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|Cinema Signal: Strong appeal for a sci-fi audience that can take a blast of humor with their satire. Go!||MOBILE version ||
"Guardians of the Galaxy"
It's probably safe to say that we've never seen a big (high budget) sci-fi adventure in which the human hero, in his first scene as an adult (following a prologue) crossing a bleak, otherworldly landscape, breaks out in dance to a retro tune ("Come and Get Your Love," Redbone, 1974), on his "Awesome Mix" collection. But, that's how writer-director James Gunn introduces devil-may-care American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, "Her," "Zero Dark Thirty"). It's preparation for some antic levity about good and evil in the galaxies.
With some guidance from "Star Wars," (he could be Han Solo's kid bro') and a concept from "The Avengers," Gunn (with co-writer Nicole Perlman) delivers all the tropes of the genre: a villain jonesing to destroy planets, near death encounters, a blithe ladykiller in the central role, a burgeoning romance shutting down a program to kill, seamless CGI and mass destruction around every corner.
After having been abducted as a child in 1988 from Earth by the evil Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his space pirates and having escaped (26 years later) to planet Morag, Quinn (after his dance) finds and steals a slightly oversized baseball in metallic that looks like it might have secret powers since it's held in spatial suspense through some magic force. Like, it's a key to the control of the universe.
Unfortunately, Quill's nemesis Yondu becomes aware of the theft and puts a bounty out on the opportunistic slacker while Yondu's caped boss, the mighty Ronan (Lee Pace), sends his algae-skinned assassinesse, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, "Avatar"), to recover his property. (Yes, the ball does have immense powers.)
Quinn, realizing the danger facing his world from this madman, straps together a team of animal and humanoid misfits to whom lethal competition or committing instant annihilation is a natural state. The "Avenger" part of the scenario is in how a crew starting out with such enmity eventually transforms itself from mistrust and hair triggers on ray guns to a unified force contending with the big brutes of carnage and ruin. A congenial "Fast and Furious" gang it's not.
This includes Quill being under attack by the beautiful Gamora (the green coating does nothing to hide her essential gorgeousness) while trying to enlist her for the team in Quill's mind whose other recruits include an odd couple of talking, ray gun-packing raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle") partnered with one of the most endearing character inventions we've seen in a while: tree-like, three-word-speaking Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel in a variant on Chewbacca?) and, finally, violent strongman inmate of prison Kyln, Drax.
By taking elements and concepts from a few well chosen predecessor films, Gunn brings forth one of the most entertaining films of the year. The vulgar and quarrelsome lot uniting for a common purpose, coming to realize that Ronan and his evil thugs are their common enemy and cementing themselves into a knockout force with brilliantly inventive characters ripe with laugh lines and action muscle. "The Guardians" is born.
On this planet (light years from Earth and not yet actually discovered), they are the only ones between allowing a mad space villain to use the sphere for spewing destruction and tyranny throughout the planetary systems. What's at stake is the galaxy's survival.
Pratt, who Gunn knew from "Movie 43," could be considered the new boy in town for casting competition in big action roles. Make room, Chrises Hemsworth and Evans, Channing Tatum, Taylor Kitsch, Charlie Hunnam, Tom Cruise, Andrew Garfield, Matt Damon, etc. when leading-man charisma, visible muscle and keen mentality are the requirements.
Casting choices like Lee Pace for his power to be the big man in the room, comes after his driven sales manager, a larger than life presence as Joe MacMillan on TV's computer history lesson, "Halt and Catch Fire." But the role that got him here is more likely his work as the smooth and elegant Thranduil of "The Hobbit's" stunning series, I put Pace in a league with Benedict Cumberbatch for acting octane and can see him, perhaps one day, a latter day Orson Welles (given the right material, which Ronan is not).
Other notable participants include Glenn Close (Nova Prime), John C. Reilly (Corpsman Dey), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector) and Laura Haddock (Meredith Quill).
Mixing the larger picture of keeping the galaxy in one piece with the internecine quarrels of formerly drifting combat comrades becoming a cohesive whole is the key to making this satiric time escapade one futuristic thriller that dispenses with taking itself too seriously. Inventive, stimulating and amazingly jovial, it's a piece of wit that makes its own niche within the genre. This galactic treat is new world. Welcome