The best thing about James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”
— the latest Marvel universe picture — is that it introduces a new universe and
a new set of characters. And even though it’s inevitable that there will be a
“Guardians/Avengers” crossover in the near future, this first installment
remains an isolated affair. There are no cameos from other superheroes, and
there aren’t even any mentions of Tony Stark or Bruce Banner in passing. There’s
nothing inherently wrong with trying to bring together multiple superheroes,
but Marvel has treated the whole affair as a big-budget television show rather
than a movie franchise.
Gunn’s movie feels more like “Star Wars” than a previous
Marvel flick. It takes place in a galaxy far, far away (presumably), and the
viewer is plopped down right into the middle of an intergalactic struggle
between the Nova Corps and the evil Cree forces (essentially, the Rebel Forces
vs. The Empire). From there, we’re exposed to an array of colorful alien
characters from a variety of different worlds, with goofy names and elaborate
costumes. And, of course, there are the Guardians themselves, the intergalactic
misfits and outcasts who put aside their differences to fight the empire.
First up is the leader and sole human member, Peter Quill
(Chris Pratt), aka Starlord, a laid-back outlaw who’s a cross between Andy
Dwyer and Han Solo — though he’s basically Luke Skywalker.
Next, there’s Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green-skinned alien
orphan who’s the adopted daughter of the main baddie, Thanos. Then there’s
Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a loud-mouthed, mutant raccoon that
doesn’t take anything from no one, and Rocket’s trusty sidekick, Groot, (voiced
by Vin Diesel), a mutant tree whose arch nemesis sadly isn’t an intergalactic
The only “Star Wars” characters not here are the droids
C-3PO and R2-D2; in their place is Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave
Bautista), who’s essentially Dave Bautista painted blue, talking in pidgin
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is probably the weirdest Marvel
superhero movie to date. But as ridiculous as all of this may sound, it works
heavily in ”Guardians” favor. The sheer bizarreness of the world and the
characters kept my attention for the full two hours.
Granted, it can get messy and convoluted. Unlike “The
Avengers,” we weren’t separately introduced to the Guardians; instead, Gunn
just sort of pushes us into the lake.
The plot is the worst, most forgettable part of the movie.
The central conflict involves getting a special orb that contains a special
stone that can either save or destroy the universe.
The acting ranges from forgettable to hammy to flat-out
terrible. Not surprisingly, the WWE wrestler gives the worst performance, but
even seasoned actors like John C. Reilly or Glenn Close in minor roles — done
up in goofy costumes and makeup — turn in really hammy performances, while
Saldana is nearly forgettable as Gamora. Pratt is the only one who stands out,
and even he tends to overact most of the time.
Tonally, the movie is extremely
silly. There’s not much weight behind what happens. As silly as it is, I
don’t think Gunn wants the viewer to take it entirely as a comedic work, and
yet, the comedy overpowers all of the attempts at serious emotion. A side story
involving Peter’s mom, who died of cancer when he was kid, fails to make any
kind of an impression.
Overall, I think “Guardians Of the Galaxy” works well on a
macro level but not so much on a micro level. I liked that Gunn throws us into
a brand-new universe with its own mythology, without reference to other
Narratively, however, the movie’s underwhelming. But I think
that in future installments — assuming The Guardians stay in their own universe
— if the world is further explored, the characters are better developed and the
kiddie humor is toned down slightly, there could be another great or near-great
Marvel movie, like “The Avengers.”
Even though I’ve lost interest in most of the Marvel cinematic
universe I remain cautiously interested in what The Guardians might do next.