GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
2014, PG-13, 122 mins.
2014, PG-13, 122 mins.
Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord / Zoe Saldana as Gamora / Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon / Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer / Vin Diesel as Groot / Lee Pace as Ronan The Accuser / Karen Gillan as Nebula / Josh Brolin as Thanos / Laura Haddock as Meredith Quill / Benicio Del Toro as Taneleer Tivan / The Collector / Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer / John C. Reilly as Rhomann Dey / Michael Rooker as Yondu / Glenn Close as Nova Prime
Directed by James Gunn / Written by Nicole Perlman and Gunn
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film canon – is one of the most implausibly entertaining summer films to emerge in an awfully long time.
in the sense that the studio tapped the relatively unproven
writer/director James Gunn (SLITHER and SUPER)
to helm a near $200 million sci-fi fantasy.
If that were not head-scratching enough, GUARDIANS OF GALAXY tries
to mine a relatively unknown comic book property without much of a strong
built-in audience – and one that a majority of lay filmgoers have never
been exposed to – and make it both eclectically absurd and novel and
open and inviting at the same time. This just
may be the gutsiest and riskiest Marvel film to date, but it also
jubilantly and triumphantly emerges as their most wonderfully irreverent,
zany, and exhilaratingly silly film as well.
OF THE GALAXY sort of lives and breathes as an affectionately self-aware
Saturday morning cartoon come lovingly to live-action life.
It’s also a film, much like the original STAR
WARS, that seems to wash away cinematic cynicism and ponderous
solemnity that has typified so many comic book and sci-fi films as of
late. More often than not,
the film plays like the best hybrid work of an in-their-prime George Lucas
and Quentin Tarantino: It has the look and feel of those deeply immersive
space operas of yesteryear - jam packed with vibrant visuals, fully
realized extraterrestrial worlds, and rousing action - but GUARDIANS OF THE
GALAXY has a free-wheeling droll wit that is so rare for this genre,
replete with pop culture references, idiosyncratic characters, and crisply
humorous and colorful dialogue exchanges.
In a relative age when super hero franchise pictures take
themselves far too seriously, it’s almost kind of bold when films like
this remember to have fun and laugh with and at the expense of their
characters and story. And
this film is ridiculous fun.
also may be a coming out party for star Chris Pratt, who gives a
charismatic star making turn of the kind that made Harrison Ford a star so
many decades ago. He plays
Peter Quill, one of the film’s lone earthlings (or “Terrians”) that
was abducted as a child by mercenary aliens in 1988 – just after
suffering through a highly traumatic loss in his life…horrible timing
– and never returns to his home planet.
Flashforward twenty-six years and Quill is a Han Solo-esque
smuggling rouge that lives for stealing alien loot and bedding as many
alien ladies as he can. He has dubbed himself “Star-Lord” and when he introduces
himself to his adversaries as that moniker it’s usually greeted with
mocking laughter. He seems
pretty happy-go-lucky despite being in a galaxy far, far away from his
home. Thankfully, he still
has his Walkman and “Awesome Mix Tape Vol. One” to remind him of his
home world, which also serves the purposes of Gunn to lace the
film with classic pop tunes from the 70’s and 80’s.
Hip and cool, nonetheless? Correctamundo.
we are introduced to the adult Quill he’s about to steal a mysterious,
all-powerful orb that, obviously, everyone around him in the galaxy –
good and bad – wants (it’s an intergalactic MacGuffin).
Some very nasty alien scum really want it, like Ronan (a rather
frightening Lee Pace), whom desperately craves it so that he can wield its power to destroy the
Zandarans, his sworn enemies. Thanos
(voiced by Josh Brolin) is a godlike warlord that yearns to procure it to learn
the secrets of the universe around him. Then there’s The Collector (Benicio Del Toro, arguably
never looking more affectionately outlandish as he does here), a relic
lover that wants it for his prized collection. As
for Quill himself, he’s very quickly arrested early in the film and
separated from the orb, but begrudgingly teams up – while in space jail
– with some fellow inmates to break free: green-skinned Gamora (Zoe
Saldana), the Hulk-like Drax the Destroyer (Dave Batista), and…yes…a
talking raccoon that loves guns and is a tech freak, Rocket (voiced by
Bradley Cooper) and the bipedal tree creature Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel)
that is incapable of saying more than the same three words over and over
again, which leads to the film’s oddball charm and many of it’s strongest
laughs. Together, the
unlikely team tries to break free of their shackles, locate the orb, and
keep it away from their enemies…all while trying to avoid verbally and
physically tearing each other apart in the process.
a purely technical level, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is as deeply immersive
and spellbinding as any of the previous STAR WARS pictures that it's subtly
– and not-so-subtly – riffing on. Blessed with terrifically vibrant and colourfully
cinematography (which serves the relative dimness of 3D rather well) by
Ben Davis, exotic production design by Charles Wood, and extraordinary
makeup design by David White, Gunn has assemble around him a crack team of
skilled film artisans to create a fully tactile universe on screen, which
thankfully mixes practical elements and pixelized fakery with a real measured
precision. The characters of
Groot and Rocket in particular – completely the product of computer
effects – are seamless and endearing creations that rank amidst the most
polished work of Weta and ILM. Like
great out-of-body escapist films, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY makes you easily
forget your theater surroundings for two hours; you become enraptured in
the film’s world so completely that you ignore your earthbound
is wise enough, though, to not allow his space opera to be a simplistic,
one-note parade of eye candy. He has gathered a lively motley crew of actors here that
all manage to bring something invigoratingly distinctive to their frankly
outlandish and “out-there” characters.
Pratt is undeniable winning and a strong focal point of interest in
the film; he gives Quill a rugged toughness, an infectiously cocky
amiability, and a layer of inborn goofiness that perfectly matches the
vibe of the film. Saldana –
making another appearance in a sci-fi film playing a primary colored alien
– brings fierceness, exotic beauty, and vulnerability in equal doses.
A surprising performance standout is pro-wrestler Dave Batista as
his vengenece-fulled and far-too-literal minded Drax, perhaps the most
dangerous and unintentionally hysterical character to populate the film.
He’s also atypically and insanely well spoken for such a blunt
force instrument of violence…and someone that has great difficulty
reading between another character’s lines.
When Quill, at one point, tells Drax that a metaphor has gone over
his head, he uproariously deadpans back, “Nothing goes over my head!
My reflexes are too fast. I
would catch it.”
two most memorable and endearing creations in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY are
the least corporeal ones. The sight of a pint-sized, armed-to-the-teeth racoon is
jarring at first, but Bradley Cooper subverts the initial shock value of Rocket by imbuing him
with a hard-edged motor-mouthed badassery that serves as a perverse
personality foil to his otherwise cuddly façade.
He simply does not care who he pisses off and his affectionate
snarkiness – that masks inner pains – allows Rocket to become more
rounded as a character than he otherwise would have been.
Then there is the gravel voiced Diesel as Groot – limited to
enunciating the same three words throughout the entire film, sans one
moment late in the proceedings – who oddly is the film’s most
extraordinarily dangerous (in terms of his abilities to inflict pain) and
compassionate (in terms of his penchant for doing good) in the film.
Rocket and Groot, as partners in the story, give GUARDIANS OF THE
GALAXY an oddball Laurel and Hardy-esque comedic edge that serves it well.
It could be said that the climax of the film goes on way too long, which is a fair nitpick. Or that, for example, Pace’s Ronan seems a bit too one-note in his demonic villainy. And then again…maybe GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will just be too…I dunno…weird and impenetrable for some glum audience members not willing to take its journey. Alas, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY manages to be inordinately hip, colorful, and subversively funny as far as galaxy-spanning space westerns go. Along with being visually arresting, Gunn populates the film with intrinsically rich characters that have an inherent humanity to them, despite some not being made of flesh and blood. Yes, the film lacks the sobering political thematic content of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and the contemplativeness of DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES that echoes contemporary woes, but on a level of pure enjoyment factor, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the most giddily watchable out-of-this-world thrill ride of the summer.
It’s a grand and, yes, implausibly wonderful entertainment.
MY CTV REVIEW: