Guardians of the Galaxy
James Gunn's Marvel-ous story of intergalactic upheaval, menace and piracy, Guardians of the Galaxy, answers the question "what does a 'comic' genius do after creating scores of heroic characters who battle evil across time, space and dimensions?" Increase the wattage, spoof what has come before and add a sticky Top 40 soundtrack to underscore the chaos. Guardians is the latest in Marvel Comics Hollywood barrage of cartoons to cinema and stars a perfectly affable, though peculiarly familiar, Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a scavenger / thief who is chasing a mysterious orb that a half dozen other unsavory creatures and fiends are also hunting. When I say Pratt is familiar, I don't mean he's a familiar face though he is that, best known for Parks and Recreation. I mean he has a familiar affect -- I call him "hip, white dancing dude. " The film itself traces Pratt to his most obvious progenitor -- Kevin Bacon in Footloose. He's rascally, glib, slick and irrepressible. Though ostensibly about space travel and epic battles, Guardians is actually more interested in reflecting modern society back to itself. Nearly everything in the film has a "real world" referent, and most of the fun of the film, at least to this viewer, was making the connections. I mean, honestly, what are we to make of a barbarous alien being who does not understand nuance, irony or metaphor (David Bautista)? We are to go with it, reveling in the construct of a humorless, brutal literalist and thinking if we put a Roman collar on him he might pass for clergy. What are we to make of a living tree (voiced by Vin Diesel) whose only words are a simple statement of his existence -- "I am groot" -- but who can be understood only by his trusted companion, a bad-ass, amped-up talking racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper)? Love comes in all shapes and sizes. And what of the pea-green assassin (Zoe Saldana) who is drawn to Quill's '80s AOR mixed tape but resists his pelvic seduction? I'll leave that one open. It's all fabulous and fun. Highly recommended with a body count in the billions and billions.