Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)
Until I first saw a trailer for this new superhero fantasy from Marvel Comics, I had never heard of the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” though it appears that these characters have existed in some form since 1969 (the year of my birth!). Still, something in the irreverent tone of that trailer caught my fancy, and given the relatively lackluster commercial fare on offer so far this summer, I went into the screening with some hope of having a good time. And I did. I am happy to report that Guardians of the Galaxy could be the big-budget blockbuster film you’ve been waiting for since June: action-packed, funny, slickly produced, with a decent script and (for the most part) interesting characters. With an extremely likable Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation“) leading the way, Guardians may be silly and derivative (shades of Star Wars in the poster, to begin with), but it’s also a terrific piece of escapist sci-fi entertainment. Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek) – she of the ever changing on-screen skin color – and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, American Hustle) – who here lends his voice to that of a surgically altered space raccoon – add their talents to the mix, to great results.
The movie begins on Earth in 1988, when the lead character – then a boy, but soon to grow up to be Chris Pratt – is kidnapped by a group of interstellar mercenaries just at the moment of his mother’s death, never to return. One of the recurring jokes in the film is that Peter Quill (Pratt) has a knowledge of pop culture stuck in our planet’s 1970s and 80s. When next we meet him, he is now an outlaw, himself, who very soon finds himself at the unwelcome center of a plot to destroy the universe. He may be a thief, but he’s not a psychopath. Thrown in jail after a failed heist, he joins forces with a ragtag band of fellow misfits and felons. The usual trial period of arguments and tests of friendship ensue – again, the plot is not going to win any points for originality, though the world and character details make up for that – before our characters become a true team.
Unpretentious, light-hearted and well-acted, Guardians of the Galaxy blends just the right combination of humor and action to be a near-perfect summer movie. It may be silly, but that’s all part of the appeal. I highly recommend.