GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
****1/2 (out of 5)
August 1, 2014
Chris Pratt as PETER QUILL
Zoe Saldana as GAMORA
Dave Bautista as DRAX
Vin Diesel as GROOT
Bradley Cooper as ROCKET
Lee Pace as RONAN
Michael Rooker as YONDU UDONTA
Karen Gillan as NEBULA
Djimon Hounsou as KORATH
John C. Reilly as CORPSMAN DEY
Glenn Close as NOVA PRIME
Benicio Del Toro as THE COLLECTOR
Directed by: James Gunn
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Be it a hit or a bomb, I have to give major kudos to both Disney and Marvel Studios for having the guts to make a film like “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Sure, it seems like a safe bet: a high profile installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sandwiched between the sequels for “Captain America” and “The Avengers.” Make no mistake. This was a huge gamble.
But at least as a form of entertainment, this is a gamble that has paid off.
Ushering the Marvel Cinematic Universe into Phase Two, “Guardians of the Galaxy” takes a lesser-known comic book series and gives it a big-screen treatment. The story follows Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human kidnapped from Earth as a child who now calls himself Star Lord. Peter is essentially a treasure hunter who stumbles into one of the greatest treasure hunts of the galaxy: the search for infinity stones.
After getting his hands on one of these elusive objects, he becomes the target of others, namely bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) as well as the deadly Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is trying to get the infinity stone for her master, a galactic crime boss named Ronan (Lee Pace). They eventually get put into space jail along with a creature named Drax (Dave Bautista) who is looking for revenge against Gamora’s father, Thanos. This rag-tag group of adventurers find themselves fighting each other, gangsters and the authorities to stop the infinity stone from falling into the wrong hands and destroying the galaxy.
Sure, it sounds like a complex story, and that first act might be a lot for some of the audience to swallow. However, if you make it through all the set-up, you’re in for one hell of a fun movie. Directed by James Gunn of Troma and “Slither” fame, “Guardians of the Galaxy” strikes a perfect blend between kick-ass action sequences and laugh-out-loud humor. This is the trademark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and taps into the comedy elements as well as Robert Downey Jr. does in the Iron Man movies.
Ultimately, while the detailed explanation of the story seems convoluted, it’s easy to boil down. Here, we have a Dirty Dozen group of outlaw heroes trying to save the world… er, worlds. The infinity stone is a MacGuffin as much as the Ark of the Covenant was for Indiana Jones. It’s less important why this group is on their adventure and more important to enjoy the ride.
It’s rare for any movie – let alone a high-concept science fiction epic based on fringe source material – to strike a near-perfect balance in tone. However, Gunn manages to do so with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” There’s plenty of humor, which gives rich characterization to the cast – and that’s necessary considering one of them is a talking raccoon and another is a tree-man who says nothing but “I am Groot.”
However, like Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” movies, the computer-generated characters are as interactive and realistic as the human ones. Chris Pratt was the perfect choice for the tongue-in-cheek hero, and even people like Dave Bautista who is not known for his acting talents gives a fine performance.
The reason this movie clicks is that it locks us into familiar archetypes. Pratt plays an amalgamation of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Saldana plays a lethal Princess Leia. Bradley Cooper breathes life into a computer-generated raccoon to be another form of Han Solo. Both Groot and Drax serve as our Chewbaccas.
You hear that, people? This movie has two Chewbaccas! And it’s incredible for it.
This year has been a rough time at the movies, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” delivers what many of the other films have been lacking: a rollicking good time with great characters, punchy dialogue, fantastic action sequences and a lot of heart and humor.
There have been few must-see films of the 2014 summer season, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” is definitely one.