When Marvel was making the big announcement of its Phase II of its cinematic universe, the real dark horse on the list was Guardians of the Galaxy. Net to Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy just didn't have the pizzazz. Even over in the comic book world, despite a fairly successful relaunch in the late-2000s, they were still pretty obscure. It didn't seem like an obvious choice for a movie.
But, I was cautiously optimistic. When it comes to comic books, one genre of story that's been around since the beginning is the space opera, going all the way back to comic strips like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The comic book space opera really needs to be on the big screen. We all hoped Green Lantern would do it, but it fizzled out. Could Marvel succeed where DC failed...you know, like they've been doing at the movie theatre for the past 10 years now?
Of course the answer is yes. What makes Guardians of the Galaxy is how it embraces it's oddball concept and just has fun with it. It's funny, it's action-packed, and the music, ye gods, the music. See our hero, Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, was abducted from Earth in the late 1980s and raised by space pirates. One of his last few mementos of Earth is his Walkman, with a mixed tape his mother made for him, containing her favourtie songs. Using this as our springboard, the soundtrack is filled with classic rock and R&B hits from the 60s and 70s. Seeing such music contrasted with vast outer space action...just works.
So, the plot: Peter Quill has gone rogue from the space pirates that raised him to steal a mysterious orb. Upset at being double-crossed, the space pirates put out a bounty on him, leading the bounty hunters Rocket Racoon and Groot, to hunt down Quill. The space pirates were working for the conqueror Ronan the Accuser, so denied of his bounty, Ronan dispatches the assassin Gamora to capture the orb. Their initial skirmish gets them thrown in prison, where we meet the fifth member of our team, Drax. Drax's family was killed by Ronan, so he figures these four might lead him to Ronan where he can get his vengeance. So then, these five disparate characters band together to unlock the secret of the orb and stop Ronan from destroying the galaxy.
During the promotion, of course everyone was raving about Rocket Racoon and Groot. Rocket: an anthropomorphic, machine-gun wielding, violence-loving, wise-ass racoon. And his sidekick, a sentient tree that can only say, "I am Groot." Vin Diesel does the voice of Groot, and even though he only gets to repeat one line over and over again, he makes the most of it. If someone online has taken Groot's heroic, self-sacrificing "We are Groot" and overdubbed it with Diesel's heroic, self-sacrificing "Superman" from "The Iron Giant," I'll be very disappointed.
Of course, the real breakout star was WWE superstar Dave Bautista as Drax. He's able to take this psychopathic killer and just make him so likable. Part of the humour is Drax doesn't understand metaphors, as best summed up in this scene:
Peter: Yeah...metaphors go over his head.
Drax: NOTHING GOES OVER MY HEAD! My reflexes are too quick.
Sadly, though, Gamora gets short shrift, having to be the straight-woman. We don't get to hear much of her story as to why she's decided to betray Ronan and her adopted father/true employer Thanos. Same goes for Nebula, Gamora's sister who's dispatched to kill her when Gamora goes rogue.
I can't help but think how much of this movie got left on the cutting room floor, because so many stars show up in such small roles. John C. Riley, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro...I thought for sure they'd have more do in the film, especially Riley, who was all over the trailers, but he's only got, like, 6 lines!
I don't know what more to say. Marvel's not afraid to have a sense of fun in their superhero films, and Guardians of the Galaxy has fun in spades. Since I don't know what to say, here's dancing baby Groot: