Pulp Science Fiction: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Writer-Director James Gunn’s glorious Marvel Cinematic space opus begins with a surprisingly emotional scene where a young boy experiences a life changing, traumatic event when his mother dies. The shocked, heartbroken child runs crying outside the hospital into the night where a spaceship suddenly shines its light down and transports him aboard.
Decades later that boy has become a galavanting, galactic outlaw known to authorities as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and to a few others as his more flashy moniker “Star-Lord”. Quill lands on the planet of MORAG where he uses some supercool gadgetry to detect the whereabouts of a mysterious trinket he’s been searching for. This sequence is like a cosmic version of what we saw in the opening moments of Spielberg’s Raiders of The Lost Ark. James Gunn makes use of Peter’s only momento from his mother, a Sony Walkman which plays an Awesome Mix of 70s classics for the rockin retro soundtrack. As Quill makes his way through the cavernous interior of a secret lair, dancing and kicking space rats around, Native-American band Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love” fades up on his headphones giving the dark, ominous atmosphere a light, festive mood. I really loved the contrast, it gave me chills!
Immediately following Quill obtaining the orb from inside a security system he is discovered by a band of armed soldiers led by Korath (Djimon Hounsou) who is acting on orders made by the infamous, feared Kree leader Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) to get the Orb. Using his quick thinking and boot blasters, Quill is able to escape with the treasure and we get a laugh when an alien girl he forgot was still onboard The Milano (his supercharged musclecraft named for a childhood crush on actress Alyssa Milano) suddenly appears. Quill’s next stop is the utopian looking planet of Xandar where he’ll sell the odd metal ball off for some much needed dough.
Meanwhile, in the depths of The Dark Aster, a gargantuan, monolithic flying fortress, Ronan sits genocidally annoyed. He decides to send “the deadliest woman in the universe” Gamora (Zoe Saldana), one of the adopted but unrelated daughters of his associate, the purple skinned “Mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) to Xandar to get the orb from Quill. Meanwhile, her “sister” and bitter rival Nebula (Karen Gillan) watches on with a jealous hate which we just know will end with some kind of face/off later on.
On the shiny happy planet of Xandar Quill’s buyer learns that Ronan wants to possess the orb so he swiftly and angrily kicks him right out of the store. Gamora is ready and waiting to boost it from his mitts but she’s not the only one on his tail. Two space bandits, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) a cybernetically enhanced raccoon with an attitude the size of Jupiter and his bodyguard/pal Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a talking tree are after Quill for a bounty placed on him by Yondu (Michael Rooker) the one who abducted and inducted him into his nomadic outlaw organization known as the Ravagers. This brief but action packed scuffle leads to all of them being arrested by Xandar’s police force, The Nova Corps headed by Nova Prime (Glenn Close) and Rhomann Dey (John C.Reilly) then sent off to the Kyln, an intergalactic space prison that is filled with a wide array of nasty, bizarre alien criminals.
During their stay in the big steel tank of trouble they begin to form an uneasy alliance and meet Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) a hulking red tattooed brute that is seething with revenge towards Ronan for the murder of his wife and child. He also wants to take Gamora’s life for her allegiance to Ronan (as do many other convicts for her past sordid deeds) but Quill stops him in mid-kill and explains that he needs her alive to help stage a breakout in the works. Drax still wants blood but believes Quill & Co enough to join them. In one of the many exciting and funny sequences, the wisecrackin’ Rocket shows how brilliant he is as a strategist and improvisor when he designs a great escape that would make the Jedi Alliance proud.
After the new allies get free from the Kyln they must evade Ronan who is out to own the orb’s mysterious power at all costs. To get more information on what the orb actually is they make a stop at KNOWHERE, a giant spaceport/social center that is actually the severed head of one of the dead ancient giant Celestials (early rulers of the galaxy). The one person who can give them the much needed details is Taneleer Tivan aka The Collector (Benicio Del Toro) an eccentric, white coifed member of The Eternals who inspects the orb and discovers it is in fact one of the 6 Infinity Stones (we’ve seen two others so far in the MCU: Tesseract, Aether). This meeting turns into quite an explosive event which sends the group off in different directions and complicates things even more. During their time trying to keep the Orb from Ronan, the gang of misfits who will later call themselves The Guardians of the Galaxy become a kind of dysfunctional family, fighting with one another almost as much as the various enemies who want them dead.
James Gunn takes us on an epic, bombastic sci-fi journey that delivers an amazing amount of humor, tender emotion and asskicking aplenty. It’s the kind of experience that will have you shedding a tear one minute, laughing the next and cheering for revenge right after. The cast are all spectacular in their roles. Chris Pratt gives an outstanding performance playing Quill as a blend of Marty McFly, Jack Burton and Han Solo. Throughout the movie he uses his affable, jokey nature to keep the group from shattering to pieces. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is super deadly (and super hot) but also has a softer side due to her own losses in life. Dave Bautista as Drax is a powerhouse of angst and torment but is also extremely funny with his alpha male humor that taps into his wrestling background. Bradley Cooper gives Rocket an immense amount of depth, swagger and charm. He’s such an angry, sad little creature due to a backstory we learn about which isn’t very pleasant. Vin Diesel’s Groot may only say three words and be made out of wood but he’s simply all heart. Lee Pace is frightening as Ronan, whenever he appears the whole show just turns into a pit of black and blue doom. Karen Gillan’s Nebula looks like a female Hellraiser with her black eyes and bald head. She is filled with a planetful of venom and spite. One of the funniest people in the movie is Yondu, who comes off a lot like Michael Rooker’s character Merle on The Walking Dead. He’s essentially a loudtalkin’, crude actin’ red neck with blue skin. He’s got this remote controlled arrow weapon that makes for a very cool and weird spin on the classic gunfighter standoff.
This is the type of movie that you could really analyze shot for shot and talk about forever because it’s just crammed with all kinds of film/comic geek goodies. It’s going to take several more viewings to take it all in thanks to James Gunn’s obsessive eye for detail. Now as much as I loved all the supremely impressive spectacle and truly gorgeous, otherworldly visuals/SFX employed in Guardians I think what I responded to and was impressed by most was the soul of the story and the characters who were all damaged yet were able to find something to keep them from going off the deep end, namely each other. Their tough exteriors were merely a facade that gave way to something very poignant and heartwarming as they transformed from foes to caring friends. Guardians is Marvel at its pulpy, colorful, hysterical, thrilling, daring, irreverant best and just the perfect movie to close out the blockbuster summer season!