When you’ve been writing a space opera for nearly two years and you go see Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s easy to feel inadequate. Sure, what I’m working on is a novel and Guardians is a movie so I really shouldn’t compare the two, but this stuff is nothing short of bad ass. Imagine my envy when I saw the bad ass spacecrafts, the bad ass bad guys, and the bad ass set designs. To see Knowhere on film is truly something that’s… well, bad ass.
Director James Gunn has what’s gotta be the oddest filmmaking spread. He wrote the best ever Troma movie and it’s my opinion he just directed the best ever Marvel movie.
I wondered why the star of Gunn’s horror-comedy Slither didn’t make an appearance. I’ll be damned if I didn’t find out later that Nathan Fillion did show up. Like Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Josh Brolin, you’re just not going to recognize him. The practice of getting name-brand stars and hiding them so deeply beneath makeup and CGI doesn’t sound like a very good idea, but it seems Gunn is more interested in their talents than their faces. Even though I know Cooper is Rocket Raccoon, I still don’t recognize the voice. But I recognize good acting when I see it so I can see why these roles, though excellent disguises, appealed to their stars.
The film opens in 1988 with the death of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill’s mother. Many of you will think you’re in for another drawn-out origin story, but this one has a pleasant surprise. No more than three or four minutes into it, Peter is abducted by an otherworldly ship. Fast-forward to the present and we find him bopping out to his mother’s Walkman while kicking rodent-like reptiles left and right. I haven’t watched Parks and Recreation and I can’t recall having ever seen Chris Pratt in anything else, but I believe we have one of the most likable movie stars since Tom Hanks’ rise to fame. And this guy has a six-pack on top of everything else.
Soon he meets Zoe Saldana (playing Thanos’s adopted daughter, Gamora), an actress I’ve admired from the beginning, but I just like her more and more. Here she’s the toughest of the bunch and believably so, even when she’s sharing screentime with mixed martial artist Dave Bautista. I’ve always had an odd attraction to green alien women and I hope the success of this character convinces someone in Hollywood to greenlight a She-Hulk standalone. For far too long, little girls have had few characters to look up to outside of princesses, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quickly changing that. Why not add Jennifer Walters, lawyer/superhero extraordinaire, to the mix? I know it’s hard to find directors as creative as Gunn, which is all the more reason to hate the recent firing of Edgar Wright, but somebody out there must have the talent to make a believable She-Hulk film, right?
And speaking of Dave Bautista, here’s another rising star I’ve never seen before. The guy looks bigger than Schwarzenegger, but he’s just as charismatic. His comedic timing is excellent, too. He gets the biggest laugh in the movie. The only thing that made me feel uneasy about going into it was how Rocket and Groot would translate to film. Well, they come out marvelously. I also had no idea the severely likable character actor Michael Rooker was in the film and he might very well be my favorite cast member. And holy shit, this is a really great cast.
At the end of the day, Guardians just wants to entertain the hell out of you and I’ve seen very few pictures that do it so well. Flaws? I’m sure it’s got ’em, but it just pushes you so hard into the creative, nonstop action you don’t even want to stop to take notice. I’ve read exactly two of the GOTG comics in my life so I was never distracted by such silly questions like, “Oh, why is she dressed like that?” or “Why doesn’t he have his helmet?” I just walked in, ate my popcorn, and enjoyed it without having to worry about nitpicking Hollywood’s take on it all.
The most sensitive of parents might take issue with the language as it goes a bit farther than most Marvel films. Having said that, I have a feeling most kids who see it are going to be much more engaged by it than the recent Turtle flick. I guarantee you most of them will be able to remember the names of all the principal characters, much the same way every character remembers who Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 are. In the Venn diagram of “child-safe” movie and smart movies, the overlap is very small, but Guardians lands smack dab in the middle. Lighten up—your kids really aren’t going to get that Jackson Pollock line unless you make a big stink over it.
I love this movie. It is so, so refreshing. I honestly can’t wait to see more. I’ve heard of the Avatar blues, but damn it, I’ve got the Knowhere blues. That place was so cool, so bad ass. And that end credit sequence. Holy shit, James Gunn is out of his mind. And bad ass. Don’t forget bad ass. May he forever drown in the riches.