Guardians Of The Galaxy is the perfect embodiment of the summer film. It’s fun, exciting, explosive, and it has the right balance of humor, action and drama. It’s also a big risk for Marvel Studios who until this time produced relatively safe adaptations of their superhero comic books. Guardians Of The Galaxy doesn’t feature any big-name heroes and it can’t be considered a superhero film but a straight up space opera. Fortunately, Marvel Studios pulled it off in a spectacular way.
One of the many reasons why Guardians Of The Galaxy works so well is due to its main character Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). He is cut from the roguish Han Solo/Mal Reynolds cloth, but with a huge helping of John Crichton thrown into the mix and a pinch of Indiana Jones. We’ve seen his type before, a bumbling, lovable thief/smuggler, who is looking for the next big score, but in the end decides to do the right thing. Even though his character type is familiar, Peter connects with us thanks to Pratt’s sincere and goofy performance and his surprisingly deep emotional makeup. The script (by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman) takes time to show elements of his past, which explains Peter’s motivations and behavior.
Abducted from Earth as a young boy, Peter, who goes by the moniker Star-Lord, lives a scoundrel’s life in the galaxy while listening to oldies pop music on his vintage Walkman. When Guardians Of The Galaxy begins, he breaks into an abandoned temple on an alien planet and steals an orb that is coveted by very powerful factions. The worst being Ronan (Lee Pace), a proud Kree warrior who is aghast that his race is now at peace with a rival space power, the Nova Empire. He wants what is inside the orb, an Infinity Stone, a MacGuffin that grants its user deadly power to destroy. Fans of the Marvel Comics know that it’s part of the gem set used to form Infinity Gauntlet, used by the evil madman Thanos to cut a path of destruction across the universe. Ronan is just a lackey of Thanos (who is briefly played by Josh Brolin), and is tasked to retrieve the stone. Over time, Ronan decides to defy Thanos and use the stone to destroy Xandar, the home planet of the peaceful Nova Empire.
Along the way, Peter meets other ne’er-do-wells who are either after him for the bounty on his head or the stone itself. They are Gamora (Zoe Saldana) a beautiful green-skinned warrior who is Thanos’ adopted daughter, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), an anthropomorphic raccoon with big guns and rage issues, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a hulking but gentle tree-like being, and Drax (Dave Bautista), out on vengeance quest against Ronan for murdering his family. As these stories go, they don’t get along at first, but soon acknowledge that they need each other and eventually realize they have to serve a greater purpose. That is keeping Ronan from getting and using the stone.
Guardians Of The Galaxy may have familiar plot points and characters but it’s wildly successful in setting out what it’s meant to be: a fun, rollicking summer film with a lot of heart. It was a joy seeing these unlikely, oddball comrades banding together and becoming something great. Director James Gunn puts the characters first and foremost in the story and that was a wise decision. We come to care deeply about these heroes, who have their moments of fault and self doubt. but defy them to become heroic. Pratt isn’t the only actor who should be applauded, in fact, all of the performances in this film are without fault. Much praise has to go to Cooper who brings an angry, bitter, yet funny aspect to Rocket and in so doing steals many scenes. Also Vin Diesel does his best vocal performance since The Iron Giant and brings an amazing range of emotions with a character who only says “I am Groot.” Of course, kudos go to the special effects wizards who created not just these characters but a rich, engrossing spacescape that fires the imagination.
This film perfectly captures the spirit of the original Star Wars films, but is imbued with the essences of other notable sci-fi franchises. From Firefly to Star Trek to Farscape, fans of those properties will find something of interest in Guardians Of The Galaxy. That isn’t meant that the film is a ripoff but a heartfelt homage that blends those aspects into something unique and terrific. It also harkens back to those classic pulp sci-fi tales thanks to its layered background and constant thrills. Hardcore fans will notice that the movie is firmly inspired by the classic Jim Starlin cosmic stories he did for Marvel Comics featuring Adam Warlock, Gamora and Thanos. They will be overjoyed that this fantastic universe has come to life with this film.
Marvel Studios has earned a good pat on the back for pushing the envelope and expanding beyond superheroes. The film illustrates that Marvel Comics is much more than superheroes and boasts timeless characters and stories. Anyone longing for a great space epic must see Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is the best joyride in theaters this summer. Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene, which features a funny and out-of-left-field cameo by a certain character. You’re welcome.