Now this flick…was a friggin blast! Yet again, Marvel proves that they’re VERY good at calculating the method, presentation, and marketing of their films. Their success streak, going back to the original ‘Iron Man’ (2008), is fast approaching the stuff of movie studio legend (ya kinda gotta feel for the noticeably lagging DC Comics right now). Up until THIS release, the various solo adventures of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk (with various supporting characters) weaved in and out of each others story-lines, culminating in the standard-setting ‘The Avengers’ (2012). Point is, they all shared a universe that was, by and large, set here on Earth and dealt with threats to our planet and it’s blissfully unaware inhabitants. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a fairly radical shift in gears, with regards to established setting and tone.
The flick opens with a surprisingly moving sequence involving a young boy named ‘Peter Quill’, in 1988, at the deathbed of his cancer-ridden mother. After she passes away before his eyes, the grief-stricken lad runs out into the foggy night in anguish. He is abruptly bathed in a blinding light from above…and we fade out. Cutting to 20 something years later, we meet the boy, now a man of questionable moral fibre and methods (who REALLY wants to be known as ‘Star Lord’, played by Chris Pratt), as he explores the ruins of an extinct society, on an abandoned and dreary planet. He is searching for a small metal orb of undetermined value…and soon finds it, after a quick and clever fight with some local sentries. Not long after, trouble finds him again. While attempting to cash in his find, ‘Quill’ is set upon by two unrelated parties in the forms of ‘Gamora’ (Zoe Saldana), a deadly, green-skinned assassin-type who also seeks the orb for her own traitorous purposes, and a bounty hunting duo consisting of a genetically-engineered raccoon named ‘Rocket’ (voice by Bradley Cooper) and his simple, well-meaning pet tree named ‘Groot’ (voiced by Vin Diesel). After an exciting and energetic chase / fight sequence, all 4 are arrested by the Nova Corp, an elite military police force. From there, it’s straight to the pokey with them. While confined to a prison ship in deep space, they meet a muscle-bound, revenge-fueled maniac named ‘Drax The Destroyer’ (former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), who gets involved in their ‘Rocket’-oriented escape plan. And from there, the flick becomes this sprawling (and hilarious) sci-fi adventure involving outlandish enemies, unscrupulous allies and high stakes.
As mentioned earlier, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a blast. It has pretty much everything that a summer blockbuster should. The script is tight, with no need for padding and over-indulgent exposition. Many elements of the setting and characters are explored and explained with timing that seems perfectly appropriate. Nothing feels rushed, yet it flows along at a good clip. What aided the narrative greatly were the MANY instances of ‘laugh-out-loud’ humor scattered liberally throughout. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a movie that engaged the audience as completely as this one did. The crowd I saw this with were ‘hootin n hollerin’ the whole way. You don’t even have to be a sci-fi fan to have a good time with this one, as evidenced by my girlfriend (not the worlds biggest science fiction fan) leaning over to enthusiastically whisper “We’re going to own this one.”. And I couldn’t agree more. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, on BluRay, will fit nicely into our collection.
There’s SO much working for this movie. As mentioned earlier, the story and pacing work well, as do the various characters. Everyone steps up and works to steal each and every scene from one another. ‘Rocket’ and ‘Groot’ are easy favorites, with Bradley Cooper mastering the snarky raccoon’s smart-ass persona, while ‘Groot’ is this, dare I say it, cute but potentially dangerous life-form that just wants friends (and maybe a more extensive vocabulary). I’ve never seen Chris Pratt prior to this, but he slides into the ‘Peter ‘Star Lord’ Quill’ character perfectly, bringing a slew of one-liners and surprising survival capabilities to the proceedings. Zoe Saldana continues her quest to play deadly characters that take racial inspiration from every color of the rainbow, while having a nice arc where her cold and calculating heart warms to the idea of actual friends in her dangerous life. And in all this, it MUST be mentioned that former wrestler Dave Bautista owned the character of ‘Drax’. The frighteningly built guy stepped up to effectively give the grief-stricken, vengeance-minded brute a surprising range of emotion and comedy. His lack of metaphorical understanding had the audience laughing more than once. Surrounding this core of mismatched characters are a number of familiar, well-renowned actors. We get John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou and Benicio Del Toro adding color and gravitas to the film’s ‘tapestry’.
‘Guardians’ is also a VERY pretty movie, with lots of vibrant colors being used to punctuate the various worlds and environments the characters find themselves in. The CG is MOSTLY top notch, with a couple instances of alien lifeforms looking slightly unfinished. For a post conversion job, the 3D worked pretty well, with only a couple spots that felt overly dizzying and disorienting.
If I HAD to bitch about anything, there were a couple sequences that had characters exposed, for prolonged periods of time, to the vacuum and cold of outer space, with little to no protection. They basically just shrug off the effects like they’re nothing, and I thought that was asking a little much, in the way of ‘suspension of disbelief’…but then something funny or exciting would happen, and I got over it.
Coming back to the positives, it must be said that the soundtrack, consisting of cool songs from 60’s, 70’s and 80’s was a strange mix that somehow worked well to bolster the appropriately absurd undercurrent of the flick.
All in all, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ delivered in pretty much every way, as a summer ‘popcorn’ flick should. My girlfriend and I, along with our other friends and the audience we all saw it with, had a really fun time the whole way through, and I’m now very curious to see what direction Marvel chooses to go in with the inevitable sequels. Hat’s off to them and director James Gunn (Slither) for taking the chance on upsetting the established Marvel Universe with something a lil different. See this one on The Big Screen. It’s worth it.
PS-Naturally, there’s a post-credit ‘zinger’ attached to this one. It’s an amusingly ballsy and curious choice for THIS cinematic universe, especially given the unfortunate but understandable stigma attached to a character pointedly featured in the scene.