Let’s have some fun.
I mean, it’s summertime, right? Time for laughs. Time for whiz-bang, damn-the-torpedoes, high-octane good times at your local motion picture palace.
Time, in other words, for “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
It’s a comic book movie, birthed from the ever-expanding Marvel Universe. We’ve had plenty of those of late, but “Guardians” stands apart because it’s somehow truer to a comic book’s essence than any Marvel or DC-derived picture you can name. Which is to say it’s pulpy, kind of cheesy and giddily exaggerated (and aware of it) in a way that, say, the “Thors,” the “Captain Americas” and Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are not.
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Those pictures are all about saving a city or saving the world. Important business, you bet. And there’s a certain grimness to the heroism dramatized in those pictures. Thinking about all those movies together, one might find oneself wondering – to quote a certain famous comic book character – “Why so serious?”
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is not serious. Even though its characters are on a mission to save the entire galaxy, they’re about as serious as, well, a talking raccoon – with a machine gun. Who steals the movie, by the way.
Let us now pause to praise Bradley Cooper whose peevish, nay, near-rabid vocalizations give the CG raccoon, named Rocket, his abrasive charm.
So, five characters to save the galaxy: the raccoon, and his ace buddy, a tall talking tree named Groot (voice by Vin Diesel). A tree of few words. Very few: “I am Groot.”
There’s a massively muscled guy named Drax, played by pro wrestler Dave Bautista. There’s a green-skinned female assassin played by Zoe Saldana.
And finally, the leader of the group: Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, played by Chris Pratt. He’s a swashbuckling freebooter thieving his way across the cosmos in his trusty starship the Millennium – oops, sorry – Milano, with a whole heap of bounty hunters hot on his trail. His attempt to steal an ancient golden idol – oops, sorry again – mysterious silver orb sets the plot in high-speed motion.
OK. Originality is not “Guardians’” greatest strength. Truth to tell, it’s as derivative as all get out. But if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best? So Quill is an amalgam of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. And “Guardians” itself is like the “Star Wars” cantina scene exploded into a full-length movie with weird aliens of every configuration and color (dig the dude with the blue head) meaning to do our heroes harm.
And I do mean exploded. Director James Gunn (“Slither”) piles explosion upon even bigger explosion upon gigantomoungous explosion as the five – criminals all – break out of jail and go blasting through space to thwart the galaxy-dominating schemes of a supervillain wielding a mean Thor-like hammer.
Much of the exposition amid the explosions sounds like gibberish as explanations are offered as to why that orb is so important. Big deal. It’s the snarking and sniping among the principals that gives the picture its spark. Pratt (who grew up in Lake Stevens) brings an offhand goofy charm to his portrayal of Quill, who is not as smart as he thinks he is. His verbal jousting with the wrathful Rocket is the best part of the movie. Add in, as Gunn does, a whole host of classic ’70s-era rock tunes, cleverly and comically integrated into the story (let’s hear it for Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”) and you’ve got a summertime cinema winner.