After opening the summer movie season with the formulaic The Amazing Spider-Man 2, you gotta hand it to Marvel Studios for closing the superhero season with the risky Guardians Of The Galaxy. The story is comprised of unknown characters that are just flat out weird. Then they cast actors (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista) that aren’t box-office draws at all. You can see why they put out the dough in post-production to bring in Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel to voice the other 2 animated characters. But at the end of the day, Marvel had nothing to worry about because the script and direction is so strong that they created a whole new franchise.
Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill, a human that was abducted from Earth when he was young. He has become an rebellious outsider in outer space, whose only goal is to be known by the nickname “Star Lord”. Every once and a while, a newcomer bursts onto the big screen and becomes an instant movie star. Sandra Bullock in Speed, Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Mask Of Zorro…Pratt is now on that list. He’s funny, sexy, charismatic, and relaxed playing an action hero. Within moments, Peter comes across an orb that looks like a Christmas ornament that my family used to hang in the Christmas tree every year. It’s a silver cue ball that everyone is after. Weird, right?
We are quickly introduced to Gamora (Saldana), Rocket (Cooper), and Groot (Diesel), and it’s amazing how instantly we care about these characters. It’s a green woman, a raccoon, and a tree, but the characterizations of each one is so strong that you are immediately rooting for them. The action sequence with them all together fighting over the orb is fantastic. Saldana, who is already part of 2 other sci-fi franchises, Avatar and Star Trek, has her best role yet here. In the other two series, she barely registers, but as Gamora, she’s a strong, complicated woman that keeps the audience guessing.
Cooper’s voice is almost unrecognizable as the feisty raccoon. Disguising his voice in a Jersey-like accent, Cooper brings a ton of charisma to the role. Diesel just says “I Am Groot” a few times throughout the film, but his voice is so manipulated that it could have been anyone who said those lines. He was literally only cast to be a name on the poster. It’s funny because Diesel easily could have played the role of Drax, the beefy bald-headed tough guy, played by Batista. That being said, Batista is a real discovery here. Talking in simple sentences as a character who doesn’t understand metaphors, Baurista manages to bring real depth to a simplistic role.
Usually the first film of a superhero franchise is A LOT of setup to establish our hero, but Guardians Of The Galaxy manages to pack a ton of action and fun into its proceedings, AND it’s introducing 5 heroes! Pretty impressive. The heroes are so good that you don’t even notice that the villain of the piece barely registers. Ronan (Lee Pace) is a great visual, but he’s more of a placeholder here. Someone has to be the antagonist for our heroes, but in this film, it’s more about who has the orc than one individual bad guy.
It’s also about a lot of classic 1970s music, which is unconventional for a superhero flick. Using songs like “Hooked On A Feeling” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, the soundtrack is like another character in the film. Other characters are played by actors you’d never thought you’d see in a Marvel flick, including Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, and John C. Reilly.
Combining elements of The Avengers and Star Trek, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a weird, wonderful and extremely entertaining new franchise in the superhero world.