'Guardians of the Galaxy' successfully blasts off into new territory for Marvel

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Rating

4.5 Stars4.5/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:44 AM ET

With all the usual superheroes doing the same old same old for nine movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was getting a little too safe and dangerously repetitive. Guardians of the Galaxy gleefully breaks all the rules. This tenth movie in the Marvel series is not just good, it’s great as it blasts off into new territory with biting satire and radical thinking.

The cosmos will never be the same again. Directed and co-written by break-out filmmaker James Gunn (who gave us the sassy horror comedy Slither), this Marvel superhero movie is based on the 2008 graphic novels by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. They reinvented the characters, and their alien galaxy, after an earlier version was introduced in 1969.

But both versions of the Guardians had remained marginal to Marvel, especially up against the Avengers. Not anymore. Not with a movie this fun and funny, this well-written, well-constructed and well-executed. With its hellbound anti-heroes, Guardians of the Galaxy is even shockingly emotional. Thanks to some backstory moments Gunn layers in without losing his edge, you find yourself caring about these characters and critters, these space-travelling misfits and criminals. And there’s a top notch ‘70s-era soundtrack to boot.

While not immediately, the Guardians are led by a deliciously bonkers Chris Pratt as the orphaned and abducted Earthling Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star-Lord). Arrested for theft of a powerful orb, he is jailed with a green-skinned, yet gorgeous assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a literal-minded, muscle-bound warrior named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a genetically modified, rapscallion raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Rocket’s best buddy, a humanoid plant named Groot (voiced with remarkable vitality by Vin Diesel, especially considering the creature’s limited vocabulary).

Push comes to shove and this motley crew breaks out of prison and begins an uneasy truce that will eventually lead to their superhero status. But, first, there is a galaxy to save from the evil Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), his savage sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillan) and his ally Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou). Meanwhile, Star-Lord also has to outrun his alien abductor and pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker), while the whole gang is still being hunted down by the good guys at Planet Xander, among them the sardonic soldier Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly).

The plot buried in Gunn and Nicole Perlman’s screenplay contains a lot of nonsense and noise about why the villains are evil, why our heroes are criminals and how they all come to a deadly crisis together. Fans of the comics will probably follow this more closely than newcomers, but it does not matter much. The movie works either way because it revels in character development, not plot, and the cheeky tone never lets the action take over even when there is a pitched battle being fought.

The technical standards are up to Marvel standards, except for some shots on Xander that look like a cheesy futuristic painting from Disney’s Epcot Centre. In contrast, the rendering of Rocket and Groot (including some motion capture) is fantastic, making the fantastical seem real, as George Lucas did in his original Star Wars trilogy.

Special credit goes to Benicio del Toro for playing The Collector (another of the film’s secondary characters) with such lethal loopiness, while Josh Brolin is the “uncredited” voice and face of evil warlord Thanos. Both characters provide critical connections to other Marvel movie franchises. Meanwhile, heavy metal filmmaker Rob Zombie does voice work as the navigator for the Ravagers and Stan Lee does his usual cameo, this time as a geriatric Lothario on Xander.

A word on different versions: I recommend seeing this in IMAX 3D. The regular 3D is lame in comparison. Even the normal 2D, with its brighter images, is my second preference. But any way you see it, Guardians of the Galaxy is a cosmic killer – and I cannot wait for the obligatory sequel.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

 


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