James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians_of_the_GalaxyIf you’re longing for a superhero/science fiction action-adventure film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Guardians of the Galaxy is it. I’ll readily admit that I’m not terribly enthusiastic about action-adventure films that take themselves without a grain of salt, unless they are such superbly crafted edge-of-seat thrillers that you’re sucked right into them. In this one, director James Gunn has given us one that’s perfect for unwinding after a hard day.

Peter Quill, age 9, is abducted from his home on Earth by a band of interstellar – well, pirates is the only word that fits – known as the Ravagers. Twenty-six years later, Quill (played as an adult by Chris Pratt) has just acquired a particular orb of great value, working under a commission from a man (and I use the term loosely) known as the Broker. Unfortunately, Peter (who styles himself “Star Lord”) is caught in the act. He escapes, but is then accosted by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has been instructed by the Kree warlord Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) to acquire the orb. (Ronan is not really happy about the peace treaty recently signed between Kree and Xandar. He has plans to fix that.) The pair are in turn attacked by Rocket, a genetically modified creature who resembles nothing so much as a Terran raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), who resembles nothing so much as an ambulatory tree. The four are thrown into prison in the Xandarean capital, where they meet Drax (Dave Bautista), who has it in for Ronan. The five then make their escape, pursued by just about everyone.

There are layers of deception here – everyone, it seems, is working for someone else, and no one is interested in actually fulfilling the terms of their various agreements. Quite the opposite, in fact.

As for the comedy – because, make no mistake, this is a comedy — there’s a certain element of slapstick, although the fight scenes (which are superb) are pretty much played straight. But it’s mostly a matter of character and dialogue, a lot of which plays off the fact that the majority of the characters are aliens from widely different cultures.

Peter Quill: [about Gamora] She betrayed Ronan, he’s coming for her. That’s when you… [draws his finger across his throat in a cutthroat gesture]

Drax the Destroyer: …Why would I want to put my finger on his throat?

Peter Quill: No, that’s the symbol for slicing his throat.

Drax the Destroyer: I would not slice his throat, I would cut his head clean off.

This turns into an ongoing gag about metaphors that gets to be pretty funny:

Rocket Raccoon: [about Drax] Metaphors go over his head.

Drax the Destroyer: NOTHING goes over my head!… My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.

A big part of this rests on delivery, and the delivery leaves nothing to be desired. As for the cast, although there’s not a lot of depth possible in the characters, they manage to build enough into their roles that everyone is believable – even Groot.

There are serious passages, but my own reaction was that the general comic tone made them all the more effective.

As I said at the beginning, this one is perfect for a light-hearted end to a hard day – or anytime you just want to laugh without having to think too much.

(Marvel Studios, Marvel Enterprises, Moving Picture Company, dist. by Columbia Pictures [U.S.], 2014) For full credits see IMDb.


Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there. You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.

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