Out of This World
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the summer’s most original and fun film
By Carl Kozlowski 07/31/2014
What if Han Solo was the front-and-center star of the original “Star Wars” movies, and what if his team consisted of a talking raccoon, a mutant tree-man, a hulking giant and a hot green woman, instead of a Wookie named Chewbacca, a couple of robots and a clueless brother-sister duo? That’s basically the question asked by “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and the answer is you would still have a pretty good time, if not a timeless classic.
“Guardians” is perhaps the summer’s most original film, with the folks at Marvel and Disney studios taking a chance on a big-budget ($170 million) mix of sci-fi action and comedy. Part of the risk really comes from the fact that “Guardians” has no big movie stars in its cast of on-screen humans, centering instead on the charms of veteran TV actor Chris Pratt of “Parks and Recreation,” with Bradley Cooper providing the voice of Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel serving almost as an in-joke as the voice of the grunting tree-man, Groot, and Zoe Saldana playing the green hero after establishing her bona fides playing a hot blue hero “Avatar.”
Pratt stars as Peter Quill, who has given himself the nickname “Star-Lord” and loves to brag about it to everyone he sees. The film opens with Peter as a young boy watching his mother die in a hospital before he runs outside and is inexplicably zapped by a spaceship and hurtled into the heavens.
Now an adult, he is a junk collector working with a group called the Ravagers in search of a metallic orb that is wanted badly by a diverse group of creatures aside from his boss, Yondu (Michael Rooker). The green woman, Gamora, is first on that list, as a highly trained assassin under orders from an evil overlord named Thanos to grab the orb at all costs.
The sarcastic Rocket and his sidekick Groot are also in hot pursuit, though the four quickly decide to team up rather than fight when they realize they need each other’s particular skills and can split a $4 billion bounty if they deliver the orb to the highest bidder in 24 hours.
There are almost too many more creatures and characters, as the movie bounds from one weirdly named galactic location to another at a sometimes confusing pace. But the movie builds momentum and tension well, with the last half-hour a slam-bang barrel of fun that is much less serious than the climactic battles of just about every Marvel movie outside of “The Avengers” itself.
The wizard behind it all is James Gunn, who directed the film and co-wrote the script with Nicole Perlman, based on a series of comics written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Those comics were a daring experiment in themselves, an attempt to create an alternate form of superheroes that served almost as a spoof of The Avengers but with just enough plotline to be compelling as well as funny.
Gunn has done a couple of my favorite movies in the past decade — the highly unique comedy-horror mash-up “Slither” and the indescribably original “Super,” in which Rainn Wilson of “The Office” plays a put-upon nebbish who decides to gain revenge on society by becoming a superhero vigilante and winds up taking things way too far. Here, Gunn’s been given an opportunity to go big with every crazy idea in his mind, which audiences will have a great time experiencing.
All told, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a movie that stands out as one of a kind in a summer of sameness. Here’s hoping audiences can embrace its weird vision and inspire even more fresh takes on timeworn genres.