I suppose I’m more of a science fiction geek than I presumed. I may not be familiar with every season and cast of “Star Trek”, and I may never (mark my words, Jared Rauh) watch “Battlestar Galactica”, even if held at gunpoint, but young Chris played and watched a lot of Star Wars. “Star Wars: A New Hope” is hailed for it’s near-perfect storytelling structure, as well as being one of the first successful futuristic western tales ever told. Throw the plot aside however, and you are left with an expanded universe of books, video games, and a Christmas special.
Outside of “Star Wars” are still countless many, many, many sci-fi universes with their own alien races, their own unique lore, and their own iconic science fiction story. I saw Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” at a neat little theater that caters their previews and proceedings to the film that is playing. For example, we saw many silly raccoon youtube videos, and old TBS ads for subpar “Star Wars” knockoffs.
I go down this rabbit trail because the best thing about director James Gunn’s approach to this more recent Marvel comic adaptation is commendable. Gunn is obviously aware of the many hundreds of science fiction films, books, and games that have come before “Guardians” and despite a few clearly studio-imposed sequences to drive on the “Avengers” cinematic universe, Gunn has put together probably the most fun and self-aware summer blockbuster of the year thus far.
Chris Pratt leads the motley crew as Starlord, or a Han Solo jr. of sorts. It’s an origins film, no doubt, but Gunn finds a method to use each actor/actress in a wonderful way. Zoe Saldana continues her sci-fi streak, but now she’s green, rather than blue. Wrestler Dave Bautista, who’s acted in lost cinema gems like “Riddick” and “The Man with the Iron Fists”, is actually very funny here. We recognize he’s an oversized muscle man, and he does too. Vin Diesel, who is also the Riddick persona in the other franchise, plays the unforgettable tree-man Groot, of whose only lines are “I am Groot,” “I am Groot,” and the more emotional, “I am Groot”. Bradley Cooper plays a kind of Han Solo to Groot’s Chewbacca, as Rocket the Raccoon; although he wouldn’t want you to call him that. The two communicate with one another in a way only buddy-buddies can.
Of course, there are plenty of other great cameos here, like Benicio Del Toro as the eccentric Collector, or Michael Rooker from “The Walking Dead” as a blue sort of redneck, spacebilly, bounty hunter.
While these characters are all unique, and we don’t really know anything more about the “Avengers 2” villain, Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, the brilliance of “Guardians of the Galaxy” lies in recognizing its roots and the cinematic moments that came before it. I should probably mention the great 70s, 80s soundtrack that makes for an awesome mix with space warfare.
We’ve heard of the villain who wants all-destructive power to annihilate entire civilizations before, yet “Guardians” somehow attacks its villains head on in a refreshing, new way. Starlord is kind of revolting, but he has a big heart, and even though he’s super dorky, we certainly adore his leadership style, don’t we?
“Guardians” is undeniably funny, witty, and blunt. It’s at points not what you would show for a saturday movie night at your youth group, but it’s incredibly well-written, and shows you don’t need to be Iron Man or Spiderman in order to be a great superhero blockbuster film.