Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker
Running time: 121 Minutes
Directed by: James Gunn
Year of release: 2014
There have been some extremely entertaining movies based on comic book superheroes and a few have been outstanding. What they have in common though is that they go from being serious to being very serious. Sure, there’s some occasional comic relief, but it only serves to remind us how dark and brooding the film is the rest of the time. Coming intoGuardians of the Galaxy without having read the comics but being told it’s another entry in the Marvel Universe, it was hard to know what to expect.
It turns out to be the goofy and action-packed antidote to most of the summer’s blockbusters. After a tragic opening in which young Peter Quill witnesses the death of his mother only to be abducted by a UFO, we’re thrown into an adventure that owes as much to Indiana Jones and the TV series Farscape as to its source material. Peter (Chris Pratt) has become a sort of space rogue and has stolen a mysterious and valuable orb. Soon everyone is after both it and him, none more so than the evil Ronan (Lee Pace).
The plot is the least important part of the film. What the story is really about is how Peter (who bills himself Star Lord) turn a ragtag group of rivals into the heroic group of friends suggested by the title. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has been trained as a fighter by the even more evil Thanos (Josh Brolin), who will apparently be the Big Bad in an upcoming Avengers movie. She’s been loaned to Ronan, but is pursuing her own agenda. Then there’s Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), a raccoon who speaks and likes to steal, and his pal Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), a living, walking tree whose conversation consists of “I am Groot.” After a stint in space prison they are joined by Drax (Dave Bautista), who wants vengeance against Ronan for killing his family.
The movie has two things going for it. One is its terrific cast, which includes everyone mentioned above plus notable bits by John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, and Michael Rooker. Rooker is standout playing the leader of the gang that kidnapped Peter who likes reminding him about how the other aliens wanted to eat him.
The other thing going for it is the look of the film. Credit goes to everyone from cinematographer Ben Davis to production designer Charles Wood, to everyone else involved in creating the imaginative sets, costumes, and make-up effects. The aliens come in a wide range of colors, and such is the attention to detail that Gamora’s green skin is perfectly set off by the yellow prison outfit she has to wear at one point. The integration of the CGI generated characters of Rocky and Groot with the human actors is seamless. Groot, in particular, becomes so real in expression that he seems completely real. A mixture of motion capture work (as in the recent Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and computer wizardry, it raises the bar for this sort of work.