Nutshell: I. Am. Groot. A
Have you been loving the Guardians of the Galaxy trailers that show snippets of the film with groovy 70s rock? Well, then you’re gonna be blown out of your socks when you see the film. A fun-filled, self-aware, tongue-firmly-in-cheek explosion of special effects, smackdowns and fanboy shoutouts that definitely delivers. Scared the Powers That Be wouldn’t be able to bring this group of relative unknowns to the big screen and do ‘em justice? Worry no longer.
A young boy sits by his mother’s hospital bed, trying to will the inevitability of her death out of existence. He runs out of the hospital just after her machines confirm the end, and is hit by a bright beam of light. Cut to 26 years later and a grownup — well, physically anyway — Quill (Chris Pratt) is a space thief on a mission; steal a round globe thingy. What does it do? Is it something important? Is it ticking? Quill doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. He’s in debt to his former boss (Michael Rooker, rockin’ the blue makeup) and needs the cash. Of course, he gets busted. But then thanks to a plot progression I won’t ruin here, he meets with fellow sorta-kinda-badguys Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, ‘Serkis’ed by Sean Gunn), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Dax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Thanos’ adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana). After the usual push-n-shove, they decide to figure out how to get out of jail, and how to get themselves back on their respective tracks. But it seems that everyone wants that round globe thingy, for various reasons. Including Gamora’s poppa, who has sent henchman Ronan (Lee Pace, looking a lot more bulky and dangerous than his Pushing Daisies days) to go get it. Cue cliffhanger music!
Pratt nails Peter Quinn/Star Lord. He’s got a perfect mix of deadpan humor — about his spaceship: “if I had a black light, this place would look like a Pollock painting” — gravitas and courage. Think 21st Century Indiana Jones. The casting department should be patted on the back, because the Fab Five have great chemistry. Pretty amazing since one is tree creature that’s almost entirely CGI, and the other is a racoon hybrid that’s played by a guy in greensuit, voiced by another guy and then converted to CGI in post (aka Performance Capture). Oh, and for folks worried that all they’d be able to focus on is Bradley Cooper’s voice whenever Rocket speaks? That vanishes about two seconds in. Rocket is an amazing character, and his monologue about how he became who he is is genuinely touching. Not to mention the sweet bromance between him and Groot. (Groot is a dude, right?)
Dropping the love I have for the CGI, onscreen FX and overall fight choreography, director James Gunn (Slither) knows how to choose his soundtrack. Using Quill’s Sony Walkman as a premise for why the songs are playing, there’s a crazy-cool amount of 70s pop/rock in GotG. 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love”, Eric Carmen’s “Go All The Way”, “Hooked on a Feeling (Oooga-Chaka Mix)” by Blue Swede, Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”, “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5, and “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways. That’s just a sample y’all. Sometimes used to pump up the action, sometimes used to heighten the absurdity of a situation, but always coming in just right. Think of it as Goldilocks music. If I didn’t already have ‘em all on Spotify, I’d grab the soundtrack.
Gunn does double-duty as screenwriter too, taking Abnett & Lanning’s original comic book thang and (along with Nichole Perlman) giving it a Hollywood spit-n-polish that doesn’t smooth over any of the rough edges. The Guardians are definitely anti-heroes, and they know it. They’re also kinda sick of it, which works here, giving the gang a reason to band together beyond their storyline main directive; they’re all secretly dying to break their molds. But the banter between the gang is still saucy. Yeah, saucy. Tons of racoon jokes (my favorite is a tossed-off one liner from Quill referencing a kid’s magazine from Earth. No overt spoiler, but you might be able to do the math yourownself.) Plenty of Drax taking everything literally zingers. And beyond the jokes, Pace’s Ronan and Karen Gillan’s Nebula get dialogue that’s evil without being over-the-top. Oh, and Gillian looks a-may-zing as Nebula, shaved head and all. Bravo makeup and costuming!
For fans hoping for tons of Nova Corps action, there’s little here for Nova Prime (Glenn Close) and Corpsman Dey (John C. Reilly) to do besides worry, and ask the GotG for help. That’s okay though; this first film is rip-roaring exposition rather than an in-depth look at their world. Plus, have I mentioned the awesome battle scenes? There’s that too.
Of course, you’ll want to stay around for the pre-credits scene, and the post-credits scene. I have only seen one of these, as the post-credit scene was held ‘til release. Dammit. If it’s half as enjoyable as the funtime that is the pre-credits scene? I’ll be back to check it out in the multiplex. Will I be springing for 3D? Perhaps not, though I’ve gotta say the 3D here is well done. But Guardians of the Galaxy is a great popcorn flick, and I’m a enjoy it with a tubful.