ByJames M. Tate, writer at
Top Shark Cinema Writer at and Now a Movie Pilot Remora...
James M. Tate

After enough heavy plots ranging from political thrillers to Shakespearean tragedies, Marvel has made a comic book movie that actually seems like a comic book...

Within a vibrant and extremely unique universe, including an outpost created from the enormous skull of a dead alien, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY remains planted into Earth’s pop culture, with a collection of tunes you’d hear in a Quentin Tarantino flick…

That’s because the lead character, Peter Quill, played by a perpetually sarcastic Chris Pratt, is from 1980's Earth, initially abducted by aliens after his mother died of cancer: an unexplained, melodramatic prelude quickly forgotten as our reluctant hero struts across a distant planet’s terrain, grooving with headphones on…

But soon enough he’s part of a dangerous mission having to do with an orb that can destroy everything. Like the Pandora’s box in KISS ME DEADLY, this isn’t something to mess around with. And like that particular McGuffin (a device that moves the plot), everyone wants to get his or her or its hands on the thing.

Besides Quill, the eclectic group of lovable lawbreakers include the tree creature, Groot; Rocket the Raccoon; the muscular straight-talking Drax; and the beautiful, resilient Gamora, whose relation with Thanos – the villain in the upcoming AVENGERS sequel – is important to the story but difficult to follow at times, seeming more catered to future installments than this particular episode.

As for how a talking raccoon can fit within the Marvel movie canon… The character works and he doesn’t. In one aspect, especially with a looming sidekick that only he can understand, Rocket is a Han Solo type, providing slick bouts of daring-do action and world-weary humor. Then again, the womanizing Quill has a similar maverick persona with an equal amount of caustic barbs. So basically, if the Raccoon weren’t around, Chris Pratt would have a dozen more one-liners. And with a massive bodyguard like Drax, is Groot really needed?

All that aside, much of the story centers on the gang landing in an out of trouble: from escaping prison to eventually taking part in a collective laser-blasting spaceship battle. And the music isn’t the only nostalgic touch… The special effects have an old school quality, seeming more like grungy models of the original STAR WARS “used future” than glossy computer animation.

Whether the aesthetic homage is intentional or coincidental, the key to enjoying GUARDIANS is not taking the characters as seriously as they often take themselves. In fact there are a handful of scenes where a cliché villainous lecture is interrupted by a rowdy burst of gunfire… allowing our heroes to escape a close call while keeping this particular GALAXY from being too corny, something that (like the guest cameo after the end credits roll) could have easily turned an enjoyable adventure into a real howler.

By James M. Tate


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