"Guardians of the Galaxy"
Release Date: Aug. 1, 2014
Running Time: 121 minutes
If Guardians of the Galaxy leaves you hooked on a feeling, to name check the Blue Swede song that figures prominently in this space opera, it’s that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will just keep on expanding until we grow tired of superheroes, human or alien. And that’s not likely to happen soon, unless the departure of director Edgar Wright results in next year’s Ant-Man falling short of expectations. Guardians of the Galaxy represents Marvel’s boldest move since launching the MCU with 2008’s Iron Man. Is it fair to say that precious few non-comic fans could name a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy or pick one out from an intergalactic police lineup? Regardless, the Guardians of the Galaxy are led by Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord, a space cowboy who was taken from Earth as a child. All buffed up and ready with a quick quip, Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt owns the screen the second he makes his entrance in Guardians of the Galaxy grooving to the 1970s and 1980s tunes that appear on a mix tape given to him by his late mother. He’s blessed with an easy charm and a genuine sincerity that immediately draws you to him. The other Guardians are the steely Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, an assassin trained by Thanos, the malevolent alien who was glimpsed at the end of The Avengers; the oddly endearing Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer, a chiseled hunk of a warrior who seeks to avenge the death of his family; the Bradley Cooper-voice Rocket, a genetically engineered raccoon who is as fast with his mouth as he is with his trigger finger; and the Vin Diesel-voiced Groot, Rocket’s tree-like bounty hunter partner with a very limited vocabulary. Actually, all Groot says is “I am Groot,” but Diesel slyly delivers this line of dialogue with the necessary emotional resonance to convey each use of this its intended meaning. Rocket and Groot are marvelous computer-generated characters that are blessed with distinct personalities and unique voices. There’s never a time when you don’t believe Rocket and Groot aren’t in the same room as Pratt, Saldana, and Bautista. This unlikely band of antiheroes unites to stop the intimidating Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser from defying his master, Thanos, and using the powerful Infinity Stone from destroying the galaxy. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t meant to be as executed with the same earnestness as Captain America and Thor. Writer/director James Gunn has a clear understanding of the tone that needs to be struck for such an irreverent property. Gunn successfully mixes the offbeat brand of humor he perfected with Slither and Super with riveting, epic-scale action that rivals anything seen in The Avengers. Like The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, Gunn finds a way to allow each Guardian to shine individually and as part of a team. They are treated as equals to the point that if one receives more screen time in favor of another, this would weaken the chemistry that they share as a team. Marvel’s move into space allows it to put a fresh spin on the superhero genre in a way D.C.’s Green Lantern failed to do in 2011. Guardians of the Galaxy comes as close to capturing the tenor and spirit of Star Wars as any sci-fi adventure has done since 1977. That Gunn knows the galaxy he traverses is a testament to Marvel’s willingness to hire the right directors as opposed to a name director who has little grasp of his source material, such as Green Lantern’s Martin Campbell. Best of all, Guardians of the Galaxy feels like a self-contained story that’s written to establish the team on its own terms as opposed to within the context of the events that surround the Avengers as individuals and an as a unit. This is not to say Guardians of the Galaxy won’t play into Phase 3 of the MCU, in particular an Avengers threequel that presumably will arrive after 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Who knows, maybe the Guardians of the Galaxy will join forces with The Avengers if Josh Brolin’s Thanos poses a threat to Earth. Thanks to Gunn, though, the Guardians of the Galaxy don’t need the Avengers to prove their mettle.
Aired: July 31, 2014
Web site: http://marvel.com/guardians