Guardians of the Galaxy may well be the most fun anyone can have at the cinema this year with its mix of 1980s rock and unbelievable fun. Written and directed by James Gunn, this film delivers across the board in genres that hit all the right marks. The movie is a splendid combination of action, science fiction, adventure and comedy. Gunn proved that he could used comedy in this type of genre before when he wrote and directed the 2006 comedy/horror/science fiction film Slither, starring Nathan Fillion.
Speaking of Fillion, yes he does have a cameo in the film. In the prison section he plays a huge inmate who is set on terrorizing Peter Quill, aka Starlord. Before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you can tell it is Fillion the minute the creature opens its mouth. Another Gunn favorite also has a cameo at the very beginning of the film and that is Gregg Henry. Henry played the mayor in Slither and in this film he plays Quills’ grandfather.
One last mention of this earlier James Gunn project has to do with Michael Rooker. The actor played the alien infected, and morphed, Grant Grant in Slither. Rooker is another obvious favorite of Gunn’s and his cameo, if indeed it can be called that, is huge compared to Fillion’s and Henry’s. This little trio of actors do nothing if not prove that Gunn knows who can deliver when the camera starts rolling. But enough of cameos and other films. It is time to speak of Guardians of the Galaxy, 1980s rock, the unbelievable fun quotient, just how satisfying it is and how the film just gets everything right.
The film starts with a young Peter Quill who is listening to a mixtape of 1980s hits that his dying mother made for him. While he listens to his Walkman, she calls for him and his grandfather takes Peter to see her. As the woman slips away, she asks him to hold her hand. The boy freezes and his mother dies before he can force himself to reach out. The young boy runs out of her room and out of the hospital where, when he throws himself to the ground in grief, he is abducted by a space ship.
Years later Quill shows up on a deserted planet to steal an orb that his abductor/surrogate father, Yondu – played by Michael Rooker as a sort of Merle Dixon type alien scavenger – wants. Yondu is pretty unhappy that Peter has doublecrossed him and promises retribution. Uber villain Ronan – played by Halt and Catch Fire’s Lee Pace, really wants the orb and as a result has a price placed on Quill’s head.
Enter Rocket and Groot “I am Groot.” These two are “bounty hunters.” Rather Rocket the genetically engineered racoon is the bounty hunter and his “muscle” is the tree/plant like Groot. Voiced by Bradley Cooper, Rocket, and Vin Diesel, Groot, these two come very close to stealing this brilliant ensemble film. However, assassin Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), who works for Ronan and “literal” anger management alien Drax (played wonderfully by Dave Bautista) are more than able to keep the pace up with Cooper, Diesel and Pratt when they join the bounty hunters and Quill.
Once these characters get together, the plot shifts gears and the group of ne’er-do-wells decide to help save the galaxy.
The film features the sort of interaction that other movies can never achieve and only hope for. One of the funniest bits in the film deals with the fact that the characters all, to a degree, suffer from taking things too literally. While Drax is the master as this, “Nothing goes over my head, I am too fast,” all of them, with the possible exception of Peter, aka Starlord, have a tendency to sometimes take things too literally.
This small group of “outlaws” band together to help save the Galaxy and on the way they bicker, fight, make fun of one another, and ultimately bond as a team of saviours. Along the way, humor is used regularly and spectacularly. The amount of “laugh out loud” moments are many and it has to be said, Groot has some of the funniest moments in the entire movie with Drax coming a close second and Rocket perhaps tying Drax. Saldana may be classed as third but only in the comedy stakes.
Chris Pratt (Moneyball, Parks and Recreation) is spot on as Peter Quill, “bad man in the making.” Professional wrestler Dave Bautista (Riddick, The Man With the Iron Fists) nails Drax completely and literally. It has to be pointed out that Bautista bears an uncanny resemblance to the late actor Aldo Ray in build, presence and looks. Bradley Cooper knocks it out of the park as Rocket the genetically engineered raccoon with a galaxy sized chip on his little shoulder. Cooper, (Silver Linings Playbook, Hangover, et al) has already proven he can do comedy, but here he has surpassed all his previous performances as the voice of Rocket.
Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek) again proves that not only can she do action, but can also add insane depths to any role she plays. Huge kudos to Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Oculus) who is wildly impressive as Gamora’s rival in the Ronan faction Nebula. Gillan is genuinely scary as the pathological killer who is jealous of Gamora’s skills. Lee Pace is mesmerizing as Ronan, John C. Reilly does what he does best, which is add a crazy amount of normality to this outer space tale with just his voice and rocksteady delivery and Benicio Del Toro reprises his role as The Collector.
Big time brownie points to Glenn Close as Nova Prime and a huge shout out is needed for the delightfully talented Peter Serafinowicz who played Denarian Saal. Fanboys will remember Peter from Shaun of the Dead as the housemate from hell, Pete – “I said, leave him alone, Pete!” And although it was promised that cameos would not be mentioned, Stan Lee must be mentioned as his cameo comes rather early in the film, but, it is there as no Marvel film would be complete without it.
The last thing about the film that needs to be mentioned is Groot. In terms of CG, he is a masterpiece. Even more so as voiced by Vin Diesel, one could even go so far as to say that the creature is adorable. Granted, the range of his lines may not be too much in terms of diversity, but he does prove that delivery may just be everything. Saying any more than that will give too much away from the character’s actions in the movie. Groot provided some of the funniest moments in the film and his interaction with Rocket was just priceless. He also prompted many of the spontaneous “laugh-out-loud” moments.
Guardians of the Galaxy is more than a pastiche of 1980s rock and the most unbelievable fun ever in a movie theatre. It is a film that hits all the right marks. This movie is capable of making the viewer laugh and tear up as well as cry with laughter. Certain members of the audience may feel the need to applaud or cheer, it is that kind of film. Starlord and friends open country wide in cinemas on August 1, 2014. Do not miss this one, it is that good. Warning, if viewers do not immediately feel like watching the film again after the credits finish rolling, they are obviously watching the wrong movie.
By Michael Smith
Regal Cinemas Red Rock Stadium 16 IMAX Movie Theater