‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin and Lee Pace
Running time: 121 minutes
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Bottomline: Purely entertaining
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is the most purely entertaining movie of the summer. It isn’t even a contest.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” strung together a sprawling yarn which smartly steered the franchise toward new possibilities. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” used next-level motion capture techniques to offer stunning character complexity for a movie about apes. Both are highly sophisticated as tentpole releases go.
But “Guardians of the Galaxy” is sheer hedonism. It’s a laugh-per-minute spectacle that never takes itself seriously yet takes us on an escapist jaunt through a bizarre science-fiction universe.
In those ways, it is a quintessential summer movie. Forget about your cares, munch on popcorn and just enjoy.
“Guardians” is also the anti-Avengers.
We’ve come to expect earnest heroism and myth-building from the Avengers movies. “Guardians” indulges in almost none of that.
The Guardians are not superheroes. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is hyper-athletic, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are very strong, and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is highly intelligent. But none possesses superpowers. These characters are a band of outlaws and misfits.
Gamora is an assassin on the run from her adoptive father, the supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin). Drax is a mountain of a man with no sense of irony bent on avenging his murdered family. Rocket is a raccoon who was given human intelligence when he was subjected to experiments and is now a career criminal. Groot is a tree with a limited vocabulary.
They are led by Earth-born Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an average dude — and therefore a perfect role for Pratt — who makes a living selling recovered artifacts and gets out of scrapes using his charm and wits. And he really, really would like you to call him Star-Lord.
The Guardians screw up half of the time and bicker constantly, and hilariously, over petty things. And every time the story builds toward a rousing speech or the type of sanctimonious hero worship that has come to define the Avengers movies, one of the characters undercuts it with a sarcastic joke.
Most important, the Guardians are flawed. The movie might be a tough sell because many will be turned off by how strange the characters seem to be. “You want me to watch a movie about a green girl, a talking raccoon and a tree?”
Trust me, these characters are more human and relatable than any of the Avengers.
And they fight a genuinely scary villain, Ronan (Lee Pace), who is backed by Thanos and the ruthless Nebula, played by an unrecognizable Karen Gillan.
Peter and the others become the Guardians reluctantly and only due to circumstance. They’ve stolen something and made Ronan very angry. Each character is looking out for himself or herself yet ultimately can’t look the other way when Ronan threatens the entire galaxy.
“Guardians” is a very important movie for Marvel/Disney. Marvel and its monopolistic parent company have dominated the box office the past few years, but the Avengers phase of the studio’s plans is reaching its expiration date.
We’re done with solo Iron Man movies starring Robert Downey Jr., and we’ll see one more Thor and Captain America movie each. There will be two more “Avengers” movies, but Marvel needs to bring a new set of characters into the moviegoing consciousness, and “Guardians” is part of that plan. It is an especially important part, since “Ant-Man” has become a disaster before production has even started.
You need to know only three things about “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
First, parents should be aware the language is a bit rough at times. Second and with apologies to all of the Avengers, “Guardians” is the best Marvel movie so far. Third, prepare to see the movie twice, because the first time you’ll miss some of the jokes. You won’t be able to hear them over your own laughing.
Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.