Less serious and more funny, this Marvel film has its pleasures as well as its padded excesses. Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in too many junkyard and rusty steel sets, although there are some brief splendid backdrops. There is an intergalactic chase for a very valuable orb, worth a lot of money, but it turns out to be the kind of thing to wipe out an entire race. Or destroy the galaxy. Whatever. It’s an arbitrary plot. The purest compliment I have is for Chris Pratt (“The Lego Movie” main character voice), a chilled-out comic actor who also seems to have put on a lot of brawn for a big-time tentpole movie like this one. He’s as terrific as the 1980’s mixed jams tape that he carries around with him.
Pratt is Peter Quill, also Star-Lord, and he’s basically a recycled Han Solo characterization. However, Quill is much easier to get along with than the grumpy Han Solo. He befriends Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), a tree creature called Groot (Vin Diesel), the destructive muscle man Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and green-skinned mercenary Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who he has a crush for. They end up in space jail and then break out of it, meet some evil-doer megalomaniacs, Taneleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro) and Ronan (Lee Pace) among them who they make the mistake of doing business with and decide to fight and protect the orb.
“Galaxy” is more watchable than other recent Marvel adventures, it certainly is joshy and loony. But even a day after I saw it I can’t remember all the sort of details that kids can recite at heart – I guess I’m just too much of an art house film guy with too many other things on my mind. What I can generously say is James Gunn (“Slither”) makes an impressionable leap to big-time blockbuster filmmaking, with camerawork more rhythmic than his Marvel director contemporaries. But the plot is drivel, the sets dank. The most pristine city in the film undergoes big explosions in the obligatory climax, but the whizzing fighter planes are fun to look at. Pratt lifts up the entire film on his shoulders and as long as he comes back again, he will make blockbuster tentpoles like this one infinitely more watchable.
Note: This review has come very late, six weeks after its release and after it has become the biggest box office hit of the year. There is no reason to say this isn’t a good crowd-pleaser for those who have thoroughly enjoyed and embraced it. I suggest merely it’s more useful for those few who haven’t seen it, and have been on the fence of whether to go or not.
122 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION & ADVENTURE / SUPERHERO / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Star Wars” (1977); “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” (1984); “Howard the Duck” (1986); “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005).