Guardians of the Galaxy

Cast:
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill
Zoe Saldana as Gamora
Dave Bautista as Drax
Vin Diesel as Groot (voice)
Bradley Cooper as Rocket (voice)
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
Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill
Sean Gunn as Kraglin
Peter Serafinowicz as Denarian Saal

Directed by James Gunn

Story:
Space thief Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the self-proclaimed “Star-Lord,” finds himself being chased by a number of groups wanting to get their hands on a mysterious Orb he has stolen, which throws him together with a bunch of odd characters: the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the bloodthirsty Dax (David Bautista), the smart-mouthed Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the less eloquent living tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Together, they must stop Ronan the Accuser’s plans to get his hands on the Orb for evil purposes.

Analysis:
One could easily argue that the Avengers or the X-Men are Marvel’s greatest superteam, but the sad fact is that you’ll probably never be as strong or fit as Captain America or Thor, and you’ll never be as suave, charming and rich as Tony Stark. You’re not likely to ever have mutant powers either. With that in mind, Marvel Studios brings us the Guardians of the Galaxy, the superhero team that’s been tailor-made for misfits and outcasts, whether they’re merely pet or plant lovers or all-out sociopaths. Not all of us can be perfect, but the fact this motley group readily acknowledges they’re nothing like those around them, that they’re one of a kind, gives us all hope and it makes James Gunn’s first foray into space opera almost immediately relatable despite its odd mix of characters.

We first meet Peter Quill as a young boy as his mother is dying of cancer and he’s abducted by an alien spaceship shortly after she passes. We cut forward a few dozen years as Quill has refashioned himself as the thief Star-Lord and gotten himself into trouble by stealing an Orb that has power beyond anyone could imagine, an Orb that’s wanted by many others including a quartet of misfits who all end up thrown into the prison planet, the Kyln, together.

Chris Pratt as Quill is kind of a jock with a quip for every occasion, but he’s also more relatable as an everyman than Steve Rogers or the other Avengers. The green-skinned Gamora is far pricklier than some of the other characters we’ve seen Zoe Saldana play, yet she still brings a humanity to the character through her interactions with Quill. As might be expected, Rocket and Groot are the movie’s chronic scene-stealers, both of them imbued with far more emotions than one might expect from CG characters. Dave Bautista’s dim-witted Drax the Destroyer seems like he could be the group’s weak link, but even he is easy to warm up to as is Mike Rooker’s space pirate Yondu, who could be seen as one of the film’s minor antagonists, yet, he’s also given a great stand up and cheer moment. In fact, Gunn gives all his characters great moments to shine, which makes it a far more balanced film than we usually get in superhero movies.

The heroes wouldn’t be as impressive if they weren’t counter-balanced by equally memorable villains and Lee Pace is quite a presence as Ronan the Accuser, an unstoppable hammer-wielding warrior who wants the Orb for his master, Thanos. The same can be said for Karen Gillan as Gamora’s nastier cyber-sister counterpart Nebula, and considering how both actors are playing well against type, it’s brilliant their casting works as well as it does.

Futuristic outer space tales sometimes face an immediate obstacle in that the environments are sometimes so foreign, every planet and location has to be introduced, not to mention the danger of having too many characters that look like “Farscape” rejects. “Guardians” faces that hurdle at first but quickly gets past it, insuring that it wouldn’t be hard for those unfamiliar with the comics to easily get into the swing of things. And if you’re a longtime Marvel fan or a more recent “Guardians” fan, there’s lots of fun Easter eggs, although nothing so blatant that it takes you out of the movie.

What gives the movie such a different feel is the decision to feature popular songs from the ‘70s almost as prominently as the elegant score by frequent Gunn musical collaborator, Tyler Bates. From the very first use of it, we know we’re in for something quite original, rather than just relying on the John Williams/Michael Giacchino-type score we might normally see in this kind of movie.

The Bottom Line:
Possibly one of the funniest (and strangest) Marvel movies yet, James Gunn and his cast deliver an infinitely entertaining space opera that’s really something quite special. J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars” movie now has even more to live up to.

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