Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Post  BoG on Thu Feb 12, 2015 10:26 pm

Yeah, this is not your father's Guardians.  The Guardians that I grew up on were the 4 quasi-superheroes/future humans introduced in 1969, in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 - Vance Astro, Charlie-27, Martinex and Yondu, four 30th-century survivors of an attack by the alien Badoon. I got acquainted with them in the seventies as they made guest appearances in other Marvel Comics titles, notably in The Defenders. Also introduced a bit later was an enigmatic space-traveling being called Star-Lord, a guy born on Earth, but who traveled in outer space for most of his life; he wasn't a part of the team, a separate entity. The Guardians eventually got their own short-run series in a title called Marvel Presents. Then, much later, they had a longer run in their own title, starting around 1990, running for a few years.  
This new set of Guardians were introduced much more recently, only about 7 years ago, and their stories take place in the present 21st century, albeit in outer space somewhere. This film almost belongs among the other sci-fi films, in the standard sf folder, but it's all part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the super-heroes. The film's prologue takes place in 1988, a bleak sequence on Earth when a young boy is faced with the death of his young mother due to cancer. He runs outside and is promptly picked up by a huge alien spacecraft - every young man's dream, eh? 26 years later, the boy has grown up into a space-faring wiseguy nicknamed Star-Lord; his real name is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). He tracks down a mysterious orb in the ruins of some alien city, an object which many other planet-hopping characters are after, notably Yondu (Michael Rooker), the space pirate who abducted Quill as a boy, and Kree fanatic Ronan (Lee Pace), who sends specialist/assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after it.
The struggle or squabble over this orb sort of comes to a head on the planet Xandar, capital of the Nova Empire; Quill tries to sell the orb but, besides Gamora, the duo of Rocket Raccoon & Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper & Vin Diesel) show up to get the bounty on Quill. The Raccoon is just that - a raccoon who is another wiseguy and speaks like a human; Groot is a moving tree and speaks only one line, "I am Groot," though Raccoon apparently interprets different meanings each time it says this (telepathy?). All four of these neer-do-wells get arrested and get sent to a space prison dubbed The Kyln. There, they meet the 5th member of the eventual team, Drax (Dave Bautista), a tattooed malcontent who is obsessed with getting revenge on Ronan and targets Gamora. After he relents, the five escape their prison and make their way to the giant severed head of a Celestial, converted into Knowhere, a mining colony with a frontier, outlaw style bent. In their plan to sell the orb, they meet with The Collector (Benicio del Toro), who unlocks the orb to reveal an Infinity Stone, an object of immense power. Ronan is still after this and arrives to get it - because Drax makes the mistake of summoning him for final battle.

Most of the humor in this film is not forced and it works - there's a natural flow to it all, especially among the five main characters. That's the main reason it's such a watchable film - not the expensive FX or the involved action bits. This was expensive, at around $190 million, and I'm surprised that so much was spent on an unproven property, with no stars and mostly unknown characters. It doubled my own expectations, opening with over $90 million on its first weekend and becoming one of the highest grossing films of the year (it ended up as #3 for the 2014 year). Many fans also point to the inventive use of the music, mostly seventies tunes - Quill's most precious possession is a tape player and a tape mix put together by his late mother. It's something many viewers can relate to, very unexpected in such a big sci-fi adventure. This also featured Thanos as a master villain mostly behind the scenes, following up on his cameo in the Avengers film (2012).  BoG's Score: 8 out of 10
Guardians of the Trivia: actor Josh Brolin supplies the voice for Thanos; also cameos by Stan Lee as an elderly ladies man on Xandar, Lloyd Kaufman as a Kyln inmate; and Howard the Duck shows up after the end credits, voiced by Seth Green.
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