August 2, 2014
Coming from the Marvel Studios, the home of angsty and angry superheroes, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a rare bird. This movie is a relentlessly happy, funny and entertaining sci-fi action-comedy-- a perfect summer blockbuster. Going in, I had no idea who these "Guardians" were, but coming out, I was a fan.
In 1988, Peter Quill was abducted as a young boy by a band of space bandits called the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Twenty six years later, Peter (Chris Pratt) is himself a space outlaw, self-dubbed "Starlord". After he steals a precious silver orb, he was arrested and put in prison with others who also want the orb for their own selfish reasons. This orb, which contains a powerful Infinity Stone, draws the attention of vicious psycho villain Ronan (Lee Pace), who desires the Stone's powers for his own evil plans.
Together with his fellow "loser" inmates, a gung-ho mechanically-engineered raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a strong but kind humanoid tree creature named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a musclebound simpleton named Drax (Dave Bautista) and a sexy green-skinned assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Peter gallantly fights to save the orb from Ronan, in order to present it to the Nova Corp led by Nova Prime (Glenn Close) for safekeeping and proper disposal.
I did not know Chris Pratt before this film, but he captures that overgrown child Peter Quill so well with that rascal face of his. He owned the lead, managing to be very funny but also remaining credible in his big action scenes. Interesting to note that he is also the voice behind Emmet, the lead character in another cheerful action film earlier this year, "The Lego Movie". Two blockbusters this year both with franchises to follow, I think this guy has finally broken into the movie A-list after several years on TV.
Zoe Saldana plays another alien this time in green, after being Navi blue in "Avatar". This actress has a very distinct emotive face and mad action skills. Dave Bautista was frighteningly large and brutish as Drax, with those intricate raised red patterns all over his huge frame. His character was driven by revenge, but he was also given funny lines to deliver and he nails them.
The two animated characters really set this franchise apart from the others. Vin Diesel only has three words which he repeatedly says in various inflections throughout the film, so funny. And ironically, far from just being a drab tree creature, Groot actually provides the cute moments in the film. Bradley Cooper gives a lot of personality to bounty-hunter Rocket Raccoon with his vibrant voice acting. When I first saw the trailer, I was wondering how these two will figure into the action, and the filmmakers have done these special character effects so seamlessly well.
That summery soundtrack of 1970s pop hits adds so much to the cheery appeal of this film. I admit to singing along with all those catchy brassy songs on Peter's awesome mix tape, from "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone to "Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes to "Ooh Child" by The Five Stairsteps. There would also be Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell and the Jackson 5 before the film ends. Of course, the highlight would be the infectious "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede which had us hooked since the trailer.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is really an excellent space-age action adventure film that the whole family will enjoy. The humor has several levels for every member of the audience, as jokes went from shallow to sassy to cute to subtle to naughty. Writer James Gunn has certainly stepped up from writing "Scooby-Doo" films to this more complex project and furthermore exceeding expectations in this, his first major directorial job. 9/10.