This sounds obvious, but it’s nevertheless true; when a movie’s characters are fun to spend time with, its other faults can fall to the wayside. Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest Marvel comic book adaptation, is a prime example. Narratively, the movie isn’t especially smooth and it features a forgettable villain which our heroes gravitate around.
It’s a damn fun time too.
Guardians core group of space-mooks are joy to hang out with, as they meet, banter and grow as a unit together. The most prominent member of the gang is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human taken from Earth in the late 80s whom has become a self-important thief. Calling himself Starlord, Peter tries to find rare goodies from throughout the galaxy and pawn them off to interested bidders. When one of these objects turns out to have quite a few dangerous parties, Peter finds himself a wanted man and having fisticuffs with his future partners. First up is Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the green-skinned warrior, cohort of big bad Ronan and adopted daughter of bigger bad Thanos. Gamora wants Peter’s Macguffin and fights him for it, which is where we meet our two strangest, most lovable members of the bunch; Groot and Rocket.
Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is a giant talking tree being that is quiet and about as innocent as a giant talking tree could be; kind of a teenage Ent. Rocket, Groot’s best friend and bounty hunting partner, is, well, a talking raccoon, or at least something resembling one. Where Groot is the smiling one, Rocket is a sass-talker. He speaks loudly and carries a big gun.
The foursome tussle and all go to jail, where the fifth and final teammate is met; the very literal Drax (Dave Bautista). A mountain of muscle with a deep sense of pride, Drax isn’t quick to catch up on metaphors, claiming in one moment that, “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast.” The gang unite in order to get a big payout from a trusted buyer for the glowing gem they carry, and if they happen to confront Ronan (Lee Pace) along the way, Gamora and Drax will kill the genocidal fellow. Chaos ensues.
Guardians of the Galaxy is fun. It’s actually that simple. The picture is directed by James Gunn (Slither), who co-wrote the script with Nicole Perlman. The dialogue is consistently witty, the core bunch have engaging dynamics with one another and the pace of it all clicks by without missing a beat. Yes, Ronan is a bland antagonist, even as he strikes a menacing presence. He ought to be developed more for the film to have that final punch of a great film. Yet, Gunn and Perlman's scripting of these misfits is aced so supremely that the complaint almost feels like nitpicking. Almost.
Plus, Guardians has its own sense of quirk rooted in Pratt’s character coming from 1980s America. It isn’t merely a rundown of pop-culture references; it’s how they are integrated. It’s hilarious when he tries to breakdown how a current situation as it relates to Footloose, much to the bewilderment of all. Add to that the character’s beloved cassette that his mother passed on of “awesome” songs, which scores the movie with songs by David Bowie and Jackson 5. Each track slides in succinctly to the moment and is a lovely change of pace to the usual brooooooooommmmmm of recent action scores.
There is a looseness to all of it that makes for a more engaging time. Instead of the stoic lead with a random comedic partner or the somber, sometimes all-too-serious of most blockbusters, Guardians feels like a party we've been invited too. Action scenes aren't all life-or-death, though when those are needed Gunn stages them with a lush color palette and an epic scale that refrains from reaching too far.
Most movies are lucky to have two memorable characters; Guardians has five I'd follow nearly anywhere under Gunn and Perlman's control.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens wide all across Seattle Friday.