Well folks, it looks like Disney Marvel Studios has done it again. I’ve officially reached a point in my existence where I wish DC would just roll over and concede defeat. I mean, honestly. I was more excited about the CGI “test footage” of DeadPool than I am about the impending Batman vs. Superman fiasco. But, I digress.
This weekend sees the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, based on characters introduced by Marvel comics in the 1960s. And, unless you’ve been living under a rock this summer, the melodic chants of “Ooga Chaka Ooga Chaka” have been summoning you to the theatre. The film, directed beautifully by James Gunn, features an all-star cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillen, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hunsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Josh Brolin.
First off, it makes me happy to see “lesser known” characters from the Marvel universe being introduced to new generations in such a big way. And, by “lesser known” I mean characters other than the same 10 any kid can name on their fingers. If you truly explore the world of Marvel you’ll find that there were many more Avengers, X-Men, and friends thereof, each one more fascinating than the last, with the Guardians easily at the top of the list.
The Guardians are led by a swashbuckling antihero by the name of Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Pratt). Born and raised on Earth, a young Quill–and his Walkman– gets snatched up by Yondu (Rooker) and his band of merry men in the late 1980s. Filmmakers toyed a little here with Quill’s origin story, opting to save the truth of the matter for future use and tug at the heart-strings of viewers instead. I felt as though Quill’s character was a little shortchanged, but clearly they were holding back for a sequel (and inadvertently turning him into SpaceBalls’ Lone Star). Regardless, Quill ends up exploring the galaxies and living the combined lives of Han Solo, Captain Mal, and a touch of Marty McFly for good measure, uniting a band of outlaws to defend…er…guard the galaxy.
Here’s where things get interesting. As of late, Marvel has spent a lot of time and effort presenting characters as individuals, immersing us in their back stories. This guarantees that we are that much more invested in them when the time comes for their worlds to converge, uniting heroes Avengers-style. GOTG, however, avoids all of that. Save for the brief moments describing Quill’s last night on Earth, we are thrust into a program already in progress. From then on, it is an onslaught of character introductions and non-stop action. You won’t find any of the sappy yet insightful foundation stories that beg you to understand the moral struggles, pain, loss, and transformation into HERO as you did with each Avenger. No, in GOTG, you are given just enough information to understand why each character is relevant. Beyond that, sit back, suspend your disbelief, and hold on for one hell of a ride.
Zoe Saldana (Gamora) was looking just as fine as ever. Clearly, she was born to play badass characters. Surprisingly, so was Karen Gillen (Nebula). I admit, I was not a fan of Gillen during her time on Doctor Who. But she gets to stretch her acting chops a bit here and seemed to really relish the role she was given. The real scene-stealers of the film are Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), and Vin Diesel (voice of Groot). These three display a genius sense of comedic timing with the delivery of their lines. You couldn’t help but smile and often times punch the air in excitement for Bautista. While Cooper and Diesel convey so much range of emotion and charisma with nothing more than voice-over work. Pure talent, bringing life to a wiseass raccoon and a walking tree. Diesel commands the screen with three simple words, “I am Groot.”
Side note: Remember when Lee Pace was just a sexy pie maker? In just a short span of time, this guy has managed to become part of numerous money making blockbuster machines. Dude knows his way around franchises as well as morgues and bakeries. Well done, sir.
Visually, the film is stunning. Normally, I’m not a big fan of 3D or Real-D, nor am I a fan of their ticket prices. But, we chose to do it for GOTG and I for one am glad that we did. The contrast in rich colors, and even textures, from one world to the next was beautiful. Typically, the super hero movies that we have grown accustomed to take place here on Earth. GOTG, however, takes place, well….everywhere. Once again, this gave it a very ‘Star Wars’ quality. Combine that with the intentional omission of true origin story and it really begins to feel like Star Wars. Though, GOTG had a much better–and well utilized–soundtrack. Dare I say, it was…awesome. This was less a “super hero” movie than it was a sci-fi romp.
All in all, I loved this film. I have had mixed feelings on the comics themselves, but the Hollywood treatment truly brings the characters to life, bringing with it great potential and making memorable heroes of them all. With each Marvel film that gets released (whether Disney or Fox), the humor and content gets a little more mature. I can’t imagine Superman using Wolverine’s language, can you? GOTG is no exception. There is one joke in particular, that mentions the use of a black light, and well…I’ll just leave it at that. Surely, I’m not the only adult who caught on to what Star Lord was hinting at.
Stick around after the credits (if you can hold in your pee for an extra 7 minutes or so). There is a bonus scene that is sure to confuse children and cause adults to laugh–and shudder–especially if you were around in the 80s. Thanos appeared at the end of the Avengers movie. Del Toro’s character, the Collector, was shown at the end of Thor 2. Here’s hoping that what happens after the GOTG credits isn’t a glimpse of things to come. (there’s that shudder again).
Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun adventure, with no real purpose, through outer space with a bunch of likeable jerks. Yep. That’s the same formula for success used by Star Wars and Firefly. And they stand to make millions.