It what will undoubtedly be the weekend's #1 movie (and possibly the summer's - even the 2:30 2D matinee I saw was packed), Chris Pratt becomes a bona-fide movie star; Bradley Cooper's and Vin Diesel's voices get the most laughs and Marvel has yet another critical and popular hit franchise on it's hands. Is it the 'Best Marvel Movie Yet!'? You can decide for yourself. I'm not going there.
Pratt is Peter Quill, an Earthling abducted by space pirates in 1988, after the death of his mother. In the slightly heavy-handed and deliberately complicated plot, an unlikely band of heroes is brought together to fight against an evil force that wants to destroy the planet (sound familiar?). This time the weapon is powerful stone forged during the Big Bang and the villain, Ronan the Accuser (my beloved Pie Maker, Lee Pace) has some unclear grudge against the prosperous and peaceful people ruled by a severe-looking Glen Close in some wigs that would make Effie Trinket giggle.
Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is actually hilarious as a voile-skinned Drax, an out-for-revenge literalist who doesn't understand jokes or irony. Zoe Saldana (who is fast becoming a Sci-Fi regular) isn't given much of a character to play, though I hope she'll get the chance to develop one in the inevitable sequels. A bulked-up Pace, hidden under weird makeup and an even-weirder headdress, hams it up as the bad guy like Pacino on steroids. And the few lines Close has, are barked out like she just wanted to pick up her check and to go home. But this is Pratt's movie all the way and his goofy charm and egotistical swagger as "Star Lord" are reminiscent of so many great Sci-Fi movie heroes - almost like a hot guy playing Peter Griffin playing Han Solo in the "Family Guy" Star Wars parodies.
Director James Gunn (Slither - one of my faves!) keeps the action moving while managing to keep the many homages and nods from becoming cliches. There are lots of great 70's tunes and 80's references (the 'outlaw' John Stamos, for one) and plenty of cool Sci-Fi gadgets and space ships. "The Walking Dead" alum Michael Rooker; Djimon Hounsou; John C. Reilly; and Benicio Del Toro (looking particularly silly) are also on hand with voice cameos from Nathan Fillion and Rob Zombie.
All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun and faced-paced and loud and bright and so very, very colorful. My eyes were exhausted in 2D. I can't imagine it in 3. In all honestly, it is visually stunning and Gunn's palette works beautifully for a comic book movie with no actual super-heroes. Well, except maybe for Groot.* And while hardly perfect, it is undoubtedly the most fun I've had at the movies all year. **** (Four Out of Four Stars). Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language." Make sure you stay for the after-credits Easter Egg, which is hilarious and had to be explained to every teenager attending with their parents. It was hilarious hearing them all. Oh - and Stan Lee's cameo is particularly hilarious.
*If someone doesn't market a desk-top Dancing Groot toy, I will be very unhappy. Because I must have one.