Dir: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close
by Monte Yazzie of The Coda Films
It’s always fun to cheer for the underdogs. The motley group of heroes in director James Gunn’s adaptation of the lesser-known Marvel Comics property will have you cheering with satisfaction. The superhero film has saturated the movie market with mixed results of comic sequels and reboots, though Marvel has been on a role recently with two quality offerings for the summer, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. Mark it three because “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the best of the exemplary group, blending great characters with a none-too-serious comedic tone for an impressive visual joy ride.
Peter Quill, an outlaw with the self-referenced moniker of Star-Lord, has been making a life away from his existence on Earth scavenging for rare artifacts. With a smart-alecky attitude Quill finds himself captured and sentenced to a space prison after he steals a mysterious orb, which was also being sought for by other outlaws and some particularly bad Marvel universe villains. Quill reluctantly unites with four other outlaws vying for the orb, a self serving assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an intimidating giant bent on revenge named Drax the Destroyer, a tough talking raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and his steadfast treelike bodyguard known as Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Though not the best example for the definition of “team”, they must join forces to defend the galaxy from destruction at the hands of a powerful being known as Ronan (Lee Pace).
There is a lot going on, with a wealth of different characters, but Gunn doesn’t overwhelm the film with unneeded exposition. Instead he keeps his focus on the primary Guardians, working the chemistry between characters, which takes them from a group of individuals with self-gratifying ambitions to a cooperative with a defined purpose. It happens quickly, perhaps too quickly, but it never seems unlikely for the group that is battling their own individual tragic influences. Gunn, who also co-wrote the script, understands the dynamics of the comic and utilizes the characters with a lighthearted approach. However in a few moments the tone turns serious, subtlety adding effective substance to their collective journey.
The comedy is consistently quick-witted, assisted largely by Chris Pratt’s seemingly “off the cuff” performance. There is also a nice turn by Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, a brut of a man whose literal interpretations offer some laugh-out-loud moments. Not to forget Zoe Saldana’s turn as Gamora who consistently offers something interesting to her performance even when it’s done through green makeup. Still, amidst these great performances, at the core of the story is some unexpected heart from two unlikely characters, Rocket and Groot. Underneath the abrasive attitude Rocket is the epitome of the group’s collective outlook; a group of underachievers dealing with personal regrets and loss but are still compassionate and inherently heroic. And Groot, a walking tree who only says three words, is the beating heart of the film.
James Gunn gives this superhero film a unique personality with unabashed comedy and underlying emotion. It can be difficult for a comic book film to find an identity, most having a tendency to look and feel similar even with unique heroes. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a wonderfully envisioned world that takes a straightforward approach at presenting the elements and characters of the comic book genuinely, giving the film a uniquely immersive quality. Director James Gunn has fashioned one of the best Marvel adaptations to date.
4.50 out of 5.00