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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

December 8th, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack

At the moment, Guardians of the Galaxy is the highest grossing film released in 2014. (Mockingjay, Part 1 still has a chance of catching it, depending on how well it does over Christmas). It is also one the the best-reviewed wide releases of 2014. As a fan of Marvel Comics in general and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, I had very high hopes for this film. Was the buzz warranted? Or was this a case of too much hype?

The Movie

For the first roughly 20 minutes of the movie, I was worried it was the latter.

We meet young Peter Quill at the hospital. His mother is dying and wants to talk to him one last time. When she passes away, Peter runs outside of the hospital only to be abducted by aliens.

Flash forward 26 years, and the now adult Peter Quill is an explorer / junker exploring the planet Morag. He is there to recover The Orb, and does so after a lengthy song and dance number. This part of the film didn't draw me in, which is why I was worried the movie wouldn't live up to the hype. After retrieving The Orb, Peter Quill is stopped by Korath, who wants to know who he is (Star-Lord) and how he knows about The Orb (He pleads ignorance.) and when he is not satisfied with his answers, he decides to take him to Ronan. Peter Quill is able to escape, but is quickly contacted by Yondu Udonta, the leader of the Ravagers, the group of outlaws he hung with. Or to be more accurate, the leader of the group of outlaws he used to hang with. They were supposed to grab the Orb together, but he betrayed them and as a result, Yondu puts a 40,000 unit bounty on Peter Quill's head.

At this point, we learn more about Ronan. He is a Kree determined to destroy Xandar, because his people and the Xandarian people have been at war for a thousand years. He is after the Orb, because Thanos wants it. He made a bargain with Thanos that if he retrieved the Orb, then Thonos would destroy Xandar. He decides to send one of Thanos's adoptive daughters, Nebula, to retrieve it, but Gamora, another of Thanos's adoptive daughters, talks him into sending her instead.

Meanwhile on Xandar, we meet Rocket and Groot, who are currently working as bounty hunters and spot Peter Quill, and his 40k bounty. After Peter Quill fails to sell the Orb to The Broker (He wants no part of any deal where Ronan is involved.) he meets Gamora, who steals the Orb and kicks him in the gut. The pair get into a fight over the Orb, only to be joined by Rocket and Groot. The fight ends when the Nova Corps, the Xandar's police force, shows up and arrests them all and sends them to the Kyln, a corrupt prison.

It becomes clear very quickly that Gamora won't last long. In fact, that night, one of the guards let some of the fellow prisoners into her cell to take her away to be killed. At first, Drax the Destroyer saves her life. He saves her life, because Ronan killed his family, so he wants to kill Gamora himself. However, then Peter Quill saves her life, because she knows someone who wants to buy the Orb and that's the only way he's going to get paid. Before that can happen, they need to break out of prison. Fortunately, Rocket has a plan. Unfortunately, that's where we run into spoilers.

The first act of Guardians of the Galaxy feels a little disjointed, as if some of the important transitional scenes were cut in the name of pacing. (It turns out this is partially the case, as we see some of these cut scenes in the extras.) This is a common problem with nearly all origin story movies, so I don't think it is entirely fair to hold these issues against it, but you also can't ignore it. However, once we get to know all of the characters and how they team up, the movie really finds its grove. It has an excellent balance between character development and action scenes. Additionally, the action scenes build to something important. Too many bad action movies have too many action scenes that exist merely to be trailer fodder, but that is not the case here. Finally, this movie has a sense of fun. There's this school of thought that being dour and dark is a shortcut to be mature and mature is synonymous with good. This is simply not the case. In fact, I would argue that having a good sense of humor makes the more emotional aspect of a film have greater effect.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best wide releases of the year.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, James Gunn. There are also two featurettes, the first is a 21-minute making of featurette and the second is a 7-minute featurette on the special effects needed to bring Rocket and Groot alive. There is also a two-minute preview for Age of Ultron. Up next are four minutes of deleted / extended scenes, with optional audio commentary. Finally, there are four minutes of outtakes. This is an acceptable level of extras, but it is not a ton. On the other hand, the only extra on the DVD is one deleted scene and the preview, so there are a lot of exclusive extras on the Blu-ray.

The technical presentation is, well, reference level quality. The level of details is stunning, even in the frequent dark scenes. The are many scenes without a lot of color to them, but when called upon, the colors are very vibrant. It goes without saying that there are no digital artifacts or compression issues. Again, reference level quality. The audio is even better with an engaging Audio 7.1 surround sound track. The dialogue is always clear, which is important, but there is also a ton of activity in the surround sound speakers, including directional effects, pans, etc.

I don't have the 3D copy to review, but I did check out a few reviews online and apparently it looks awesome in 3D.

The 3D Blu-ray combo pack costs $20, which is a good deal for this type of release. However, the DVD only costs $10, which is cheaper than some catalog releases. Granted, it is worth paying $20 for, especially if you have made the leap to 3D.

The Verdict

Guardians of the Galaxy is currently the biggest hit of 2014 and could end the year number one. It isn't the best movie I've see so far this year, but it is close. It is certainly better than most summer blockbusters are and combines the emotional, the action scenes, and the sense of fun in a way very few other films manage to do. There are not enough extras on the DVD, but it is super cheap. On the other hand, the 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack is a contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, Guardians of the Galaxy, Josh Brolin, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Christopher Fairbank, James Gunn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Chris Pratt, Michael Rooker, Zoe Saldana, Laura Haddock, Dave Bautista, Wyatt Oleff, Karen Gillan