For nearly a decade, Marvel Studios has taken their comic book properties and turned them into blockbuster movies but never have they taken as much of a gamble as they have this week with the release of their newest team-up adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy. A story centered around a group of unlikely companions thrown together by chance and tasked with saving the galaxy for certain destruction; everything you want in a summer blockbuster but with a lot more heart than we have reason to expect. Simply put, Guardians of the Galaxy IS the savior of this summer movie season!
Peter Quill, the self proclaimed Star Lord (Chris Pratt), is an Earthling who, as a young boy, was abducted by space pirates known as Ravagers, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker), and adopted as one of their own. Decades later, Quill travels the galaxy, thieving his way to the sounds of seventies top 40 music on his prized Walkman and making a name for himself as an intergalactic smuggler. Quill lands on the planet Morag where he is in search of a sphere for a buyer known as the Broker. After being intercepted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a henchman of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who is also in search of the sphere, Quill escapes and heads to the planet Xandar to receive payment for the prize.
Upon arrival, Quill encounters Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin sent by Ronan to retrieve the sphere as well as a duo of unusual bounty hunters, a genetically engineered raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a tree-like humanoid named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in search of a big pay day. Soon the four are taken into custody by the Nova Corp and sentence to prison where we meet the fourth member of our team, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Since Drax is after Ronan for killing his family, Gamora is his likely target rage, but after Gamora reveals she has betrayed Ronan and refuses to allow him to unleash the power of the sphere onto the planet Xandar, Quill convinces Drax to use Gamora as bait for Ronan. Learning that Gamora has a buyer for the sphere, Rocket, Quill, Groot, Drax and Gamora work together to escape the Kyln. But as Ronan and his henchman get closer, the team must make choices that will shape the fate of the galaxy forever.
Director James Gunn understands the challenge at hand of taking a group of obscure comic book characters and trying to make them household names. The script by James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman is beautifully written and helps the novice in the audience acquaint themselves with Quill and Co without alienating the core comic book fans. The way Gunn sculpts the action sequences offers many nods to films of the past (Think Indiana Jones meets Star Wars meets Spaceballs) and the injection of some great bits of humor allow the film to not take itself too seriously and allows for the fun to shine through.
The use of CGI to create the aliens and world of Guardians is astonishing, but it is the human factor that shines thru these creatures that is the true marvel. Rocket and Groot are extraordinary and lifelike that you forget that you’re watching characters created through special effects. Bradley Cooper is amazing as the voice of Rocket and brings humor and heart to his portrayal of the hero. In his limited verbal responses, performed by Vin Diesel, the CGI character of Groot offers more from his mannerism than most live actors portray in an entire film. Lee Pace is fantastic as Ronan the Accuser. He eerily brings the comic villain to life in such a way that the Kree government would cringe at the sight of him. Karen Gillian, completely unrecognizable as Nebula, the daughter of Thanos, turns out to be a perfect choice and turns in a stand out performance.
Zoe Saldana was a concern for me when casting was announced for this movie. The role of the galaxy’s most dangerous assassin and the daughter of the Mad Titan Thanos needed to be a badass and a strong woman who could take on legions and I was not sold on Saldana and still am not, but she’s not bad as Gamora, I actually rather like her, but it’s still hard to see Gamora in the performance so I will leave it at that. Dave Bautista is actually rather good as Drax. While the character does not warrant much Thespian mojo, Dave holds his own and brings Drax to life with a great performance. But the real star of the movie is Chris Pratt. Another wild card at announcement time, Pratt brings a wonderful amount of human and heart to the role of Peter Quill and delivers a home run of a performance. The casting done by James Gunn deserves as much credit for the success of this film as the script.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel’s finest achievements. A great mixture of humor, heart, action and drama that will have audiences cheering and begging for more…too bad we have to wait until July 28, 2017!
Stars: 4 out of 5