“I’m a warrior; an assassin. I don’t dance,” Gamora says to Peter Quill. Quill responds, “Really? Well, on my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It’s called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is.” “Who put the sticks up their butts?” asks Gamora.
Marvel Studios was taking a bit of a gamble with 2011’s Thor, which featured characters that were not of this world (with a good chunk of the story taking place in the realm of Asgard). The critical and box office success of Thor allowed Marvel to further gamble on James Gunn’s latest film, Guardians of the Galaxy (which is set entirely in a different part of the galaxy, except for an Earth-set prologue). Every phase of Marvel films builds up to an Avengers film, and while this one may not be directly linked to next summer’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it is surely connected to the other films overall. A quick summary for Guardians of the Galaxy describing it as the Star Wars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be fairly accurate (and funny once you realize that both Marvel and Star Wars are owned by Disney). I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy at an early Thursday night screening and enjoyed it very much.
2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy centers on a group of intergalactic outlaws (Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax the Destroyer) who band together to stop a renegade Kree named Ronan the Accuser from acquiring an orb that contains a deadly cosmic weapon that could destroy the galaxy. James Gunn was a surprising choice at first to helm this type of film (especially considering his first two films were 2006’s Slither and 2010’s Super). In an odd way, he’s the perfect choice for this film since there are so many strange characters we get to see throughout the film. Gunn, who did a rewrite of Nicole Perlman’s screenplay, gives each of the five protagonists enough room to give us a sufficient amount of backstory and a good idea of who they are. We’re introduced to an ever-expanding Marvel universe with new worlds (including the revelation that there are other human worlds in the universe besides Earth) and various alien species on display. Themes of revenge and redemption are explored, as is the idea of what truly constitutes a family. There is also a ton of humor in the film (I particularly enjoyed the Kevin Bacon and Jackson Pollock jokes).
A terrific cast was assembled for this film: Chris Pratt (as Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (as Gamora), Dave Bautista (as Drax), Bradley Cooper (as the voice of Rocket), Vin Diesel (as Groot), Lee Pace (as Ronan), Karen Gillan (as Nebula), Michael Rooker (as Yondu), John C. Reilly (as Rhomann Dey), Glenn Close (as Nova Prime), Djimon Hounsou (as Korath), Benicio Del Toro (as Taneleer Tivan aka the Collector), and Josh Brolin (as Thanos). Alexis Denisof reprises his role of Thanos’ advisor ‘The Other’ from The Avengers, Gregg Henry appears in the prologue as Quill’s grandfather, and there are vocal cameos from Nathan Fillion (as a prison inmate) and Seth Green (who voices a rather infamous* duck in the post-credits scene). Ben Davis’ cinematography is first-rate, as are the outstanding costume designs by Alexandra Byrne and the massively incredible production design by Charles Wood (my favorite set was the Collector’s archive). The makeup design by Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou should at least warrant an Oscar nomination, as should the stunning visual effects throughout the film (hell, this film should be receiving Oscar nods for virtually every technical category). Tyler Bates contributes a wonderful score that is balanced out with a mix of 1970s and 1980s songs (that appear on Quill’s mix-tape cassette). This is one of the best films of the summer (as well as the year). A clever mix of sci-fi action, humor, and drama that is simply a must-see!
*- infamous thanks to George Lucas back in the 1980s.