Come and Get Your Marvel Love
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), AKA Star-Lord, is a child of the 80s; from his pop culture references, to his Walkman cassette player (containing a tape of some of the best 60s and 70s classics this side of an episode of Soul Train), to his brash, devil may care, childlike enthusiasm. His fully fleshed out character is the heralded gem (no pun intended) in the gauntlet (pun slightly intended) that is the cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Right from the jump we are immediately grounded in reality, as a young Quill, fresh from dealing with the death of his mother to the unrelenting bully that is cancer, is abducted into a wildly raucous space-faring adventure.
Rife with talking raccoons (don't call Rocket [voiced expertly, and charmingly, by Bradley Cooper] a vermin), a sentient tree (Vin Diesel, the show-stopper), who's only three words are "I am Groot", a green-skinned sexy assassin (Zoe Saldana [my celebrity crush]), and a muscle bound, takes-everything-you-say-
literally badass thug (Dave Batista, following the same thespian path as another famous wrestler-turned-actor who likes people to smell what he's cooking), the audiences instantly needs to stay connected with the space opera weirdness. Hence the aforementioned glorious soundtrack, and every-man lead character.
Witty, joyful, vibrant, fun (remember when comic movies could be fun, Zack "The Hack" Snyder?) and delightfully eclectic, it was complete and utter frown failure for me during the film's two hour running time. But it wasn't just my inherent love for space adventure films of this ilk (this is this generation's Star Wars... until Episode VII releases next year) that kept me engaged. Quite in fact, this flick had "epic fail" written all over it. Which makes a certain character's cameo at the end of the credits even more ironic and hilarious (if you're old enough to understand who the hell it was anyway).
Yes, it would have been easy for this cinematic foray into the weird abyss about a rag-tag group of murderers and thieves to fall flat on its face. Enter the director, co-writer, and savior of Marvel Cosmic Universe's initial space walk into the world's earth-addled heroes, James Gunn.
Fun-facts about the Gunn-meister (him and I are cool like that [no we're not]): originating from the Troma school of horror schlock, the man's first real Hollywood gig was "Scooby Doo" in 2002. He also penned the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. But before all that, he wrote, produced and performed in a widely known, and popular critical darling (is that sarcasm dripping from my lips?) super hero comedy "The Specials". Haven't heard of it? Don't be ashamed, it had a budget of $1,000,000 and only grossed $13,000, even if it starred some actual known acting entities (Rob Lowe, Thomas Hayden Church, Jaime Kennedy, Melissa Joan Hart, and Judy Greer... they must have lost a bet).
While not a cinematic masterpiece, if you look hard enough into the plot, or even a casual glance at the Wiki summary, "The Specials" laid the foundation for what would become Marvel's interest in Gunn for his participation in 'Guardians'.
You see, 'Specials' is a movie about 6th and 7th tiered superheroes on their day off. It's vulgar and cheesy, but actually kind of funny. Subtract the vulgarity, and... you see where I'm going with this. Then you pepper in cult faves like "Slither" and "Super", and you have the recipe for lightning in a bottle. Which 'Guardians' surely is. Marvel and Gunn are a match made in sloppy, incoherent, nonsensical, B-movie heaven.
Okay, now that I shot a fraction of my elation load all over this review, let me focus on some of the negatives (don't worry this won't take long). Even though every scene where you think a character is about to have their "Oscar Moment", something humorous always stomps on it in the most hilariously genius way. This movie is all about subverting your expectations. Which ultimately works in the film's favor. However, the weakest aspect of the film is in its selection of rogues, which, unfortunately, fails to live up to the lofty expectations we have thanks to Loki's scene-eating screen time in the earlier Marvel flicks.
We glimpsed a galactic sized cock tease with Thanos at the end of "The Avengers", and as glorious as that reveal was, Thanos (now voiced by the venerable Josh Brolin) receives his Emperor Palpatine screen time in 'Guardians'. I know Marvel is setting up the Infinity Gauntlet story-line, clarified once and for all in this movie with expository dialogue provided by the Collector (Benicio Del Toro's character), but Thanos was sparsely utilized in this film. The gravity of his presence is enough for most ardent comic book fans to cream their Spidey undies (yes, I own a pair myself, don't judge me) but I was underwhelmed. And Ronan (Lee Pace, who stars in my newest AMC obsession "Halt and Catch Fire") was little more than a cosmic thug with delusions of grandeur. His lap dog, Nebula (Karen GIllan), the deadly, modified, crazy sexy (and crazy crazy) assassin sibling to Gamora (Saldana) served little purpose other than to be face-punch fodder for her sister.
I can't say definitively that the villains were a wasted opportunity though, because the movie wasn't about them. It's just more of a struggling obligation on my part to provide some cons in this review to fool you into thinking I'm actually objective (which, when it comes to this genre, I'm clearly not).
Truth be told, I've been starved, famished, for a quality space adventure film. Not since the greatest blue balls in cinematic history (the Star Wars prequels... I just threw up in my throat at the mere mention of those still-births) has the genre been front and center. But now we have it. A glorious return to the strange, weird, jovial, operatic outer space gallivanting adventures of a rag-tag group of would-be heroes