Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Studios)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Bradley Cooper (voice), Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Haddock, Sean Gunn, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Fairbank, Krystian Godlewski, Wyatt Oleff, Gregg Henry, Josh Brolin (voice).
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, based comic books by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
Directed by James Gunn.
Oh, Marvel. How I love thee. Just when I thought you’d done it all in the amazing Avengers universe, you go ahead and venture into outer space with Guardians of the Galaxy. Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige must know what they are doing, because GOTG is crazy good.
Chris Pratt stars and Peter Quill (aka “Star Lord”), a man who was abducted by Blue alien guy and “ravager” named Yondo Udonta (Michael Rooker) shortly after the death of Peter’s mother. Decades later, Star Lord is an outlaw on the trail of an ancient orb capable of wiping out entire planets (hint: the orb contains one of those “Infinity Stones” referenced in various Avengers franchise movies). While trying to sell the orb to an antiquities dealer on the Nova Corps home world of Xandar, he encounters the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who is also after the orb. Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), and sent on a mission by the evil Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who is supposed to be working for Thanos. During their violent encounter on Xandar, Quill and Gamora also meet up with the opportunistic Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a huge walking tree-man. Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot are all captured and sent to space jail, where they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a surly fellow bent on getting revenge against Ronan and Gamora for killing his family.
The group forms a tentative relationship and escapes from prison, only to have the orb fall into the hands of Ronan. Once Peter and the rest of the gang find out what Ronan intends to do with the orb, they renounce (sort of) their renegade ways and set out to stop the evil lord from destroying the galaxy. Along the way the gang also has to contend with Gamora's other adopted sister (and assassin) Nebula (Karen Gillan).
Guardians of the Galaxy is perhaps the best film of the summer, providing all sorts of exciting special effects, excellent performances and a great script (co-written by Nicole Perlman and director James Gunn). I can’t give enough raves to Chris Pratt for bringing just enough humor and humanity to the role of Peter Quill. His performance is the glue that brings the ensemble cast together. The other Guardian cast-mates are equally brilliant; from Zoe Saldana’s toughness as Gamora, to Dave Bautista’s performance as a violent guy who takes things a little too serious. The voice actors in the group provide some of the greatest comedic moments in the movie, especially Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel, who says only 3 words: “I am Groot.” He later expands his vocabulary into a fourth word in a scene that might get audiences a little choked up. Joining great voice casting with out-of-this world special effects might make you forget Rocket and Groot are all CG.
As Marvel franchises go, GOTG had a big hill to climb: the movie required you to become invested in characters who did not have the luxury of “lead-up” solo films, like Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America did prior to the assembly of the Avengers. If there’s one flaw in GOTG, it’s the quick exposition of the main characters, necessary to explain a lot of divergent backstories. Even with these script hurdles, you never have a reason to care less for the main characters.
GOTG might just rescue what’s been a rather dismal 2014 summer that started out so well in the spring, with fun hits like Captain America 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, etc. – and has since fizzled into so much Transformers bilge and decent but dystopian Planet of the Apes sequel.
There’s something else to keep in mind: GOTG is, in fact, connected to characters and story lines within the Avengers franchise, so stay tuned for anything. I can hardly contain myself, thinking of what Tony Stark might say to a talking raccoon.
*One more thing: As in other Marvel movies, there is a bonus scene after the end credits. The scene involves a controversial Marvel character seen in one of the worst films of the 1980s, so prepare yourself to be a) amused, or b) flabbergasted. You have been warned.