Guardians of the Galaxy ✮✮
Meanwhile, Back at the Evil Empire …
by Glenn Lovell
Standing between the good guys of the universe and certain annihilation by an evil overlord is a ragtag assemblage of space buccaneers and intergalactic what’s-its. Sound familiar? It should. “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the latest off the Marvel Comics assembly line, is a shameless mashup of just about every sci-fi fantasy since Luke, Leia and Han first teamed against Darth Vader. Unfortunately, this retro space opera plays more like a bad spoof of a “Star Wars” spoof ‒ and even then it’s closer to “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” than “Spaceballs.”
Directed and co-scripted by so-bad-its-good Troma disciple James Gunn (“Slither”) and based on an intermittent Marvel series that dates to 1969, “Guardians” is another of those manic, CG-driven, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks concoctions. It deals in scattershot humor, lame ripostes, tired in-jokes (references to “The Maltese Falcon,” “Howard the Duck,” Kevin Bacon abound), and monotonous space battles. (And, yes, Stan Lee does his obligatory walk-on.)
Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”) plays Earthling Peter Quill, who, 26 years ago, was abducted by a blue meanie (Michael Rooker) and his crew of scurvy space pirates or “ravagers.” Now billing himself as Star-Lord the “legendary outlaw,” Quill bums around the outer edges of the universe scavenging for priceless artifacts a la Indiana Jones. Early on he retrieves a metallic orb for a client. Before he can deliver the metallic bauble (housing something called the Infinity Stone), he’s intercepted by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a sexy, lime-green assassin who also wants the orb. Gamora, at least initially, is working for the evil Kree leader Ronan (Lee Pace). (You can sub Klingon for Kree and Darth Vader for Ronan, if you like.)
Mid-battle, Quill is captured by a pair of alien bounty hunters ‒ Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a raccoon with a very bad attitude, and Groot (Vin Diesel), an eight-foot petrified tree that resembles the golem in the cheesy 1966 horror film “It!” For some reason, they’re all packed off to a maximum security prison, where they ally with a tattooed brute named Drax (WWE’s Dave Bautista). Drax lost his wife and daughter to Ronan and means to have his revenge.
En route to the final showdown on Xander, capital of Nova Empire, the mouthy, larcenous Rocket ticks off everyone as Chewbacca ‒ I mean, Groot ‒ proves the ol’ softie of the bunch.
Unless you’ve read the Marvel comics, I’m guessing you won’t get much out of “Guardians” plot-wise. The script by Gunn and Nicole Perlman isn’t much more than a hanger on which to drape some impressive deep-space effects and an entire Republic Serial worth of narrow escapes. The battles are lively but finally leave little impression because we don’t have much invested in either the characters or their alliance. To ward off Ronan and the final Kree assault, Nova’s leader (Glenn Close, sporting a worse hairdo than Jodie Foster in “Elysium”) orders her pilots to hook wings and form a blockade. This midair curtain is pretty spectacular looking, but, like much of this film, it proves hilariously ineffectual.
Though obviously skewed to Junior Space Cadets, ages 7-10, much of the humor and music has a boomer vibe. Quill’s beloved “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” tape booms over the soundtrack; it’s full of such tired 1970s anthems as “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
Obviously, Disney and Marvel have high hopes for “Guardians” as the next superhero franchise: It ends James Bond-fashion with a promo for the next installment, “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” scheduled for 2017. “What should we do?” Quill asks as the interspecies menagerie takes off for new adventures. “Something good? Something bad? A bit of both?” We’d opt for something a bit more original.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY ✮✮ With Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close. Directed by James Gunn; scripted by Gunn, Nicole Perlman. 120 min. PG-13 (for slight profanity, over-the-top violence)