By Désirée I. Guzzetta
When Marvel announced it was making a film out of its comic, Guardians of the Galaxy at San Diego Comic-Con two years ago, a lot of fans were puzzled, including me. Although I had a passing familiarity with Guardian leader Star-Lord, I pretty much knew nothing of this particular team.
Boy, am I ever glad I know who they are now! Guardians of the Galaxy is a delight, a witty, charming, and visually spectacular film that also has a big heart, giving it emotional resonance to underpin the raucous fun.
Based on the 2008 comics iteration of the team, the movie stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, a Terran boy kidnapped by the Ravagers, a group of scavengers who are hired to procure special items for particular clients and are led by the blue-skinned Yondu (Michael Rooker, clearly having fun).
We are quickly dumped into a fully-realized universe when we meet Peter as an adult. He’s on a desolate planet attempting to steal a small metal orb for one of the Ravagers’ clients. Unfortunately for him, it’s also wanted by agents for a Kree warrior called Ronan the Accused (Lee Pace), a guy with a serious grudge against another race he’d like to annihilate.
Fleeing with the orb, Star-Lord eventually crosses paths with Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his living tree sidekick, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who want Star-Lord for the bounty on his head; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is connected to both Ronan and to Thanos (Josh Brolin, unrecognizable under the makeup); and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose grudge against Ronan is greater than his desire to throttle Gamora for everything she’s done in Ronan and Thanos’ names.
A thief, two bounty hunters, an assassin, and whatever Drax is doesn’t sound like a group you’d want guarding your house, let alone a galaxy, but what occurs once they become a team takes the audience on a rollicking, hilarious ride.
The film is filled with humor, action, and virtually seamless effects. I saw it in IMAX 3-D and while neither format is necessary, the 3-D conversion is worth the extra money. The visuals are eye-popping, and seeing some of the action sequences in 3-D added to the thrills. Special note should be made of the makeup, too, especially on the green, blue, and purple aliens, who all looked realistic, not like people wearing paint. The CGI is also quite good, particularly with Rocket and Groot.
What anchors all the fun, though, are the great performances. Pratt (Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation) infuses Star-Lord with the right amount of humor, heart, and narcissism, reveling in the character’s shallowness while also showing there’s more underneath the rocket shoes and spiffy helmet than an awesomely six-pack’d womanizing thief. Saldana and Cooper bring similar levels of warmth to characters who could easily be caricatures, and Pace is all menace as the arrogant Ronan. Bautista does a great job with Drax’s literal-minded delivery, and even though Diesel’s vocabulary as Groot is limited, he manages, along with the excellent CGI, to make Groot substantial, not just a collection of ones and zeroes (the same goes for Cooper as Rocket).
Several supporting characters make an impression, notably John C. Reilly as Dey and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best of the Marvel films to date, and I, for one, cannot wait to see the Guardians’ further adventures on-screen. In the Marvel film tradition, be sure to stay for the extra scene after the credits, which is brief but effective.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” – Rated PG-13
Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Starring Christ Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Honsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel