Sure, the trailers were promising but could I really get into a movie with a talking raccoon and a walking tree whose dialogue was on loop?
Well, I stand corrected. Getting down to brass tacks, you gotta love a film that praises Kevin Bacon, features a Soviet space dog and might be our last, best hope to remind kids what the hell a cassette tape was.
For the most lighthearted Marvel film, Guardians has a pretty serious opening. It begins with a young Peter Quill in the hospital the day his mother dies of cancer. The movie skips over the grieving part as Quill runs away and is immediately zapped into space.
We then fast forward over two decades later to find Quill (Chris Pratt) snagging an ancient orb and using space lizards as microphones. No word yet on whether that’s animal cruelty. The end credits only promise that no raccoons or tree creatures were harmed making this picture.
From there, all our characters meet up as each tries to steal the orb and sell it to the highest bidder. This is in the back-drop of a rogue alien NGO* trying to use the orb to destroy its former enemy despite a recent peace treaty.
It’s a real contest to see who steals the show the most. Pratt nails his part. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) can do anything Quill can do only backwards and with green skin. Other reviews have said Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) breaks out the most to carry the movie. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) … is Groot (not that that’s a bad thing).
Me? I’d nominate Drax (Dave Bautista) for best character. He delivers some of the film’s best lines with a straight face, has a damn good vocabulary and you’ll never laugh so hard at a bazooka blast than in this movie.
The main villain, Ronan (Lee Pace), is sufficiently sinister and even has a spaceship that matches his costume! Oddly enough, he has a line similar to Ben Kingsley’s in Iron Man 3 (“Some people call me a terrorist…”). Nevertheless, his character isn’t just a tool who’s a walking excuse for a Budweiser plug.
Guardians is the kind of fun sci-fi film I would’ve loved as a kid. The trailers sold us a space comedy with action elements and, by Jove, that’s what we got. That’s a much more accurate selling tactic than when trailers presented Iron Man 3 as a serious flick but gave us a slapdash action-comedy instead.
Geez, when did this review turn into an Iron Man 3 hatefest?
On the negative side, for a film that takes place in the vast frontier of space the two starship battles feel somewhat cramped. The close, zoomed-in shots feel just like the fight scenes in the Bourne Trilogy: tight and hard to follow. Guardians makes up for it with great hand-to-hand fight scenes, though, especially during the prison escape scene.
The final showdown between the Guardians and Ronan was also a little too melodramatic. But being a comic book/sci-fi movie I’ll give it a pass.
Finally, we could’ve used more Djimon Hounsou. Aside from the scene featured in the trailers he only makes one and a half more appearances in the movie. What a waste.
Bottom line: Marvel departs from its established superhero franchises and wins.
*Just in case you didn’t know, NGO stands for non-government organization. My political science major tendencies couldn’t resist.