“Guardians of the Galaxy” springs from an irreverent Marvel comic book (by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) with an attitude, and James Gunn is the perfect director for it.
Gunn directed the most off-kilter superhero movie yet — the hugely misunderstood “Super” (2011), which explored the release of primal fears and desires with the donning of costumes and masks.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” isn’t as dark as it is flat-out funny. It feels a bit like the first “Star Wars” movie, crossed with “Mystery Men” or “Galaxy Quest.”
It disregards many rules, and it also falls off balance and has dead spots. But like anything crafted out of love and enthusiasm, these spots are only part of its personality.
One of today’s finest actors, Chris Pratt, takes the lead role of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. Pratt is an ordinary guy, capable of depth and soul in “Moneyball” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” but also hilarious in “Delivery Man,” “Her” and “The Lego Movie.”
While most actors are cast as superheroes based on chiseled looks and sculpted muscles, Pratt is the most charismatic, personable superhero since Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man.
The rest of his squad comes together with great chemistry. Zoe Saldana is the green-skinned, “living weapon” Gamora, Bradley Cooper provides the voice of the runty mutant raccoon Rocket, Vin Diesel lends his guttural voice to a walking tree called Groot and wrestler Dave Bautista is musclebound alien Drax, who takes everything literally.
Quill is a human, abducted from Earth as a child and grown into a cosmic thief who grooves to a mix tape of 1970s pop hits and steals a valuable sphere. Everyone wants to get their mitts on this object, which has enormous power. When it falls into the hands of the bad guy, a renegade called Ronan (Lee Pace), our five band together to save the universe, and hopefully get paid.
The bad guys are the movie’s weakest link. Gunn relies on serious, wordy dialogue to explain the war between two alien races, the Kree and the Skrulls (a staple of the Marvel comic book universe), as well as the plot mechanics behind the sphere.
It’s a stretch to ask anyone to care about these sequences in such a carefree movie, but happily, it eventually plows right through them like a careening spaceship through a shopping mall.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper
Written by James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Directed by James Gunn
Running time 2 hours, 1 minute