‘I’ ON CULTURE
Guardians of the Galaxy is a delightful midsummer treat. Marvel has given us some big superheroes: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow. Forget those! Right now, the hot new movie focuses on lesser characters, the not-so-super heroes. And that leads to both a really great roller coaster ride of an adventure film that also laughs at itself.
We know this will be played for fun as the credits begin (at the very start, there is a rather intense deathbed scene that seems out of place until we get to the movie’s climax) as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), also known as Star-Lord, re-creates Indiana Jones’ approach to get the treasure we saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The main difference is that the hero is jiving to 1970s music as he goes. He manages to get and keep, against the odds, an orb that contains the primal force of the universe, an “infinity stone.” That brings up a chase where he gets attacked by a couple of really bad guys. Ronan (Lee Pace) is a real nasty who wants to use the stone to annihilate the planet of his enemy, the Xandarians. Also in the chase is Quill’s father-figure Yondu (Michael Rooker), who kidnapped Quill when he was a boy and claims rights because, “I stopped my crew from learning what an earthling tasted like.”
Quill winds up the target of a green-tinted assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) as well as a bounty hunter team made up of a computer-generated raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a moving sentient tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). They all get captured by Xandarians and sent to a space prison where, with the help of tattooed strong man Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), they manage a wild escape. And things keep getting crazier.
It turns out Gamora is the adopted daughter of the prime bad guy of the galaxy and might, or might not, be in rebellion. Her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) is cyborg-enhanced and wants to kill Gamora and the team to win daddy’s love. Rocket’s main interest is in making money. Groot only says three words — “I am Groot” — throughout, although Rocket seems to understand him perfectly. Drax only wants to kill Ronan, who destroyed his family. And the stone the group is holding has the power of the Ark of the Covenant (as is mentioned, along with the Maltese Falcon).
One of the best things about the movie is its refusal to take itself seriously. The script laughs at itself so much that the audience just relaxes. And the real story of how a group of loners essentially become first comrades in arms, then friends, and then even family is one that provides an element of real sentiment. The ’70s music, out of place in the middle of space, somehow works. Watching Quill boogie to Come and Get Your Love is just plain fun.
The cast is good, particularly Pratt. He manages to balance the adventure elements with a wry sense of humor that makes him far more lovable than the average superhero. That is not an easy balancing act, and he manages it quite well. Saldana does well as the tough assassin who eventually learns that she works best as part of a team. Cooper’s wisecracks provide the comic highlights for most of the movie. Yes, an enhanced raccoon is a crazy idea for a superhero (and he’s the real genius of the group). Bautista does well as Drax, a character who begins as one-dimensional and grows as he learns to trust the others. Ironically, the wisest of the group is the sentient tree. Pace is not all that strong, but Rooker is really fun as the evil father figure.
The script has huge holes in it. Characters come in and leave. There are twists and turns that just seem to happen. The space battle scenes are not state-of the-art, and our heroes manage to get into trouble at every twist and turn. But the audience has such a good time, why bother worrying about that?
This is a wonderful fun film. I might even go back and see it again. It’s a couple of hours to forget your cares, have a piña colada and a walk in the rain. See it.