Tuesday, August 5, 2014


 Throughout Marvel Studio’s ongoing journey through their expansive connected series of films, the scale has been relatively small with occasional peeks into the larger universe waiting above. With GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the curtain has finally been pulled back on the cosmos…and fully embraces the notion that in space, anything is possible.
Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is a scavenger-for-hire who is contracted to steal a mysterious orb with deadly properties, which is also sought after by the rebellious Ronan (Lee Pace). When Quill learns of the orb’s destructive potential, he falls into an uneasy alliance with Ronan’s former assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a revenge-bent hulk named Drax (David Bautista), and the bounty hunter team of the genetically-modified raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and tree-creature Groot (Vin Diesel).

The plot of GUARDIANS is simple; keep the super-weapon away from the bad guy who wants to wipe out everybody. It works, not only because the backdrop of settings and characters are extremely high-concept and way-out-of-this-world, but because Gunn makes his characters the priority. The film spends most of its time with the five of them finding common ground to bond together; establishing backstories and motivations and giving everyone a darn good reason to save the galaxy. Throughout this planet-hopping journey, everyone can easily have a favorite character or two, and it’s a natural thing to find someone to root for.
And James Gunn keeps those characters working as the biggest barrel of fun in the universe. Everyone has their heroic and laugh-out-loud moments. The pacing in the film is quick and brisk with a tremendous sense of energy and momentum, but not fast enough where things are lost. Gunn moves his characters from setting to setting and builds a fascinating universe to behold; fantastic planets and waystations are populated by wild-looking creatures and humanoids with skin colors from every shade of the rainbow. There are very few rules to be followed in this colorful and vibrant galaxy, and it makes for a lot of anticipation for what lies next from scene-to-scene.

But for as fantastic as everything looks, Gunn never lets go of the heart and soul in the film. A surprising emotional prologue establishes some serious empathy with Quill, and it carries over through the other characters and the movie overall. Gunn has composed an intimate character piece in a grand space opera; striking that perfect balance between the human element and the high-concept.
Acting is superb. Chris Pratt shoulders the burden of the leading man with ease, and has great chemistry with Zoe Saldana…who acts her way past the heavy makeup to produce a likeable character. Dave Bautista is the real surprise of the film and also creates a fun character that you can’t get enough of. The show is just about stolen by Bradley Cooper’s smart-ass raccoon Rocket and Vin Diesel’s Groot. Groot gets some of the best moments in the film, and the work put into Rocket elevates him as one of the best realized CGI creatures in cinema history. The large supporting cast all turn in fine work; Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, and John C. Reily are all excellent.

GUARDIANS goes for a satisfying ending in wrapping up things nice and tight, but also establishes several ongoing threads which will evidently go on for further GUARDIANS films, and in the ever-expanding Marvel universe. But GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY also operates just fine as a stand-alone film, and doesn’t overly pander to comic-fans or any other followers of genre entertainment. Anyone can have fun in this universe in which the surprises and laughs are never-ending. GUARDIANS is a genre-bender, and you will never find a more wonderful hive of fun and brilliancy.

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