Friday, August 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Review by Bob Ignizio

Abducted by aliens as a little boy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) grows up to be a ne'er do well space pirate who calls himself Starlord, not that anyone else does. He teams up with a talking raccoon named Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), a walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel), a green skinned assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saladana), and an extremely literal tattooed barbarian named Drax (Dave Bautista) to keep a glowing purple rock of immense power out of the hands of bad guy Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who wants to use the rock to destroy the planet Xandar, ancient enemy of his race the Kree.

Other notables in the mix include Yondu (Michael Rooker), a space pirate Peter double-crossed, purple skinned evil doer Thanos (Josh Brolin), Ronan's evil underling (and daughter of Thanos) Nebula (Karen Gillan) and his other evil underling Korath (Djimon Hounsou), Xandarian cop Dey (John C. Reilly), weird hoarder dude The Collector (Benecio Del Toro), and head of Xandarian defenses Nova Prime (Glenn Close).

With only a wisp of story, seemingly cluttered cast, and almost non stop action and special effects, all the ingredients are here for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY to be yet another annoying, soulless/mindless summer thrill ride. Surprisingly, it's not. What separates GUARDIANS from dreck like TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF DISTINCTION are its fairly fresh main characters, and having a filmmaker with passion and love for the material at the helm like writer/director James Gunn.

Gunn has crafted a film that goes for thrills and laughs with equal gusto, while at the same time keeping character front and center even in the midst of massive CGI space battles. This is undeniably mainstream fare, but the producers at Marvel were smart enough not to make the leash too tight. The edgy humor of past Gunn efforts like SUPER or his internet series PG PORN may be toned down here, but the sensibility is unmistakably his.

Some have been calling this “Marvel's STAR WARS”. I get that, but I don't think it's entirely accurate. Yes, it's a sci-fi space epic, but STAR WARS (and by that I mean the movie now subtitled EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE) puts more emphasis on plot and moves at a much more deliberate pace. GUARDIANS is off to the races almost from the start and barely lets up. There's nothing close to the depth of theme and character one finds in STAR WARS. But hey, the dialogue is witty, the characters likable and well cast all around, and the movie is just a lot of fun in general. My analytical critic side tells me I should give it 3 out of 4 stars, but the part of me that just wants to have fun at the movies says 3 ½. Take your pick, but either way go see this one.

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