Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

One of the early images is that of a woman who is most likely dying of cancer. She's pale white, skinny, frail and with a smooth, bald head. She looked like Ilia, the alien navigator from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). One of the final images is of a wild, kinetic and massive dogfight where one-man spaceships are attacking a larger spaceship intent on taking it totally down. It reminded me of the climactic battle at the end of Star Wars (1977). There's no question, therefore, of where this movie's influences lie and ultimately where this movie lies.

When it comes to climactic battles involving taking down a large spaceship, Marvel Studios did that a few months ago, somewhat, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That movie was more self-serious. This film is more of a comedy. Yes, it shares a lot of its DNA with Star Wars, but, given its level of humor, co-writer and director James Gunn has placed this film somewhere between George Lucas' very first action-adventure and Mel Brooks' spoof Spaceballs (1987).

Yet, Gunn does a good job of balancing things, so that you're not laughing at it in a dismissive way, which isn't easy when two of your main characters is a talking raccoon named Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, and the other is a walking-and-talking tree named Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel.

Prior to the start of the film, a trailer for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies played. Zoe Saldana co-stars in this film. Saldana is well-known from James Cameron's Avatar. With all these things in front of us, we're prime to accept Rocket and Groot. It helps that Chris Pratt takes the piss out of Rocket and Groot early on.

Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty and Her) plays Peter Jason Quill aka Star-Lord, a member of the Ravagers, a group of space pirates. Star-Lord was born on Earth and lived there until 1988 until he was abducted by the Ravagers, whisked to the Andromeda Galaxy and recruited into becoming one of them. We assume this of course because it's not actually shown to us.

Star-Lord is the character that starts and ends the film, and supposedly he's the leader of the so-called Guardians of the Galaxy, but oddly enough Star-Lord is the character for which I cared the least.

Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the mercenary who starts out on the villain's side but who comes over to Star-Lord's side isn't a character who drew my attention very much either. She's certainly more interesting than Star-Lord but not by much.

No, the characters that drew my attention are Rocket and Drax the Destroyer. Cooper's wise-cracks, asides and selfish / mischievous attitude that imbues Rocket are entertaining. Rocket's character-arc is probably the longest of anyone's here. The CGI and rendering for the character was also great.

Dave Bautista plays Drax. Bautista is probably best known for his role in WWE as a reigning World Heavyweight Champion. He's Filipino-American. He's 45, yet he's six-foot-six and nearly 300-pounds of pure muscle. He might be assumed to be another WWE beefcake who is just a glorified stuntman, but Bautista is beautiful. He's well suited in this role and I was more emotionally attached to him than anyone else.

Groot is basically the Chewbacca character. Vin Diesel is wasted as Groot's voice. The beauty and wonder is all in the animation, but I found myself enjoying that animation just as much as anything Chewbacca ever did. Groot is simply wonderfully realized.

Unfortunately, Lee Pace who plays the main villain named Ronan isn't as wonderfully realized. Ostensibly, he's the Darth Vader of this story, but at no point was I as terrified of him as I was of Darth Vader.

I did appreciate all the smaller roles and cameos here. Michael Rooker as Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers was fun. John C. Reilly as Dey and Glenn Close as Nova Prime have a hilarious little scene together. Benicio del Toro as The Collector was weird, but it was great to see Emmett Scanlan in a few scenes.

Scanlan is an amazing and very sexy, Irish actor who British audiences would know from his TV appearances across the pond. He recently had a supporting role in The Fall opposite Gillian Anderson, but he's best recognized as playing the gay villain on the series Hollyoaks.

Scanlan's character was eventually eliminated from Hollyoaks by being sent to prison. It's ironic that in this movie he plays a prison guard at The Kyln, the place where the Guardians of the Galaxy are sent after they're arrested on Xandar, the equivalent of Coruscant from Stars Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Obviously, this movie is better than that prequel. This in many ways is what Lucas' prequels should have been. James Gunn succeeds where Lucas fumbled, though it's not as good as Joss Whedon's Marvel's The Avengers, but it's a darn good companion piece and a satisfying setup for Whedon's follow-up next year.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 1 min.

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