Who are the Guardians of the Galaxy, the heroes of Marvel’s latest move hit? They’re a rag-tag group of heroes who go on an outer space adventure to retrieve a mysterious object, the origin of which will be familiar to Marvel comics fans. The team has existed on the printed page in various versions since 1969, but they’ve always been on the second (some would say third) tier of Marvel characters, despite some surges in popularity in the 80s & 90s. However, Marvel Studios was very clever about making this the latest entry in their cinematic universe. The film is a thrilling, fun-filled romp, combining the fast paced action & humor of films like the original Star Wars & Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a nod to 80s B-movies like The Last Starfighter.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an earth man who is kidnapped as a boy by alien scavengers called the Ravagers. Now an adult & a member of the group, he fancies himself a Han Solo-esque outlaw named Starlord. Quill’s planning to double cross the Ravagers and sell a powerful orb he’s stolen to a third party. Along the way, he runs into an assassin named Gamora, the adopted daughter of super-villain Thanos, a living tree named Groot, and a genetically altered, gun-toting raccoon named Rocket. While they initially clash, they end up banding together to stop a fanatical alien warrior named Ronan, who plans to use the orb to destroy the planet Xandar. Despite a peace treaty that ended a war between Ronan's people and the Xandarians, he wants to annihilate them. Our heroes gain another ally in Drax The Destroyer, who’s seeking vengeance against Thanos for the death of his family. In fact, Thanos may have plans of his own for the orb.....if Ronan will turn it over to him. And is Quill a hero.....a rogue,.....or both? Will he & his friends save the day?
That may sound like a lot of plot, but it moves quickly, and there are space battles, prison breaks, a bit of romance, a lot of funny lines and a host of 70s rock tunes, courtesy of Quill’s Walkman and his favorite mix tape, which was a gift from his dying Mom. The characters are well developed despite the focus on humor & action, and their backstories will obviously be further explored in future installments, especially the identity of Quill's father....a being his Mom referred to as an "angel" before her death. Long-time fans will pick up on myriad references to other Marvel comic book characters and stories, which are obviously laying the groundwork for other Marvel films, but you don’t need to be familiar with any of that history to enjoy this movie. Sit back, relax & enjoy the ride. It’s a perfect summer popcorn flick, and the most fun you'll have at the moves this summer.
The cast is top notch; Pratt literally becomes a star before our eyes with this breakout performance; he’s got a sense of humor, cockiness, savvy (and dancing & singing skills) to spare, and the supporting cast is wonderful; Zoe Saldana is impressive as Gamora, and the voices of Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot add surprising depth & gravitas to their computer generated characters. Wrestler Dave Bautista proves himself a powerful ally and a perfect comic foil as Drax, and you’ll see a lot of familiar faces in smaller roles, including Glenn Close, Michael Rooker & John C. Reilly. The film was directed by James Gunn, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman. Gunn and his team have done a great job with the visual elements of the film; the effects are great, and this movie looks like an old school, big budget space adventure.
I’ve tried not to give too much of the film’s plot or pleasant surprises away. But if you like entertaining action-adventure films, and you have a soft spot for 70s and 80s sci-fi (and 70s pop music) you’re sure to have a good time watching Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie has a great sense of energy, a rollicking sense of humor, and a real dose of heart. It’s one of the best Marvel films yet. As always with Marvel movies, make sure to stay until the end of the credits, for an additional scene or two. And remember: The Guardians of the Galaxy will return. The Guardians of the Galaxy is currently in theaters. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B16Bo47KS2g.
Next time: A look at a biography of singer Laura Nyro