So. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. What do you say about the perfect summer blockbuster—other than, you know, “It’s perfect.”
Well, here’s the thing: I thought Marvel Studios would have a tough time topping Captain America: The Winter Soldier; it was, for me, easily the best of the Avengers-related films, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a movie based on one of Marvel’s second- or third-tier properties. Still, the trailers were promising—in terms of action, humor, and sci-fi goodness, so why not, eh?
Turns out, I’m not sure if Guardians topped Cap, but it sure as heck equaled it. These days, it’s rare for me to exit a theater wanting to turn around and go back in for the next showing. I had a similar feeling when I first saw Star Wars in 1977 and Superman in 1978 at the ripe old ages of 11 and 12, respectively.
The Guardians are Star-Lord, a smart-mouthed rogue named Peter Quill with an abiding love for ’70s and ’80s pop classics; Gamora, a living weapon who also happens to be one of the adoptive daughters of Thanos, a death-obsessed god bent on conquering the universe; Drax the Destroyer, a super-strong, intricately tattooed alien seeking to avenge the murder of his family by the villain of the piece, Ronan the Accuser; Rocket, a genetically and cybernetically enhanced, um, raccoon with a gift for manipulating technology and a bad attitude; and Groot, a seemingly sweet, monosyllabic tree creature who is loyal to Rocket. Quite a list, I know, and because they are such characters, the plot that brings them together is fairly simple: everyone wants a mysterious orb—some for money, others for the unimaginable power it allegedly holds. Oh, and did I mention that the fate of the planet Xindar hangs in balance, dependent upon who ends up with the aforementioned orb?
What director and co-writer Gunn brings to this concoction is a real sense of wahoo, hold-onto-your-hats, go-for-it gusto—not unlike George Lucas brought to the first film in his Star Wars saga. In fact, it’s a lot like that scene of Han Solo running through the hallway of the Death Star, screaming and firing his blaster and hoping everything comes out okay. Everyone in the universe seems to speak English—except for Groot? Who cares?!? Quill uses cassette tape technology in the far reaches of the galaxy—and still has a fully functional Walkman? So what?!? Outside of an appearance by Thanos, who showed up in a mid-credits stinger at the end of Avengers, there’s no real connection to the other Marvel films? Big deal! Guardians has an internal logic that completely works, a sense of humor that welcomes film-goers—especially those unfamiliar with the comics (and that’s almost everybody)—into Gunn’s vision of the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, and a devotion to character development that gives a straight-forward story depth and complexity.
Again, think Star Wars, but not your daddy’s Star Wars. This is its own thing.
Backlog Priority: 10/10. Get to your local multiplex ASAP.