Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by:  James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro

Marvel has done it again.  In a summer filled with lackluster movies, audiences finally have something to smile about: Guardians of the Galaxy.  While films based on Marvel comics have always had an element of humor, Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero film that is both a comedy and an action-packed science fiction film.  With a stellar cast, a fast-paced script, cutting edge animation and incredible special effects,  the new film actually brings something fresh and exciting to the superhero film genre.

The film opens as a young Peter Quill sits in the hospital listening to a cassette tape “Awesome Mix Vol. 1.”  Peter’s mom Meredith (Laura Haddock) is on her death bed, suffering in the final stages of cancer.   After his mom passes away, Peter runs out of the hospital, falling to his knees in despair. Suddenly, a spaceship of Ravagers led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) hovers over Peter and beams him up.  

Fast forward twenty- six years and Peter is an intergalactic thief working with Yondu and the Ravagers. Peter, who wants to be known as the infamous Star-Lord, steals a mysterious orb from an abandoned planet.  He attempts to double-cross Yondu, sell the orb and keep all of the profits for himself. Incensed that Peter would betray him, Yondu sets a bounty on Peter’s head.  Not only does Peter have to contend with the bounty, but unbeknownst to him, the orb is incredibly valuable.  A warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) wants the orb as well.  Ronan seeks to use its contents to help him destroy the planet Xandar and all of the enemies who previously tortured him and killed his people.  

Ronan creates an alliance with the all-powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) to obtain the orb.  Ronan sends Thanos’ favorite daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) on a mission after Peter and the orb.  When Peter goes to Xandar to pawn the orb, he is spotted by a genetically enhanced talking raccoon bounty hunter named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick tree Groot (Vin Diesel).  Rocket and Groot attempt to capture Peter while Gamora tries to steal the orb from him.  All four of them are captured and tossed into a high security prison together where they encounter Drax (Dave Bautista).  These five misfits become an unlikely team and start their journey to become the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Fueled by a killer old school soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute delight.  Prior to the film, I was completely unfamiliar with the characters or the universe as I have never read the comic books.  As the movie started, and the director swiftly catapulted us to different planets and different villains, I was a little concerned that I would not be able to fully invest in the film and/or figure out this new universe.  My concerns were unfounded.  As an initial matter, the cinematography is stunning and James Gunn creates a beautiful world.  The characters seamlessly transition from one planet to another and the imagery alone tells a story.  Whether it is the vibrant green or purple alien skin, an abandoned planet, or a multitude of fighting spaceships, the images and the colors literally jump off of the screen. This is one film where the IMAX 3D price actually paid off.

Additionally, the dialogue is fast and funny.  Any superhero movie that successfully incorporates Footloose and the awesomeness of Kevin Bacon automatically garners a genuine smile.  The script would be worthless without the stellar performances by the cast.  Chris Pratt is well known for his phenomenal comedic turn as Andy on Parks and Recreation. Pratt is perfect for the role of Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord. He brings heart, humor, and physicality to the character.  In many ways it feels like Pratt is taking over where Nathan Fillion left off in the underrated film, Serenity.  Pratt, like Fillion, is an unlikely hero, but is charming, earnest and likable. (Fillion even has a brief cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy). 

Zoe Saldana also cements her status as queen of science fiction.  From Avatar to the Star Trek series, Saldana has portrayed strong, dynamic female characters.  Her turn as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy is no different.  As the trash-talking raccoon Rocket, Bradley Cooper steals scenes with his sarcastic wit and comedic delivery.  (He is reminiscent of Bruce Willis’s raccoon character in Over the Hedge, except Cooper’s Rocket carries guns).  Vin Diesel’s character Groot is endearing, but with a vocabulary limited to three words, he probably had the least voice over work.  One shining surprise in the film is Dave Bautista.  The former wrestler has an amazing physical presence and is surprisingly hilarious in the film.  His character’s literal interpretation of every sentence is an ongoing bit in the film that works.  All in all, these five actors delivered a reluctant camaraderie that made you want to see more of them.

The only disappointment for me was the post credits scene.  Even as a child of the 80’s, I found it a little underwhelming.  However, the scene came after the film ended, and does not detract from the movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy earns a sober rating.  It is the bolt of lightning that summer movie audiences have been waiting for. A sequel to the film was announced at Comic Con, and I could not be happier.