Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie for a rainy summer afternoon. If you’ve seen the ads and the trailers and never read the comics, you will be excused for thinking that this flick is a colorful space opera starring a green chick, a blueish grey guy with a bunch of tattoos, a semi-boring white guy, a talking raccoon and a tree guy.
Well, it is a colorful space opera starring a green chick, a blueish grey guy with a bunch of tattoos, a semi-boring white guy, a talking raccoon and a tree guy. And it’s actually pretty darn good, with flavors of both the original Jim Starlin comics and the classic vision of Jack Kirby, hints of Blade Runner and a strong taste of Indiana Jones, and even a whiff of the better parts of Star Wars. It’s also a knockabout friendship comedy and an exploding helicopter movie, and I sincerely hope the space opera stuff is comedic as well because some of the lines, particularly those toward the end go through corny and straight into schlocky if we are expected to take them seriously. (Why I have no trouble taking Iron Man and Captain America seriously on screen but draw the line at Glenn Close in a cameo as a dignified political leader ruling over a peaceful multicolored people on the Official Jack Kirby Utopia Planet, I have no idea, but as long as I can treat it as a comedy, I’m cool with it.)
The other thing you think you may know about Guardians of the Galaxy from the ads and the trailers is that it is all about the way cool 70s pop songs. You’d be right there too. These songs are involved in the plot in several places and they are both the semi-boring white guy’s internal soundtrack and the actual soundtrack of the film. The integration of the music into the story is actually one of the most interesting things about this movie. As for how way cool the way cool 70s pop songs are, well, I will need to buy an iTunes card this week because that download just about tapped me out.
The rest is under a click just in case. But, really, this is purely a style movie, gorgeous to look at and just for fun, so a few comments about plot and performances shouldn’t spoil it too badly.
A quick look at the cast of the Guardians of the Galaxy in arbitrary list order:
- The Green Chick, played by Zoe Saldana, who seems to be making a specialty of playing intelligent, powerful and sensible women with exotic skin colors, and playing them well. It would be slightly vulgar to include reboot Uhura on that list.
- The Blueish Grey Guy with a Bunch of Tattoos, played by pro wrestler Dave Bautista, who turns in an interesting performance. His character has more of an arc than the others; he learns and grows, and is by turns funny, touching, and admirable. Well done.
- The Semi-Boring White Guy, played by Chris Pratt, is actually the Pretty Boring White Guy, in that he is a pretty in a very boring way and also pretty boring. I heard considerable praise for his performance in this role and I was disappointed. There is nothing wrong with the writing and the character has a vaguely interesting backstory and some good lines, but there is nothing Pratt does with it that adds any depth or nuance, or even sexiness. Any of a number of more or less interchangeable young Hollywood pretty boy actors could have been cast in the part without changing the movie one bit. A young Harrison Ford he is not, and comparisons with Robert Downey Junior are laughable.
- The Talking Raccoon, voiced and acted by Bradley Cooper, is just terrific, really shockingly good. Completely convincing, completely believable, with that touching bit of pathos that is inherently part of the self-aware talking animal, Rocket is a triumph of design, execution and performance. He’s the breakout action hero in this film. I am normally not a fan of Bradley Cooper for a variety of reasons that are not relevant here, but in this role he is excellent.
- The Tree Guy steals the show. Everybody loves Groot. And no actor ever had more fun with one line than Vin Diesel does with “I am Groot!”
An equally quick look at the plot and some other points:
- If I have to see one more Marvel movie plot reach its climax with a horribly long, drawn out battle featuring a large flying vehicle falling very, very, very slowly, I am going to … complain about it in this blog.
- Also, intercutting a large scale mass battle with a personally significant individual combat taking place at the same time has been done. It has been done many times. Stop it.
- It is no longer necessary to add a female “bad guy” just so that the female “good guy” combat monster has somebody to beat up. This is the modern world and people of all genders can beat each other up in action movies without having to be matched up precisely.
- Lee Pace is wasted here. He is quite a good genre movie actor (I like him very much as Thranduil in the Hobbit movies), but the villainous Kree baddie is such a big nothing that any reasonable tall extra could play the part. Put on costume, wave hammer weapon, threaten, bluster, glare while wearing purple contact lenses.
- I know Jim Starlin was the driving force behind the original comics series, but I see a lot of Jack Kirby in the major design work, particularly the floating galactic head. I loved the floating galactic head.
- Benicio Del Toro as the Collector is marvelous and his collection is genuinely creepy. And please, please, stay in your seat through the credits… the bonus scene is well worth seeing.