Gotta say I've been looking forward to this flick in a big way. The trailers have been tempting and now the crits are in... and they seem pretty much in agreement that this is one of the stand outs of the year.
My fave so far is this from iO9 which is a gloriously spoiler free celebration of the latest Marvel franchise.
So yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy is dripping with nostalgia, for space opera and Baby Boomer pop music, and for funny action movies. For stories about friends having an adventure together, all of that.
The word "nostalgia," of course, means "pain." Specifically, the pain of yearning for a lost home. (In the same way that "neuralgia" is "nerve pain.")
And there's definitely an undercurrent of sadness and hurt going through this, which the "Awesome Mix" pop soundtrack helps to bring to the surface. But the wounded undertone also shows up in keenly observed moments where Rocket or Drax reveals a hidden misery. Of the five misfits, Groot is the only one who's not deeply damaged, and his friendliness helps throw the scars of his comrades into relief.
That undertone of sadness does a lot to help the film achieve a consistent tone, with all the weird elements in the mix. (You could write a whole essay on the importance of "undertone" to "tone," actually.)
Part of what Guardians does that's clever is throw you in the deep end pretty much from the beginning — Peter Quill is the only Earthling in the film, and he's grown up in space, so he's totally familiar with spaceports, blasters and alien sex. Peter Quill is already Star-Lord pretty much at the start of the movie, and he knows his way around.
This mirrors our own familiarity with these kinds of stories (everybody's at least seen Star Wars), and flies in the face of conventional wisdom that space-opera needs to keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. But it also allows the movie to speak directly to our yearning for classic adventure stories, by playing with the familiar elements without any lengthy preamble.
And in all those shots where Peter Quill's ship, the Milano, is flying through some holy-shit-cosmic vistas, to the accompaniment of some 1960s or 1970s anthem, I feel like this film is doing something pretty complicated. We're up to our neck in the spacey wonder, but the music is tethering us to Earth and to Peter Quill's emotional backstory — and also, reminding us that we've seen this shit before in classic space operas. Instead of holding your hand, writer-director James Gunn gives you syncopated hand-claps. And some cowbell.
Totes worth a read. And a watch.