I hope that the film can translate to a sequel as entertaining and that its abundant success inspires Hollywood to take more chances.

This Blu-ray certainly contains fewer bonus features than you'd expect for what is likely to remain the biggest blockbuster of 2014. Still, what's here is great and the picture and sound are as good as you'll find on the format. In case it isn't crystal-clear, this release is incredibly easy to recommend highly.

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Related Reviews:
Marvel Cinematic Universe, Phase 2: Captain America: The Winter Soldier • Thor: The Dark World • Iron Man 3
Summer 2014 Movies: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 • Edge of Tomorrow • Godzilla • Maleficent • Transformers: Age of Extinction
Chris Pratt: The Lego Movie • Zero Dark Thirty • Her • Take Me Home Tonight | Zoe Saldana: Star Trek Into Darkness • Avatar
Lee Pace: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Written and Directed by James Gunn: Movie 43 (segment "Beezel")
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete First Season • John Carter • Oblivion • Pacific Rim • Rise of the Guardians • Space Station 76

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Reviewed December 5, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Marvel Studios and Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.