Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio Del Toro
And the voice talents of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper
Directed by James Gunn
Despite seeming perhaps convoluted, the overarching premise here is simple -- in outer space, a group of low-level criminals band together to fight a supervillain in hopes of saving their people and making a little money on the side. While we're not reinventing the wheel, a film like this hinges on finding a credible cast of actors to portray an amusing cadre of characters in order to carry the film beyond the average. Guardians succeeds undoubtedly as it's the characters (and the actors portraying them) that elevate this film to something worth watching.
Head of the brigade is Peter Quill -- an Earthling abducted when he was a young boy by a group of space pirates who saw potential in him to carry out various petty criminal acts because of his background. Quill (played amusingly by It Guy of the Moment Chris Pratt) is a ladies' man, a guy's guy, and a self-aware jerk. Having carried out many a petty crime, Quill is being hunted by bounty hunters as the film opens and, this being based on a highly inventive series of comic books, two of those hunters happen to be a small raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a tree-humanoid-type create named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) whose English vocabulary consists only of the sentence "I am Groot." Quite frankly, Rocket and Groot make Guardians of the Galaxy the success it is. Virtually unrecognizable vocally, Cooper's take on Rocket is hilarious giving the genetically engineered raccoon more hutzpah and humorous grit than I ever could have expected. Add to that Diesel's shockingly amazing ability to convey a variety of emotions simply by spouting the words "I am Groot," and the dynamic duo of Rocket and Groot should be formulating their own spin-off as I type this.
Nice turns from Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista round out the ragtag bandits who end up doing battle against the vicious Ronan the Accuser (a virtually unrecognizable Lee Pace) who is attempting to find the Infinity Stone which will give him great power and set him up to handily defeat his foe in Thanos (a cameo turn from Josh Brolin), widely considered to be one of the most powerful men in the universe. With this being an origin story for the Guardians and their universe, it's obvious that set-up was going to be needed for Marvel virgins like myself, but the tensions between Ronan, Thanos, and the Guardians felt a bit underserved here.
Director James Gunn certainly ups the humor quotient in Guardians of the Galaxy to great effect, but the action sequences in the film he also co-wrote feel a bit underdone. Perhaps it's just the silliness of battling in space -- which never feels "real" to me in any film -- but the sense of tension or excitement was never really present for me in any of the flick's action sequences. Ultimately, this is a real shame because Guardians of the Galaxy attempts to be a breath of fresh air in the Marvel Universe. While it certainly succeeds at being different, the potential was there for something better and it doesn't quite achieve it.
The RyMickey Rating: B-