Friday, August 1, 2014

Blast off with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for sci-fi summer fun

By Steve Crum
While Star Wars creator-director George Lucas borrowed heavily from the 1936 movie serial Flash Gordon, director-screenwriter James Gunn grabs more than just a general concept from Star Wars for Guardians of the Galaxy. Then again, Gunn and co-writer  Nicole Perlman's primary source is the Marvel comic book written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. So credit them for the heavy lifting. 
Guardians is not a clone of Star Wars, but the similarities are abundant, making it almost as compelling and entertaining as its non-credited screen daddy. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy is about the most fun 121 minutes one will spend at the movie theatre this summer. It is the kind of sci-fi movie a parent can take a 6 year-and-older child to see. All will have a great time. 
After all, the honed digital effects are complemented by wildly diverse alien characters, including a talking, blasting raccoon, in a typically cliched, good versus evil plot. Add abundant laughs, heroics to the max, and some very smart dialogue. Much of that clever talk is delivered by central character Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt of TV’s Parks and Recreation), who is kidnapped as a 1988 Earth youngster early in the movie and transported to outer space. Twenty-six years later, he is scrounging around an abandoned planet, still playing the cassette tape of 1980’s music on the Walkman he had with him during his abduction. Music, particularly ‘80s sounds, are paramount to the Guardians’ soundtrack. (Composer Tyler Bates aptly provides the main score.)
A running joke is Quill’s frequent use of euphemisms and metaphors, which virtually every alien, friend or foe, misconstrues for the literal meaning. Quill, it seems, is the only one with any sense of humor. Quill even makes a Kevin Bacon joke, which totally falls on deaf, alien ears. Chris Pratt has admitted that he plays Quill as a combination of Han Solo and Marty McFly. I would add that there is a heap of Luke Skywalker thrown in as well, particularly since Quill has spent most of his child and adult years parentless. It turns out Quill was “adopted” by Yondu (Michael Rooker), leader of a vicious group of space thieves known as the Ravagers. 
Things change for Quill when his looting turns up a glowing, baseball-size, power sphere known as “the orb,” sought after by many but none so intensely as Ronan (Lee Pace) who is acting on orders from supreme Kree leader Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin). They are the very bad guys who want to destroy the peacekeeping efforts of the Nova Corps leader (Glenn Close) to keep peace on Xandar. 
Along the way, Quill organizes one of the oddest super hero squads in movie history: green skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel’s voice), and Rocket, the talking squirrel…er, raccoon. Brad Cooper provides the voice. Together, they are formidable heroes, much like Skywalker, Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3P0  are in Star Wars. There is just no way to avoid the comparison. 
Should I also compare thee prison sequence with the cantina bar bit in Star Wars? Or the Dark Emperor Thanos with Star Wars’ evil emperor? Let me count the ways. 
Formula or not, Guardians of the Galaxy maintains its fresh appeal from opening to end credits. The film greatly benefits from Chris Pratt’s loopy, devil-may-care persona. Add yet another franchise to Marvel’s universe.
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GRADE on A-F Scale: B+

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