By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I would love for Disney to sign writer/director James Gunn for one of the upcoming Star Wars spin-off movies, but definitely after he works his magic on another Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Disney and Marvel Studios have a talented filmmaker in their employ and I sincerely hope they do not let him go anytime soon.  With this first Guardians film, Gunn pulls off a Marvel miracle. He has made a comic-book inspired, non-superhero space adventure, and, in doing so, has further expanded the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its potential for more creative and visionary films. Now, the general public just has to get on board with this latest Marvel movie and give the studio the money it deserves. If I can help in any possible way by giving this film a favorable review, that is exactly what I intend to do here.  Guardians of the Galaxy is not only inventive and ingenious, it is the most fun at the movies I have had this summer.

Peter Quill, aka Starlord, (Chris Pratt) is the only human member of the Ravagers, a band of space pirates who abduct him from Earth during his childhood. While on a mission to steal a valuable and mysterious orb, Quill decides to betray his abductors and sell the prize on his own.  Furious about the betrayal, the Ravager leader, Yondu (Michael Rooker) puts a bounty on Quill’s head, a bounty that Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and his partner, the humanoid tree creature Groot (Vin Diesel) would be more than happy to collect.  Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), has his sights set on the orb as well and sends his soldier Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to intercept it.  This magical orb has an incredible, destructive power that could lay waste to the galaxy and its worlds as they know it.

Based on the popular comic book series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute treat. Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman have made a fun, thrilling, and often hilarious science fiction comedy that should please not only Marvel and sci fi fans, but fans of movies period. The screenplay not only does an exceptional job of introducing uninitiated audiences (myself included) to this awesome Marvel sub-universe, but it also develops its characters well and intricately fits in with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Gunn definitely has his own style, but it doesn’t differ too much that it doesn’t work with the other MCU films.

It also works well as a stand-alone film, and especially succeeds as a comedy.  The movie does have its gravity and strong conflict, so it isn’t completely light-hearted. Gunn and Perlman make these elements work within a comedy-heavy movie.  The film does have its few not so funny, awkward gags and quips, but these, for some reason, are near the beginning of the film, and never seem to occur again for the rest of the film.  Gunn has such a rich world of lovable characters and he utilizes them well.

The cast assembled offers some splendid performances. Chris Pratt brings his lovable boyish charm to the scoundrel Peter Quill, a very human character in the vein of Han Solo, Captain Kirk, and Mal Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity).  He credibly pulls off his role as a roguish pirate, who can fight if necessary, but can often talk/charm his way out of trouble.  Zoe Saldana brings her natural strength and tenacity to role of Gamora, a warrior working for Ronan with a much more troubled past than Quill.  Wrestler and actor Dave Bautista stars as Drax the Destroyer, another warrior who seeks vengeance against Ronan for the death of his family.  Bautista uses excellent comic timing in the delivery of his lines and definitely fits the role well with his uber-physical presence.

The evil Ronan the Accuser is portrayed by the talented Lee Pace who performs superbly as the sinister and power-hungry villain. The movie also features fun appearances by Benicio Del Toro (Tanleer Tivan, the Collector), John C. Reilly (Rhomann Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime Irani Dael), Sean Gunn (Kraglin), and Michael Rooker (Yondu).  However, the scene stealing performances come from Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel who voice the CGI characters Rocket and Groot.  These hilarious and delightful characters are brought to life with the excellent voice work by Cooper and Diesel.  Although, kudos should also be extended to the effects team who made these character appear real on the screen.

The effects team also offer some exceptional work in making the entire Guardians world look extraordinary and credible.  The screening I attended was not held at an IMAX theater, so I cannot comment how good or bad it looks in that presentation. The Real 3D experience didn’t particularly impress me though.  Regardless of what format one chooses to view this movie, it certainly is a great time at the cinema.  The writing and direction by James Gunn and the superlative work by cast and other crew have made this one of Marvel’s best movies.  I can hardly wait for another Guardians movie and I do hope Gunn gets more exciting offers from other studios. I will be crossing my fingers for a James Gunn directed, Star Wars film also.






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