Main cast: Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Vin Diesel (Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), John C Reilly (Corpsman Rhomann Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime Irani Rael), and Benicio del Toro (The Collector)
Director: James Gunn
Another month, another movie based on some Marvel super heroes. It looks Mickey Mouse is quite the sweat shop owner when it comes to his acquisition of Marvel Comics, isn’t it? Still, the Marvel hero movies have been pretty decent, although the Captain America franchise is pretty spotty so far. Until Guardians of the Galaxy, that is.
First, the story. Peter Quill was just a boy grieving over his mother’s death when he was kidnapped by mercenary aliens led by Yondu Udonta, who then adopts the boy and raises him to become a wise-cracking pirate and thief codenamed Star-Lord. Star-Lord loves women of all species, money, and music from the 1970s – the last constantly played on his spaceship radio and over his old-fashioned earphones as his way of remembering his mother. When the movie opens, he manages to find a mysterious orb, eluding the angry troops of Ronan the Accuser in the process. He proceeds to double cross his mentor, hoping to sell the orb on his own and pocket the profits.
Ronan the Accuser is a zealot who wishes to avenge his people by waging war on those whom he views as the oppressors of his people. His immediate plan is to use the Orb to cleanse Xandar, a planet, of its inhabitants. He is in an alliance with the villainous titan Thanos, who offers his two adopted daughters Gamora and Nebula to help Ronan out. His plan is currently on ice due to the orb being stolen by Star-Lord, so he sends Gamora to retrieve the Orb by any means necessary. Gamora hates being forced to do mean things under the orders of Ronan and Thanos, however, so she plans to grab the Orb, sell it to the Collector for a lot of money, and use the money to get away from the two men and somehow start a new life on her own terms.
She finds Star-Lord easily enough on Xandar, but their pugilistic foreplay is interrupted by bounty hunters Rocket and Groot. Yondu, you see, has put out a bounty for Star-Lord, and these two want to collect. Soon, all four are tossed into a high-security prison, and they have to work together if they wish to break out. They are joined by Drax the Destroyer, an inmate who wants to kill Thanos and Ronan to avenge his family.
Thus, our ragtag team of five is formed. They don’t fully trust one another yet, but they have to learn to try if they want to survive. Saving the world isn’t on the agenda, but if they have to do it to survive and profit, so be it.
Guardians of the Galaxy is campy and irreverent. I mean, it has a foul-tempered raccoon wielding guns as tall as him, after all. It doesn’t follow faithfully everything about the characters in the comic. The vessel Ship isn’t shown to be sentient, for example, and Gamora’s healing powers are never evident in the movie. Star-Lord’s back story has the whole alien-kills-Mommy angle removed, and he is given a superficial “I miss my mommy, she is my strength” angst to fill up the emotional quota. What this movie offers is basically another serving of the Dirty Dozen against the World scenario.
Well, there are chases, explosions, and lots of one-liners here, making it a standard crowd-pleasing blockbuster flick. The special effects are very nice to look at, and there are many explosions. However, every other super hero movie these days has all those two, so it’s not like this movie is anything special.
Where this movie fumbles is the human and comedy aspects. Previous super hero movies from Marvel have memorable protagonists, or in the case of Thor, villains that are very memorable due to the depths displayed even when the rest of the movie is all about more superficial pleasures like explosions and special effects. Maybe it’s just tough to make five different characters memorable in their own ways, but here, I thought they could at least do more with Star-Lord and Gamora. But no, Star-Lord is defined by his single mother issue, while Gamora is basically Kitana from Mortal Kombat only with green skin. Scratch beneath the surface, and there is nothing else there.
Star-Lord is supposed to be charming, smooth, and conniving. I’m not sure about this Star-Lord, however. Chris Pratt is paid to look hot and flaunt a hotter body, and he obliges to do his best here, but there is something of the way he plays his character that makes Star-Lord seem more smarmy than seductive. Oh, and his dancing – I feel quite embarrassed watching him. Maybe that’s the whole thing, he’s supposed be to funny by being dorky instead of snarky-smooth, and I am missing the point? I don’t find him as much of a smooth player as I’d hoped he’d be, and that’s disappointing, to say the least.
Zoe Saldana can carry an action chick role pretty well, but the script doesn’t let Gamora do much ass-busting. She has her obligatory chick-on-chick fight (with her adopted sister Nebula) but even then, the jury is still out as to whether she’d won that one. Her only success is to take down some anonymous mooks. Pit her against Star-Lord or anything else that is played by someone listed in the main credits, and she fumbles. Gamora isn’t that action chick as much as she is the token female and, thus, the love interest of the team leader, and that’s disappointing too.
The plot also makes the main characters dumb despite them being touted as smart and cunning. A villain bent on genocide is determined to retrieve the Orb at all costs… and Gamora is shocked when they finally have evidence that it contains enough powers to wipe out a planet. Won’t someone smart make that connection a long time ago? Hello, Star-Lord, aren’t you supposed to be the smart one too?
Rocket is fun, and there are amusing cameos that are actually pretty clever homages to pop cultures associated with Disney and Marvel, but on the whole, Guardians of the Galaxy is far more of a brainless action flick than I’d have liked. It lacks a strong emotional core underneath all the flashy special effects, and at the end of the day, it’s just another loud and fast dumb movie. It’s a shame. I actually like Star-Lord plenty as a comic book character, and I feel that the fellow deserves a better movie vehicle than this one.