Southeastern Massachusetts is not a hotbed for comic nerdom. In 2013 I attended the 'Avengers' marathon in a packed theater in Chicago, and a few months later attended a "Dark Knight" marathon near my hometown, and there were seven people total.
But there was a strange energy surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy.
I've never seen so many 'admit ones' in my life. We were either all pencil-necked geeks with no life, hoping to get a gleam at Zoe Saldana's perky gamoras, or we believed so hard in the Marvel Cinematic universe, we chose the closest, crappiest theater, one that still had 'Ride Along' standees in the lobby and a "Carnevil" arcade game charging 75 cents...erm, '3 tokens' a play.
And my Thanos, was our faith rewarded. "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is a ribald, silly, and frankly warm space adventure that feels a bit like Star Wars had a baby with a pot brownie.
Our Guardians are Star Lord / Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt who brings a nonchalant but cocksure vibe to the role. There's a lot of Han Solo and Mal from Firefly in his character. Abducted from Earth in the 1980s as an adolescent, his most precious possession is a walkman and tapes of classic pop songs his mother made for him before dying of cancer. In fact, it'd make sense if he modeled most of his adult 'persona' on Solo considering his frame of reference.
There's Rocket Raccoon and Groot, who give off a strange "Of Mice and Men" vibe if Lenny was allowed to be willingly violent and George was...a raccoon. Rocket is great, and Groot steals the show multiple times, yet again adding another notch in Vin Diesel's belt of awesome performances where he has less than a page or two of true dialog (see also: The Iron Giant).
There's Drax, his character reeling from the death of his wife and child, and revenge is on his mind. He also has trouble with metaphor, which results in a bevy of creative one liners and gags. Imagine if Spock had an anger problem and an HGH prescription, and you'll get the idea here.
Zoe Saldana adds green to her color-coded career, after Avatar blue and Star Trek Red, and is a perfectly serviceable straight man to the surrounding cast of crooks, losers, and fauna.
The cast has great chemistry, especially when you consider two of our Guardians are computer generated voodoo. How this group of misfits grows together and eventually fights and cares for one another I'll leave for the movie to explain, but the characters bicker and annoy each other for a majority of the run time, and the antagonism is great fun.
The plot involves all manner of Macguffiny names and objects and characters, but the casual chatter between the characters and rapid fire gags keep everything from feeling self important or exposition heavy. Even if you're not invested in things like the infinity gems, Thanos, or credit cookies, you'll have a great time based how well this cast plays off each other - to the point where you almost bemoan the fact it's an action movie with space battles.
A little thing about action movies; Generally speaking you'll have 2-3 'set pieces' per action flick. Iron Man 1: The escape from prison, the Iron Man flying around taking care of business bit, and then the big fight with Iron Monger. The Incredible Hulk: The fight in the factory, the fight outside of the university, and then the big showdown with Abomination. This is the language of action cinema, and while Marvel is many things, they are not in the business of breaking the mold regarding how action movies are structured and escalate.
James Gunn has his roots in indie cinema, and warps the mold a tad. This is a movie where Star Lord ventures into the bleakness of space to save a character he isn't even sure likes him. A moment ago he was mumbling about Footloose, and now, bathed in the vastness of space, he looks like an actual action movie hero. Interesting is the fact this scene works on an emotional level.
The above scene (and many more) work because the movie is flat-out funny on an interpersonal level. There's gags and pop culture references galore, and it's easier to make you cry for someone after you've laughed with them.
By not taking itself very seriously, and making us laugh so hard, this flick ends up getting you in the feelings quite a few times, mostly because you didn't expect to be got there at all.
You will feel true empathy for Rocket, Groot, Drax, Gamora, and Quill, and will likely relate to them all in personal ways, too. At one time or another, haven't we all felt like an alien amongst our people?
I find myself forgetting that these Marvel movies are for kids. I can't imagine actually being one, and how wide open my mind must be blown.
If I was 10, or 11, or 12, seeing this movie would have been foundational to my personhood. It would be the movie I'd play with friends while running around the back yard, arguing about who got to be Star Lord and wear my dad's leather jacket, tasking the tallest kid to stick some twigs in his hair to be Groot, and arranging the chairs on the front deck like the cock pit of The (Alyssa) Milano.
I'd hate to be JJ Abrams right now, because I think Guardians just out Star Warsed, Star Wars.