By Marc S. Sanders
Forgive me! I’m going into the woods or, rather, outer space a little on this review.
Director James Gunn brings new perspective to Marvel Studios’ Guardians Of The Galaxy, by recognizing the one instinct that every person possesses but is not acted upon often enough…the instinct to dance.
I love to watch characters (not part of a standard song and dance musical) break out into dance. It comes out of nowhere while it humanizes the person. I write my own plays that way, and I award my characters the opportunity to dance as well. I love it when I see it because it’s always a surprise and always welcomed with a smile. Think of that great moment in John Hughes The Breakfast Club, when the five kids let it all out after they’ve let it all out among themselves in confidence. Look at Eddie Murphy boogie in a night club in 48 hrs and Beverly Hills Cop, and look past the crappy script of Footloose for one of the silliest and most fun dance soundtracks to bop your head to. That last bit offered some inspiration for James Gunn especially. Dancing is needed in life. Dancing brings a surge of security as we shed our inhibitions for a fleeting moment. James Gunn reminds his audience of that. If you can’t smile and tap your toe to at least one fresh minute of GOTG then I worry for your soul.
Try not to smile when you first see lead hero Peter Quill aka Star Lord shake, slide and lip sync out by himself on a marooned, wasted planet to the melody of Come And Get Your Love by Redbone. Yes. Don’t deny it! Your head was shifting and your foot was shaking when you first saw this moment.
Gunn hit on all the right notes with a film that could have torpedoed straight to B class junk in another director/writer’s hands.
GOTG focuses more on the humor than any of the zippy outer space special effects. Everyone is having a good time, even the bad guys.
The story more or less focuses on the pursuit and take away/get back of a MacGuffin. Because that’s so simple, Gunn doesn’t have to concern his script with logic and over plotting. Instead, he can offer time for great naive one liners from brutish Dave Bautista as lovable Drax The Destroyer (do I really need to explain this character? ) and Rocket Raccoon (do I really need to explain this character as well?). There’s a giant tree named Groot who will happily tell you “I am Groot” in case that wasn’t clear to you, and a tough as nails, green skinned Gamora played by Zoe Saldana. She, along with Chris Pratt as Quill, have great chemistry together as they develop a caring friendship amid their competitiveness and wacky action. A pause in the play to allow a sway and flow dance for Saldana and Pratt to Elvin Bishop’s Fooled Around And Fell In Love is hypnotic as Gunn stages it against a gorgeous purple galaxy sky with random yellow sparkles raining down. I could stay in that scene forever.
Main focus goes to Quill who pirates the galaxy while not knowing much about his father and keeps the memory of his Earth mother alive with her “Awesome Mix Tape Vol 1.” He’s a lone pirate with no allegiance, and happily scavenges items for pay from the highest bidder. Pratt has fun with his breakout cinematic role. He laughs, he teases and yup, he dances.
On a first viewing, GOTG can leave you a little bewildered as you try to comprehend what weird name belongs with what weird character and what is everyone talking about. Your next viewing will feel like an invitation to a night club because you’ll realize whatever exposition Gunn’s script offers is really not significant.
James Gunn offers a pleasure piece of sights and musical sounds. One motif I like about his fictional galaxy is that no two characters look the same. It reminded me of George Lucas’ first Star Wars film. The famous cantina scene never shows two of the same species of alien. That’s all that’s needed to imply the vastness of the population. Unlike the Aquaman, James Gunn doesn’t feel the need to show you every inch of this universe to prove just how big it all is. He adopts the means of many extras all with their unique look.
The villain is Lee Pace, a guy who’d make a great Bond villain actually. He’s hidden behind a lot of costume and makeup as Ronan, and maybe he could’ve been given more to do. There’s not much one on team time between him and the Guardians.
Other fun moments abound though, including a ridiculous daylight chase through a busy planetary downtown, and a ridiculous prison break led by Rocket and Groot that reminded me of a lot of the Zucker brothers humor from their Airplane! and Naked Gun films.
James Gunn manages the biggest and bravest departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s oh so right and necessary to keep the franchise alive and fresh.
Guardians Of The Galaxy is Marvel Studios’ answer to Looney Tunes and The Muppets. The great Mel Blanc and Jim Henson would have applauded a ridiculous film like this for years on end.