“Guardians of the Galaxy” refreshingly brings back a nostalgic old school mix of sci-fi adventure with a hefty dose of comedy. Sure, it’s chock-full of adventure, fighting, and a fair bit of salty language (nudging the film into PG-13 language territory) but its against- the-status-quo quirky sensibility embodies pure summertime fun.
“Guardians” first began as a Marvel comic in 1969, but its second incarnation (seen, in part, in the film) did not appear until 2008. Although the cheeky new lineup was cancelled just two years later (a casualty of the Marvel shake-up following Disney’s acquisition), a “Guardians” movie was soon speedily in the works.
“Guardians” is most certainly an origins story, as all but the most ardent fanboys are unfamiliar with how the offbeat coterie came to be. Chris Pratt stars as 70s rock-loving Peter Quill, who was abducted from Earth at age 8 following his mother’s death, but still retains his Walkman and headphones from 1988. Twenty-six years after his abduction, we find the now-grown and muscle-bound Quill (a.k.a. “Star-Lord”) rockin’ out on an abandoned planet, Morag, searching (very Indiana Jones-style) for an in-demand, mysterious object known as the "Orb.” Quill skips between planets with the help of his very cool, very Han Solo-type speedy ship (which may indeed do the Kessel Run in more than 12 parsecs) to sell his special item of value. But it seems a powerful villain, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), seeks the object’s power, and he dispatches his “favorite” stepdaughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to retrieve the Orb at any cost.
Soon, not only Gamora, but also a genetically and cybernetically-modified raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) as well as a massive tree-like creature named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are in pursuit of Pratt. Soon, the band of misfits meets a humorless Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Together, the uneasy group forms an alliance for survival against the power-hungry, vengeful Ronan, who threatens to destroy billions if he obtains the Orb.
Superficially, “Guardians’” plot might as well as be described as “Avengers”-lite. That is, odd characters band together against a British-sounding baddie to stop his acquisition of an all-powerful stone and destruction of a planet. But, Guardians trades on much more than the limited novelty of its Marvel-sponsored plot. The film’s real appeal is its sense of whimsy and nostalgia, subtly referencing numerous comedic sci-fi films from “Back to the Future” to “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.” Truly, what other superhero-themed blockbuster makes references to Kevin Bacon and John Stamos while using a 70s soundtrack filled with the likes of “Cherry Bomb” and “Hooked on a Feeling?”
Pratt is highly appealing, too, as Quill, the too-cool-for-school outsider who unexpectedly finds that a connection with others (as oddball as they may be) means more than his narcissistic pursuits. Pratt’s comedic timing and swagger almost makes us realize what Bill Murray would have done with a space comedy instead of ghostbusting. Further, Cooper fantastically makes gun-loving, suprisingly inventive Rocket (an eccentric character who could have easily gone horribly wrong) come alive with his East Coast-sounding “vocabulistics.” Stealing the show, though, is plant-like Groot. His character (who only voices the same “I am Groot,” repeatedly) fascinatingly fleshes out to become the sweet, moral center of the tale.
This sci-fi film is, ultimately, a comedy, and its lightness of spirit makes the film seem more like a “PG-10” rather than "13." Be aware, though, language and mild violence may remain issues for consideration for some impressionable younger viewers. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is rated 4+ of 5 stars. It appears the adventure of the summer has arrived.
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