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Guardians of the Galaxy
Review by Drew Bittner
Marvel Studios  
Date: 04 August 2014

Links: IMDB Entry / Official Website /

Abducted from Earth as a boy, Peter Quill is now an outlaw whose latest job lands him in hot water. Finding (and stealing) a mysterious orb puts the Kree Empire and the interstellar Nova Corps on his heels. And when a handful of other disreputable types set their sights on his prize, Quill's going to have to make some friends....

Guardians of the Galaxy
Director:
James Gunn

Writing Credits:
James Gunn ... (written by) and
Nicole Perlman ... (written by)
Dan Abnett ... (comic book) and
Andy Lanning ... (comic book)

Cast:
Chris Pratt / Peter Quill, Star-Lord
Zoe Saldana / Gamora
Dave Bautista / Drax the Destroyer
Vin Diesel / Groot (voice)
Bradley Cooper / Rocket (voice)
Lee Pace / Ronan the Accuser

Guardians of the Galaxy opens with Peter Quill (portrayed as a boy by Wyatt Oleff) taken from Earth shortly after a tragedy that shapes his life in unusual ways. Cut to 25 years later, Quill (Pratt) has become a reckless and cocky outlaw who calls himself "Star-Lord" (but nobody else does). His attitude is there to see when he breaks into a ruined temple, his vintage Walkman (his only keepsake from Earth) blasting '70s tunes while he does a little dance routine.

What he finds is trouble. Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and his minions show up to grab Quill's prize--a silver orb--but he makes a fast escape. It's not fast enough to outrun an interstellar all points bulletin, however, which brings out bounty hunters like Rocket (Cooper) and his partner Groot (Diesel) and assassins like Gamora (Saldana).

The struggle for the orb ends in a fracas that gets all four thrown into a high security prison. Once there, Quill and his co-captives have to face angry convicts, including the muscular and intensely literal Drax the Destroyer (Bautista). Realizing that they cannot get anywhere on their own, much less recover the orb and perhaps realize a huge payday, Quill and others reluctantly band together and make a spectacular prison breakout--precipitated by one of their number jumping the gun as they're discussing the plan.

Once out, they make their way to Knowhere, a strange enclave built inside the decapitated head of a titanic humanoid, where lives the Collector (Benicio Del Toro). He's willing to pay a fortune for it--and the nascent Guardians realize that they have an object with cosmic power tucked inside the orb.

A whole lot of things suddenly make sense to Quill and company.

As the orb is opened, things don't go well amid the Collector's vast and wondrous collection. Needless to say, a business deal is just not going to happen under those circumstances, especially with Kree soldiers working for Ronan the Accuser (Pace) and Gamora's "sister" Nebula (Karen Gillen) also on their trail.

The stakes of this struggle quickly become clear. If Ronan gets his hands on the orb, he'll use what's inside to destroy the Kree's enemies: the Xandarians, who run the Nova Corps. Twelve billion lives (to start) hang in the balance...and suddenly galactic peace hinges upon five unlikely heroes.

As Rocket says, "It's not like I have a long lifespan anyway."

Laden with jokes (including a number of Easter eggs and in-jokes for comics fans), action, adventure, and surprisingly deep characterization, Guardians of the Galaxy proves that Marvel Studios 1) takes risks, 2) believes in its characters, and 3) can make a huge success from the most improbable material. Although the Guardians have been around since the '60s, this version of the team was created in 2008 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; they've enjoyed a great deal of fan buzz and favor, but would that translate to movie success?

Well, a $94 MILLION opening weekend (the biggest for an August release) argues yes.

Deservedly so. Chris Pratt is a wonderful mix of Han Solo, Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China and half a dozen other quippy, smart-alecky action heroes distilled down to their essence. He's smart and funny but he's also more than athletic enough to carry the 'action' half of this equation. More than that, though, Pratt shows Quill's heart in a handful of moments, getting at the core of the character without bogging down what makes him fun and watchable. It's a difficult role but Pratt absolutely nails it.

He's supported by a terrific cast, including Zoe Saldana, whose Gamora is more than just a badass chick with a blade in one hand and a gun in the other; she's got her own agenda and little patience with the "idiots" surrounding her. Even so, she develops a grudging respect for the grungy Quill, which he fully returns.

Vin Diesel got me again. In The Iron Giant, he had me tearing up with two little words. This time it was three. For a guy whose only dialogue is "I am Groot", he conveys worlds of meaning with his voice alone. He isn't alone, though, as Bradley Cooper gives Rocket Raccoon not only a gruff, surly edge but also surprising depth when he opens up at last.

Dave Bautista is the wild card in this mix, providing laughs much as the Hulk did in The Avengers, with his Drax being absurdly literal and unable to grasp metaphors. He's also single-minded and driven by vengeance; his fight with Ronan is one of the action set pieces around which the movie revolves.

Lee Pace (Ronan) is more than up to the challenge. If you only know him from Pushing Daisies, his work as the central bad guy (with Josh Brolin's Thanos looming in the background) will surprise you. He gives Ronan a gravity and menace that make him equal to these five heroes, with a power in his hand to shatter the world. His scene with Quill in the climactic confrontation is a high point for both characters.

James Gunn, who directed and co-wrote (with Nicole Perlman), had been a successful and innovative Hollywood guy who hadn't quite broken big. That's all over now. He's earned his way to the next level of directors, and Marvel will surely make it worth his while to return for Guardians 2 (which was promised in the end credits).

Speaking of end credits, do NOT miss the post-credits scene. It's a shout-out to the Marvel Comics of the 1970s where *anything* could happen...and those who know a bit about comics will die laughing. It might not lead to the next movie--in fact, it certainly won't--but you'll be chuckling about it long after the movie is over.

Highly recommended.

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