Saturday, August 2, 2014

I saw the Guardians of the Galaxy...

"Guardians of the Galaxy" is the latest Marvel movie adaptation to emerge this summer. It's based a Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning creation, about a group of gallant misfits, who against seemingly insurmountable odds, surprisingly rise to the occasion.

In James "Dawn of the Dead '04" Gunn's film version, the group starts off less than stellar, with its hero stealing an alluring orb, only to learn the item possesses planet-destroying properties. To prevent the orb from getting into the hands of an intergalactic madman, they must try to put personal concerns aside (a difficult task, considering how passionate they are about them) and go on the run.

Gunn and Nicole Pearlman's script ushers in plenty of action, yet brews constant interaction among its leads, making the story both compelling and humorous.

Among the Guardians are Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), ersatz Star-Lord, a sentimental gent of alien descent; Drax (Dave Bautista), a warrior seeking revenge for his family's murder; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an attractive, green assassin; Groot (Vin Diesel), a lanky "Lord of the Rings" Ent-ish entity; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), a mutant critter with human attributes. 

Along for the ride are Yondu (Michael Rooker), a blue rogue who acts as Quill's questionable father figure; Taneleer Tivan, the Collector (Benicio del Toro), an curator of unusual commodities, some even living; Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly), a gracious soldier; Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a tenacious tracker; Nebula (Karen Gillan), a surrogate sister to Gamora, with a pretentious allegiance to Marvel legend, Thanos (Josh Brolin); and of course, the main villain, Ronan, the Accuser (Lee Pace), a frightening Sakaaran leader who agrees to seize the orb in exchange for Thanos' pledge to destroy those he perceives as enemies. 

This collective spree doesn't pretend to be perfect, nor does its members wish to be. However, for all their flaws, they are shrewd enough to draw the line and pick sides. Distinguishing the Guardians from the others is their willingness to go the extra mile to do good, which firmly defines who they are and who we, the audience, can applaud. Their different backgrounds also give the film a "Star Wars"/"Star Trek" feel, demonstrating how those of varied origins can conscientiously coexist. 

Quill is, of course, the yarn's stand-out hero, and a bumbling one at that, but admirable for his ability to lead. In some respects, he comes across as a carefree Han Solo: initially a tad self-centered, but soon seeing the necessity of putting others before himself.

Salanda, previously computerized for "Avatar", presents a similar demeanor. Sporting enticing, old-school make-up, she resembles, for all intents and purposes, a "Star Trek" Orion slave girl, though more inclined to fulfill her mission than indulge in lusty trysts. 

She doesn't immediately warm up to Quill, but eventually recognizes his sincerity: a most important plot turn, for often in these sorts of makeshift groupings, friction can prevail between/among characters to the point of irritation. In Gamora and Quill's case, any burgeoning disrespect is quickly squashed, granting the audience a chance not only to get to know them, but actually to like them.

Cooper's Rocket Raccoon, on the other hand, is the film's crassest and cleverest novelty: an equivalent to the sidekicks of past imagi-movies, like the "Star Wars" droids or "Clash of the Titan'"s Bubo the Owl. However, despite his CGI'd confinement, he emerges far more humanized than cartoonish, and if not for his scrawny form, might be seen as recklessly cavalier and heroic and Quill. Similarly, his interaction with Diesel's protective Groot (who expresses impressive variance through a mere looping salutation) contrasts well with the mutant's cantankerous attitude, thus creating a realistic, affably empathetic banter found in most long-time friendships.

Arguably, Bautista's Drax is as equally endearing: at one moment maddeningly incensed and the next warmly naive, particularly in his misinterpretation of metaphors.

Of those on the "dark side", Pace's Ronan is appropriately intimidating: in many respects, the film equivalent to Darth Maul/Vader, but with greater, misguided zeal. Additionally, Del Toro's Collector enhances the film's sinister angle with weird, serpentine gestures and scrutinizing stares. (Too bad his part wasn't made bigger.) 

By the time "Guardians" concludes, one will have easily embraced its breezy ambiance and quirky characters as one might that of L. Frank Baum. Heck, the movie even shamelessly amps up the fun with  '70s/'80s tunes (courtesy of Quill's deceased mother), but then its overall feel is unquestionably a throwback to productions from that time frame:.Glen Larson's "Battlestar Galactica" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" immediately come to mind, plus "Heavy Metal--the Movie". 

Whether "Guardians" spawns its own franchise or connects with its colorful, cinematic counterparts is yet to be seen, but as it stands, the film has great potential to make a lasting impression on the pop-cultural scene. It's now merely up to the filmmakers and of course, the ticket-buying public to ensure its longevity.

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