“Why would you want to save the Galaxy?” asks Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a wise-ass, bounty hunter and talking raccoon. “Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it,” yells Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a smart aleck, small-time thief who’s just about to become one of the galaxy’s new heroes in the sci-fi action comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Originally from Earth, young Quill gets abducted by space pirates right after losing his mother to cancer (talk about a bad day) and grows up to become a space outlaw stealing things for either his former boss Yondu (Michael Rooker) or for himself. When Quill steals a powerful and mysterious object known as the orb, he unknowingly becomes the focus of a massive manhunt. Hs former boss is on his tail as are Rocket the raccoon and his pal Groot, a large walking and talking – only one sentence – tree (voiced by Vin Diesel). Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin working for the evil warlord Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), is also hunting him down, determined to take possession of the orb.
After failing to sell the orb and having a minor altercation with Gamora and the two bounty hunters, Quill and those pursuing him get caught and imprisoned by the authorities on the planet Xandor. When they’re moved to a high security space prison, Gamora confesses that she wants to stop Ronan from getting the orb because it contains an extremely powerful energy source that can annihilate an entire planet…hmmm, that seems vaguely familiar. So with the fate of the galaxy in their hands, the four unlikely friends – no wait, make that five… It seems another inmate named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) hates Ronan for killing his family and joins them in hope they’ll lead him to Ronan. Anyway, the five misfits must break out of prison and find a safe place for the orb so Ronan will never find it.
Funny, action-packed, and visually impressive, Guardians of the Galaxy is wacky and entertaining, although ultimately it’s an uneven, all too familiar space escapade. Chris Pratt is solid as the small time, wiseacre space thief who deep down has the heart and soul of a true hero. He has solid chemistry with Zoe Saldana and plays opposite a CGI raccoon and tree extremely well. Saldana looks great as the green skin assassin who wants to save the galaxy from the terror of Ronan and can’t believe her bad luck at getting stuck with Quill and the others, underestimating the group’s true potential. Lee Pace is effective yet uninteresting as the major villain, Ronan. He’s a tall, blue-skinned bad guy whose deep voice is the only thing deep about the character.
The best element of the film is its look and the wonderful use of the visual effects in creating the two best, scene stealing characters in the movie. Bradley Cooper is fantastic in bringing to life Rocket by giving him a tough, smart aleck personality, stealing every scene he’s in. Vin Diesel is the voice of Groot whose only line is “I am Groot.” Depending on how he says it, it means many things. Groot is the most lovable and likable character in the group and is Rocket’s only friend.
Guardians of the Galaxy, however, has two big problems. First, the uneven tempo and tone of the movie. At times it’s very tongue-in-cheek, not taking itself seriously and this is when the film is at its best. But then it quickly changes to being serious and trying to be heartfelt before going back to being cute and silly, followed by a quick change again to serious and ominous. The film’s tone is unfortunately all over the place. The second problem is the film lifts too many ideas and character traits from two great space sagas: Star Wars and Star Trek. There’s nothing really original here, except for the talking tree and fighting raccoon. It’s all been done bigger and better before.
That said, even with its shortcomings Guardians of the Galaxy is a zany, enjoyable space adventure that will have audiences rooting for Quill, Rocket, Gamora, and Groot against Ronan until the credits roll.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty