The super heroes of Marvel Comics continue to saturate the big screen with new films opening every two or three months. The third offering of this year brings us the sci-fi-action-comedy “Guardians of the Galaxy.” They’re a ragtag bunch of rogues who begrudgingly band together for the greater good and to hopefully begin another Avengers-like franchise. If you can't get enough Marvel non-stop action and don’t mind a skimpy story, this is your movie.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a good little boy who avenges frogs and gets abducted by aliens to become a space pirate with the self-styled moniker Star-Lord. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is a green skinned assassin babe associated with a big baddie called Ronan, curiously played by Lee Pace of TV’s too short-lived “Pushing Daisies.” Rocket (splendidly voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a genetically enhanced raccoon with a chip on his shoulder and an amiable ambulatory tree hybrid sidekick named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel.) The foursome is imprisoned following a street brawl over a stolen orb.
They team up with a big blue dude named Drax (wrestling star Dave Bautista) and break out into a derivative and vague story with elements and images from “Star Wars,” “Independence Day” and fantasy fiction such as “The Lord of the Rings.” Our Millennium Falcon-like crew must then keep a powerful world destroying stone out of the Darth Vader-like hands of Ronan and an even bigger Emperor-like evil entity known as Thanos.
Though a tearful 1988 prologue with Quill as a child kicks things off, the movie quickly moves into comedy. Some of the jokes work, a few are laugh out loud funny, and some fall flat. Pratt competently cracks wise and performs derring-do but lacks that magical charisma that say Bradley Cooper could have brought to Peter Quill. Cooper is sensational with his unrecognizable voicing of Rocket, however, so it’s a tough casting call. Bautista gives a surprisingly superb standout performance that brings subtle humor and gentle warmth to the very literal Drax, the best written character in the film.
The strongest thing “Guardians of the Galaxy” has going for it is its gargantuan and fully realized comic book universe. The screen is filled with vivid colors, deep shadows and dazzling worlds that tell us we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. There’s far more than enough canvas to cover the action painted upon it. If only it had a script to match it.