2014 is the year that Marvel movies have gone where the studio has never gone before. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, the highest-grossing film of ’14 to date, perfectly mixed the action and political thriller genres. And now with “Guardians of the Galaxy”, one of Marvel’s best ever, director James Gunn has created an outer space action/adventure that’s also packed with emotion and a ton of laughs.
Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”, “The LEGO Movie”) stars as Peter Quill (aka STAR-LORD) – the notorious outlaw (at least in his own mind) of the galaxy who was abducted from Earth at the age of 9 the night his mother died of cancer. Peter roams an abandoned planet and finds a mysterious orb he’s planning on selling to a collector. But the orb turns out to be worth much more than he initially thought and it becomes a hot item that many want to get their hands on, including evil warlord Thanos, who will use it to rule the galaxy and kill billions of innocent citizens.
Others, such as fortune hunters Rocket Raccoon and his talking tree trunk sidekick Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel went into the booth to voice CGI characters) want the orb so they can sell it, while Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos (played by Zoe Saldana), has a different reason for pursuing the sphere. They eventually all end-up together in prison with the infamous Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), and soon realize they have to work together to protect the orb. And who knows – they may actually become friends along the way.
Clearly nothing groundbreaking with the plot. We’ve seen stories like this before. It’s the execution, unique, well-written characters and the level of comedy that raises “Guardians of the Galaxy” to new heights. This is a film where the story itself takes a backseat to style. The narrative is straightforward, though if you tried to dissect every detail of every scene and keep track of the numerous villains and their motivations your head would spin. And you can see most of the “surprises” coming from light-years away. But that’s OK. It’s the wildly entertaining interactions between this unlikely team of outlaws that makes “Guardians” work.
Gunn is able to these have characters be instantly likeable, which is hard to do, especially for a new superhero movie based on a relatively obscure comic book. Pratt and Saldana have excellent chemistry together and a lot of fun with their roles. Bautista shows-off both his macho build and the ability to deliver lines. After seeing a 17-minute sneak peek of “Guardians” last month, I predicted that Cooper’s Rocket would be the breakout star of the film, and he does provide some of the strongest, laugh-out-loud funny moments. In fact, this is the best Marvel movie character (and casting) since Robert Downey, Jr. first played Tony Stark/Iron Man.
However, if all five of the “Guardians” were, themselves, part of a galaxy, Diesel’s Groot would be at the center of it. Much credit goes to Gunn for being able to draw authentic emotion, throughout the film, from the most unexpected places.
Technically, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is practically flawless. The makeup and costumes are Oscar-nomination worthy, as are the impressive visuals. And the soundtrack (aka “Awesome Mix Vol. 1”) is a collection of classic, retro songs from the ’70’s and ’80’s, including Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, which has been stuck in my head since the film’s first trailer was released back in February. The soundtrack actually becomes a character in the story, another stroke of genius by Gunn and the writers.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is rated PG-13 for the sci-fi action violence and some adult language. It’s appropriate for kids 11 and up. Diehard Marvel fans, including those of this comic book, will not be disappointed. The movie includes the traditional Stan Lee cameo and post-credits “Easter Egg” staples. For everyone else, this is a great chance to get in on the ground floor of the next, big superhero movie franchise, and have one of the best times at the theater all year.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Guardians of the Galaxy” gets a B+.