by Jason Koenigsberg
Director: James Gunn
This is the movie The Avengers (2012) should have been. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is pure escapism. The kind of summer movie fun you expect but seldom receive from the Hollywood studio assembly line that cranks out a myriad of blockbuster duds. I for one do not know much about the source material, being that as it may, I enjoyed this film immensely because it’s director James Gunn has much love and admiration for this comic and it is evident in every frame on screen.
This film about a group of misfit super heroes has a lot of heart. It takes its time developing its characters and establishing the world we are entering. Unlike the mega-hit Avengers from two summers ago, Guardians of the Galaxy did not leave me feeling cold as I watched senseless CGI images fighting each other on screen. There are a lot of CGI action sequences throughout the entire movie, but they never feel sterile, they feel very much alive and the reason is because we actually get to know and care about this band of oddball losers who become admirable heroes before our very eyes.
The film opens up in 1988 with our main human character, Peter Quill, as a child listening to a mix tape on his walkman, moments later he is at his mothers deathbed, then just moments after that, the boy is abducted by an alien ship, and then we see Quill as an adult (played by Chris Pratt) dancing and singing on an isolated planet. Guardians of the Galaxy moves fast yet it never feels abrupt or disjointed. Each scene flows perfectly into the next as we meet our other eccentric misfits, a sexy green heroine named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a violent muscle-head named Drax (WWE’s Dave Bautista), Rocket, a smart-mouthed raccoon voiced by Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, and Groot, a giant tree beast with the voice of Vin Diesel who serves as the Chewbacca of the group.
The plot is not the highlight of the film; in fact it is tertiary to the characters and the action. It involves a sphere that contains a purple rock in its center that has the power to destroy entire planets if it is in the wrong hands, and of course that is where it ends up and it is up to our unlikely heroes to save a planet and possibly an entire solar system from the evil Ronan (played by Lee Pace).
This movie feels like Star Wars of the Marvel Universe crossed with The Bad News Bears (1976) with a dash of Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers and Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is the D’Artangan of the story. Ultimately Guardians of the Galaxy delivers in terms of fun. The director takes the source material very seriously but luckily he does not take everything too seriously, after all one of the main characters is a talking raccoon. It mixes just the right amount of gravity with tongue in cheek comic book flair.
The performances are all right on par with what they should be. Everyone seems to be having fun with their characters and hamming it up in their own way. Special recognition should go to Dave Bautista as Drax, who takes everything literally that other characters have to explain what a metaphor is. His deadpan deliverly and physical performance surprised me and ended up being one of the strongest points of an already stellar space adventure. Now I am not saying that Dave Bautista, a wrestler turned actor, will end up being the next Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but he was perfectly cast for his part in Guardians of the Galaxy and was a vital part to this film being such a success in my book. Vin Diesel was the only talent that felt unnecessary and underused in an otherwise perfect cast.
I do not like to admit to having inhibitions about films before I view them and anyone who knows me well, knows that I am not the biggest fan of the Marvel film catalog, but in 2014 they have been on a roll with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Even though I was enthusiastic about both of those films, Marvel has outdone itself with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is probably the best big studio movie of the summer.