GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Genre: Comic Book Action
Running Time: 122 mins.
Premise: When the galaxy is threatened by the evil Ronan the Accuser, five criminals (including an outlaw who calls himself Star-Lord, a green-skinned mercenary, musclebound revenge-seeker, talking raccoon, and humanoid tree) must put aside their differences to team up and work together to save it.
Behind-the-Scenes: The Guardians of the Galaxy made their first appearance in Marvel comics in 1969. Many predicted this would be Marvel's first misstep, as the characters are not that familiar to anyone outside of the most devoted fanboys. Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) was originally offered the role of Drax (which ultimately went to WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), but turned it down. Marvel has already green lit a sequel, set for release in July 2017.
The Good: Marvel is really on a roll this year. Handing the reins to an auteur like Joss Whedon proved very successful with The Avengers, and the studio has done it again here - giving co-writer/director James Gunn the freedom to make a movie with a strong vision and consistent voice. The result is a remarkably self-assured, funny, and instantly likable franchise starter. It's spot-on in both tone and execution. The five leads are all tremendous. Chris Pratt gets his first lead performance as Star-Lord, after turning in reliably comedic supporting turns for the last few years, and he kills it. Zoe Saldana continues to effectively hone her sci-fi chops as Gamora. Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) are hugely enjoyable, and catnip for the younger viewers. But, the real surprise for me was Bautista as Drax. He brings great energy, humor and heart to what could have been a one-note role. The action is thrilling and recalls some of the best aerial space battles found in Star Wars. The special effects and production design are top notch. But, it's the music (Star-Lord carries around a walkman playing classic 70s pop/rock tunes) and the comedy that really seal the deal. Some of the best scenes are just the five heroes together in a room, bickering about their "plans."
The Bad: Some of the action scenes are generic. John C. Reilly and Glenn Close are underused. Uh...we have to wait three years for a sequel?
Should You See It?: Hell yes. All viewers should find something to love here. This is a four-quadrant hit if I've ever seen one, and a breath of fresh air in a summer full of sequels.
What Do The Kids Think?: (Boy Child, Age 6): "Awesome. Groot is my favorite." (Girl Child, Age 3.5): "Good. I liked Rocket Raccoon!"
Star Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars.
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