Directed By: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper
Tag line: "When things get bad, they'll do their worst"
Trivia: James Gunn's brother Sean Gunn was an acting double for Rocket Raccoon during filming
Like millions of people, I caught 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy during its theatrical run this past summer, and the moment it was over I was already anticipating its home video release (the Blu-Ray was a day-one purchase for me). An exciting Sci-Fi / Action / Adventure with awesome special effects and plenty of laughs, director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in quite some time.
Shortly after the death of his mother, a young Peter Quill (played as a child by Wyatt Oleff) was abducted by an alien spaceship belonging to Yondu (Michael Rooker), the leader of a group of notorious pirates known as “The Ravagers”. Twenty-some years later, Quill (Chris Pratt), himself a petty thief and on the run from Yondu, heads to the abandoned planet of Morag, where, armed with only his beloved Walkman (one of his few remaining earthly possessions), he sets out to find an orb that’s supposedly worth a fortune. The plot thickens, however, when a detachment of Kree warriors led by Korath (Djimon Hounsou) turns up as well, also looking for the orb. After a brief battle, Quill escapes with the orb in tow, thus inciting the wrath of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a Kree commander and one of the most feared men in the galaxy. Having struck a deal with the evil ruler Thanos (an uncredited Josh Brolin) to retrieve the orb on his behalf, Ronan sends Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldan) to track it down. Gamora, whose real parents were killed by Thanos, instead betrays Ronan, vowing to do whatever it takes to keep the orb (which houses one of the fabled infinity stones, an item so powerful it can destroy an entire planet) away from him. This forces Quill and Gamora, who don't particularly like each other, to form a temporary partnership. Joined along the way by an overly-aggressive bounty hunter / raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper); the brutal fighter Drax (Dave Bautista) who wants to avenge the deaths of his wife and child (both killed by Ronan); and Groot (Vin Diesel), a huge tree-like creature with an incredibly limited vocabulary, Quill and Gamora travel from one end of the galaxy to the other to prevent the orb from falling into Ronan’s hands.
I still can’t decide which of the many action sequences in Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite. One early scene, featuring a knock-down, drag-out fight that pits Quill against both Gamora (who’s come looking for the orb) and Rocket (who wants to capture Quill to collect the reward Yondu put on his head) is a lot of fun, but then so is the group’s escape from the Kyln prison colony, where Quill and the others are sent after being captured by Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly), a solider for the Nova Empire. Come to think of it, there’s not a single action sequence in Guardians of the Galaxy that isn’t spectacular. Bolstered by amazing special effects, each and every one is as exciting as they come.
As for the film’s humor, most of it stems from the interactions of its very selfish characters, who never miss an opportunity to degrade and insult each other; at one point, when things start to get real, Gamora laments the fact that she's “going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy”. Her fears are well-founded, too, considering her companions’ actions to that point. During their escape from the Kyln prison colony, Quill put everyone’s life in jeopardy when he delayed their departure to retrieve his beloved Walkman (which one of the guards had stolen). As for Drax, his thirst for vengeance led him to make a rash decision, one that ultimately threatened the safety of the entire universe. As for Gamora (whose motives are the least selfish of the group), she has trust issues when it comes to her male cohorts, while Rocket, whose small frame and raccoon-like features have made him the butt of many jokes, is quick to lose his temper, usually at the most inopportune time. As for Groot, he doesn’t say a lot; his only line through much of the film is “I am Groot”, yet with these three words, he's able to speak volumes. Yes, I know… hundreds of movies have thrown a collection of self-centered characters together, only to have them make a pretty good team (The Dirty Dozen leaps immediately to mind), but in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, the characters are so well developed that, despite it being somewhat formulaic, I bought this time-honored plot device hook, line, and sinker.
Topping it all off is the movie’s soundtrack, which, for the most part, features nothing but ‘70s rock music (the contents of a cassette tape that Quill’s mother made for him, which he listens to over and over again). Not many Sci-Fi adventures would have tunes like The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” and Björn Skifs “Hooked on a Feeling” playing throughout, but in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, the music fits the picture’s tone to a tee.
Despite the immense popularity of its superhero franchises, Marvel’s green-lighting of Guardians of the Galaxy was still something of a risk (the comic book it’s based on was never one of the company’s most popular, and at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, when this film’s production was hinted at, studio president Kevin Feige himself referred to it as one of their upcoming “obscure” titles). Well, clearly, it was a risk that paid off. More than a solid entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe, Guardians of the Galaxy may ultimately prove to be the most entertaining movie the studio ever produced.
I can’t wait for the sequel!