Saturday, August 30, 2014

Where no comic book movie has gone before

(Aug 3, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Grand but grounded, “Guardians of the Galaxy” boldly goes where no comic-book movie has gone before.
Since Marvel Studios promised a shared cinematic universe with 2008’s “Iron Man,” fans eagerly awaited connecting films “Captain America” and “Thor,” whose titular heroes’ adventures culminated in the formation of a superhero team in 2012’s “The Avengers.”

The box-office success has allowed opportunities for expansion and experimentation. On TV, there’s the action series “Agents of SHIELD”; back on the big screen, there’s the wild “Guardians,” about a bunch of space scoundrels who hesitantly change into saviors.

Director and coscreenwriter James Gunn (“Scooby Doo 2,” “Super”) reimagines the team into thugs and lowlifes who initially loathe each other: Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), an Earthling abducted by a UFO when he was a boy; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a deadly huntress; Drax (Dave Bautista), a vengeful strongman; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a smart raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a plant creature.

Being heroes is the last thing on their minds, but the reluctant allies grudgingly work together and organically become a functioning fighting unit out to save the galaxy—mainly because, as Star-Lord points out, they’re some of “the idiots who live in it!”

The Han Solo-esque character fits Pratt like a glove; the actor’s comedic edge is put to great use. He’s über-buff again à la his “Zero Dark Thirty” character, ditching his plump “Parks and Recreation” physique for now. Dashing and ideally flawed, the Walkman-carrying crook Peter Quill/Star-Lord manages to radiate with both roguish charm and everyman fallibility.

But his computer-generated cohorts steal the show sometimes. Rocket and Groot figure in some funny scrapes, unexpectedly warm and human as live-action characters.

Drax, meanwhile, is surprisingly eloquent, and Gamora has compassion, despite being trained in several galactic martial arts by killers.

Their main antagonists are the madman Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and the cyborg Nebula (Karen Gillan). Both actors portray the formidable foes with panache and grit. The latter has less screen time and development, though, but hopefully that will be rectified in future stories. There is already a sequel being planned and Gunn is slated to return as director.

“Guardians” also connects nicely to the bigger picture. Characters last seen in the end-credit extras of “Avengers” and the “Thor” sequel get more screen time here, cementing a more immense mythology with all the cosmic details that it finally explains. And it has been reported that the team will connect with the premier Marvel team in the third “Avengers” movie, many years from now, so things will definitely get bigger.

For now, its retro-mix tape music, quirky humor, dazzling imagery and witty repartee combine into a fun, fearless movie. Space is just the latest frontier for Marvel, and we can’t wait to see what’s next. There’s a surprising—if polarizing—scene after the end credits that matches the strangeness of the film perfectly. 

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