Craig's Screening Room: "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Photo Credit: © 2014 - Marvel Studio
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Have you heard of “Guardians of the Galaxy”? Before this, I hadn’t. Was it some kind of parody like “Spaceballs”? We’re technically switching over to Marvel’s B-side now but don’t tell that to director James Gunn and his cast. This is a funny, action-packed, amazingly created, and even touching addition that should leave fans of the Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning comic book series, as well as most others, very happy that a sequel has already been green-lighted. It’s one of Marvel’s best.

First Chris Pratt, who most of us know as Andy Dwyer on “Parks and Recreation”, takes a star-making turn as Peter Quill, or ahh, the outlaw Star Lord, as this sorta space Indiana Jones is prone to calling himself, but no one else is. Quill was beamed up to space as a child in the 80’s for some reason, his only keepsake being a Walkman with a tape of 70’s pop hits. He plans on retrieving a mysterious orb and bringing it to a broker for cash, although he will soon find others are after it.

Like Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the green-skinned adopted daughter of an evil dude named Thanos, who has partnered up with Ronan (Lee Pace), another evil dude whose about one step down on the evil scale from Thanos, to destroy the planet of Xandar and rule the galaxy. There happens to be more to Gamora than meets the eye though. Just before she can get to Quill, a raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a gigantic tree that can only say “I Am Groot” (voiced by Vin Diesel) ruin her plans. They are both bounty hunters trying to catch Quill for the reward, but instead all are captured and sentenced to prison.

Which is where we meet the fifth member of this misfit band, a bald, hulking, destroyer named Drax (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista) whose wife and child were both murdered by Ronan. Much of the story is familiar. The orb has the power to destroy everything in its path and so everyone wants it for different reasons, except for Drax who just wants to see Ronan’s head separated from his body.

The real joy here is the blending of these five heroes.  Pratt lost 60 pounds for the role and looks every bit the reluctant hero, but he’s playful in the best way possible, whether he’s dancing along a deserted planet or trying to describe the intricacies of “Footloose” to space people who hardly even understand humor, it’s Pratt’s funny, sarcastic wit that makes Quill such a fun hero. Saldana, gorgeous in any color, plays straight-man well and surprisingly Bautista not only gets laughs out of his humorless character, but he also brings some feeling to Drax. A favorite here is going to be Rocket though, an adorable raccoon who will kick your ass if you ever call him that. Cooper’s angry and cocky performance is perfect and funny. And Diesel only has three lines, which are said many times, but there is a gag here that surprisingly never gets tired and it’s the feeling Diesel brings to each line that sells it.

The technical rewards match the characters in every way. Look at the effects work done on the characters, the different planets, the make-up job done on the actors (Benecio Del Torro is hilarious as a David Bowie-like character named “The Collector”), the exciting space chases and propulsive action sequences. It’s a lot to take in but makes for one of the best space westerns to come around in a very long time.

“Guardians” is overflowing with characters (Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, and John C. Reilly also play major roles) which sometimes makes it hard to keep it all straight but the fact that Gunn and his cast have crafted such developed and enjoyable personalities for our main heroes in spite of this is pretty fantastic. It’s not the best Blockbuster of the summer (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is still winning, see it if you haven’t) but it’s the most charming, most zaniest, and most thrilling.