Another “Movie Nite” for my sweetie and I and this time we actually made an evening out for it with a trip to our local cinema to see the latest entry into the Marvel Comics superhero franchise, “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Now… admittedly, and perhaps surprisingly… superhero films aren’t really something this wee Catgirl has ever really liked compared to some of the other fantasy films I usually watch. However, the chance to actually get out to the movies with Carolyn usually means watching something a bit more in line with her tastes compared to an evening in with some of my crazy foreign film choices, so a movie like this one is about the closest we come to satisfying both of us. Hehehe… and in any really good relationship it’s all about finding those areas of common ground… 😉
Our synopsis? How’s this then: “In 1988, following his mother’s death, a young boy is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates. Growing up in the vastness of outer space, some twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan and his army of minions, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits and criminals–Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand–with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.”
Not being a big comic book geek, I honestly didn’t know a thing about these characters, but when my sweet Carolyn said, “Now, honey, I just know you’ll like it… it’s got a killer green assassin woman, a walking talking treeman, and an intelligent smart-ass homicidal gun slinging raccoon in it. Trust me… this is definitely your kind of movie.” Honestly… how do you argue with logic like that? She just knows me too well…. 😉
Mind you… I was a bit worried that this might just be “one of those movies”… you know the ones I’m talkin’ about. The ones that are seemingly made for a very specific fan base of people already fully aware of the characters and the story, that is just soooo darn chocked full of vague references to things they just assume you already know, that for an outsider the whole thing ends up being a fairly incomprehensible plot you just can’t get into. That was definitely something I never enjoy. Add the fact that this was another of those interconnected Marvel Universe things, and I was dreading the notion that it would be chock loaded with cameos from their already existing superheroes from all those other movies that I haven’t watched. I seriously worried I’d be pretty darn lost by the second act… Thankfully… I’m here to say… that’s not the case at all.
We start off with a flashback to the 1980’s where a young boy, Peter Quill, waits in a hospital where his mother is dying of cancer. It’s a miserable unavoidable death that he’s in no way ready for… and when it finally comes, right before his eyes, it proves more than he can stand. Running out of the hospital into the night, his world in shambles, he’s abducted by aliens and carried away to the far reaches of space where ultimately he grows up among those aliens… the Ravagers… to become a smart mouthed loner, part-time pirate, and full time Lothario.
Next… our story gets going some 26 years later in a very “Raiders of the Lost Ark” inspired sequence, as the grown-up Quill, (played by Chris Pratt) travels to the abandoned planet Morag, to hunt through some ruins and recover a valuable artifact… the “Orb”… worth big money to a big time intergalactic fence with an anonymous client anxious to acquire it at any cost. Of course he’s not the only people interested in the Orb, and right after finding it, he runs afoul of a group of vicious mercs lead by Korath (played by Djimon Hounsou), chief henchman to the fanatical Kree renegade warlord, Ronan (played by Lee Pace). There’s a pretty cool chase scene through the storm wracked ruins and surrounding desolate terrain before our hero manages to get to his trusty spaceship and make a quick escape… at least for the moment.
It’s a really neat intro… with our hero listening to his vintage 80’s music on the same Sony Walkman he had with him as a child when he was abducted. The funky 70’s anthem “Come And Get Your Love” a fun contrast to the grim, monster infested ruins he’s boogieing through on his way to find his price… so darn cool and irreverent. And his near capture by the mercs… I loved the whole idea of him giving himself a nickname…”Starlord”…. that absolutely none of his opponents has a clue about, much to his disappointment. And… to top it all off… at the climax of his escape, discovering that he’s come on this deadly treasure hunt all while forgetting that his latest alien bimbo “one-night-stand” is still sleeping away her hangover in his bunk aboard his spaceship. Oops. Yeah… our hero “Starlord”… he’s just that kind of a-hole. 😉
But then pretty much all our heroes in this one are a-holes. It’s just that kind of a story. So if anti-heroes with a heart of gold are your thing, then “Guardians” ought to tickle you just as much as it did me and Carolyn. Oh yes… there are no deep meaningful dramatic sub-plots here. The good guys are… ummm… well… “not-so-good” guys after all. And the villains, well now those guys are some really evil pieces of work. Which in a simple story like this works pretty darn well.
It isn’t long before Starlord figures out that having the Orb is a bad thing. Really bad. Warlord Ronan wants it bad enough to kill anybody he thinks might have it… might lead him to it… or anybody he accidentally runs across while trying to lay his hands on it. That’s a whole lot of people…. It would be nice to have someplace to hide out while the heat is on, but you see… he’s also already double-crossing his space pirate buddies to cut them out of the deal with the fence, leaving him no place to hide and even more enemies to dodge. But hey… it can’t get any worse, right?
Wrong. So… so… wrong. Yeah, see the leader of the Ravagers, Yondu Udonta (played by Michael Rooker) took his betrayal pretty darn badly and put a bounty out on his butt. Naturally that attracts the attentions of two freaky bounty hunters looking to cash in on that potential score. Did I say freaky? Oh yeah. How about a gun totting talking raccoon named Rocket, and his partner, the anthropomorphic treeman Groot? Weird enough?
Ok…Ok… well what if Ronan worked for some crazy super powerful Space God guy? Not just any Space God, but one named Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) with aspirations to destroy the entire Universe? And… what if our Warlord sent the galaxy’s deadliest female assassin, the sexy green Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana) to personally sort out the recovery of the Orb from our hero? So that would be pretty bad? Right? Only one way to make it worse. Have them all find him at exactly the same time and unleash the shitstorm to beat all shitstorms and get them all arrested and sent to prison. Together. Yep… and nothing makes for quality bonding time between folk like some time spent in prison. 😉
Here’s where all the “bonding” takes place… Yep. All our mutually paranoid, distrustful, and sketchy anti-heroes find out that if they are going to escape from that maximum security lockup and ever have any chance of a life where most of the various power players of the known universe don’t all want them dead, they are going to have to put their various grudges behind them and team up to fix things.
Doing that brings them into contact with the last lil’ member of the team, the mountainous Drax (played by WCW wrestler Dave Bautista) a huge hulking tattooed warrior guy who’s been itching to get his hand on sexy Gamora for having killed his wife and child some years earlier… Oh yeah, that’s gonna be a hard grudge to forget…. But then it wouldn’t be much of a story if somehow they didn’t manage it.
So… what in heck is this “Orb” thingee anyways? Ah ha…. apparently that is one of those things linked to all those other Marvel movies of late. The Orb is just some sort of alien “pokeball” made to contain the “Infinity Sphere”, a glowing ball of pure infinite energy that lets a wielder do just about anything… if you are bad-ass enough to actually hold the Sphere without it disintegrating you… like blow up a planet or wipe out the Universe. Sigh…. why couldn’t one of these mega-widgets just end up being the key to World Peace, or at least the cure to male pattern baldness? Life would be so darn much easier. 😉
Why does mysterious goofy Space God Thanos want this thing? Why that whole “destroying the Universe” idea… although exactly why he’d want to do that is pretty vague and unexplored here, especially given our hero, Starlord’s keen observation when asked why the team should even give a crap. “Why should I want to risk certain death to stop the destruction of the entire galaxy? Cause I live there stupid…”
We really don’t have to worry too much about Thanos though… he’s just here to look all ominous and set himself up for whatever Marvel movie he’s going to appear in next. No.. our real villain is Ronan. The Kree Warlord is all ticked at the Nova Corps, some sort of major space empire police force that recently signed a peace treaty with his people the Kree. He’s definitely not the peaceful type and despite that treaty, still wants badly to wipe out the Nova Corps… or at least their homeworld, Xandar. Eventually he gets the Orb… and he’s certainly bad-ass enough to survive touching it… so it isn’t long before our heroes find themselves trying to stop him and his battlecruiser from carrying out his plan to destroy Xandar right at the climax. Do they manage it? Hmmmph… as if you even have to ask… 😉
Movie-wise… how does all this stuff actually play out for the potential viewer? Not too darn bad actually. This one is not ultra realistic hard sci-fi rooted in plausible future tech and real space travel. Nope… this one is “Space Opera”. It’s wild and crazy and filled with plenty of “Flash Gordon” and “Star Wars” plot elements seasoned with more than a big helping of Anime influenced comic book sensibilities. Star travel just works… just don’t ask how… Wanna fight people? Then ray guns and kung fu are the ticket. Aliens? Mostly humans that are funny colored or have some make up plastered on, but there are a surprising number of startling CGI ones too, to mix things up. Ridiculously overpowered individuals who are more than a match for a small army? Hey… C’mon… it’s based on a superhero comic book…
Seriously though, it’s all pretty darn fun for the most part. There’s no deep meaningfully message here, it’s just a bunch of unruly losers doing all the fairly stupid (and usually illegal) stuff all us regular folk only wish we had the guts to do if we weren’t so darn law-abiding and ordinary. It’s a movie where the underdogs have their day, beat the odds, and impossibly come out on top. People always like that. Paint it all in the most colorful and fantastic of broad strokes and it’s hard not to enjoy. Just don’t question the logic and plausibility of any of it…
The acting is fairly good. Chris Pratt manages to tap into his inner “Han Solo” while giving Starlord just enough of a big dose of annoying “Animal House” frat boy to make his Peter Quill exactly that kind of smart-ass loser you’d hate if you actually knew him, but will love as the hapless hero in a story like this. Zoe Saldana…. as Gamora she’s smoldering, exotic, and sexy… she’s green… she’s that violent “Xena, Warrior Princess” femme fatale every story like this needs for it’s potential love interest. Our two CGI characters? Well, Rocket the Raccoon is just about the craziest hard-to-swallow notion in this whole film, and as God is my witness…. somehow it actually works. Our walking talking treeman, Groot? A bit underdeveloped… and definitely the “Chewbacca” character for this story, but despite being more potential than realized idea, is an acceptable addition to the team. Biggest surprise… wrestler Dave Bautista. Sure he’s playing the big muscular hulk, but he does it with a flair throughout that shows there just might be a pretty good actor somewhere under all those muscles. Our villain Ronan? He’s sort of the bastard lovechild of Darth Vader and Conan all rolled into one, and Lee Pace does his level best to make him a credible threat, but somehow he’s just a bit toooo darn cartoonishly evil to be taken seriously. A bit better in the evil department is Gamora’s “sister” the blue alien psychotic badgirl Nebula (played by Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan) but despite the great melodramatic potential of her “sisterly” rivalry with Gamora, pretty much ends up being tragically underutilized this time out.
There’s no faulting the special effects. Space, the final frontier, never managed to look both as raw, gritty, and pretty all at the same time. The action scenes and fight and stunt choreography are top-notch Hollywood at it’s best. The delicate balance of drama and humor are just about right, with just enough of a nod to the Marvel faithful looking to mine this one for connections with all those other films without losing an audience… like a certain wee Catgirl… that really just wanted a gee-whiz old fashioned Space Adventure. Overall I’d say this wasn’t a bad introductory romp for another movie franchise I’d watch a few more of. Both me and my sweetie like this one a lot… and it’s given the cosplay fanatic in me lots and lots of ideas for Halloween futures… and I still have quite a lot of green body paint. Hehehehe…did you hear that, o’ sweet Carolyn? 😉 I therefore give it 4 “Meows” out of 5. Not for being the best film ever made, not for anything other than understanding exactly what it’s job was movie-wise and doing exactly that with every minute of it’s run time. Nowadays that’s a rare thing. Trust this wee lady.
Oooohhh! Did somebody say Trailer? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. Here you go!! 😉