Cooper, Diesel lend swagger in latest ‘Guardians’ movie

August 10, 2014

It’s easy to understand that we are now in the eighth month of the year and we have witnessed the release of our eighth film based on a comic book. Many moviegoers may be reaching their CSL - Comic Saturation Level.

It’s easy to understand why, too. As entertaining as the films from Marvel have been overall, unless you are a devotee, you feel as though you are missing out on many in-jokes, references or call-backs. I cannot imagine someone waltzing into this summer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and thinking, “Hmmm, it stars my favorite thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Let me just take a crack at this whole ‘X-Men’ thing!” Only to exit feeling as though they’ve left their brain on Funland’s Gravitron ride for the past two hours.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is the latest entry to test your CSL, but the film is worth putting it to the test. It gambles in all the right places and feels like some jovial, drunk relative of all the other hero flicks thus far this year.

Loud, weird, funny and never dull, “Guardians of the Galaxy” takes its source from a little slice of relative comic obscurity (anyone who tells you they were a huge fan of the comic is a filthy liar!).

Those who have seen the trailers already know that its leads include a sassy vermin and an anthropomorphic tree, so you are already aware that this perhaps is not going to be dealt from the same deck as "Captain America."

But it is indeed Rocket (the racoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his pal Groot (the tree, voiced by Vin Diesel) who cement “Guardians” as a dazzling debut for all involved. But more on them later.

Chris Pratt plays ornery outlaw Peter Quill, an earthling snatched from his home as a young boy in 1988 and now collecting various intergalactic tchochkes for loot. Through a series of unfortunate events, he is teamed with fellow societal outliers - Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana), a slinky assassin, Drax (played by wrestler Dave Bautista), a literal, but loyal prisoner fueled by revenge for his murdered family, and the aforementioned Rocket and Groot (the film’s Han Solo-Chewbacca team).

Together, they are tasked with halting a powerful orb from falling into the wrong hands, but the journey is far from easy. The way director James Gunn constructs the film, it allows each of his characters time to become fully realized on their own while also wedging their way into their newfound “family” in the process.

I am wary to take the exalted “Star Wars” comparison any further, but as a sci-fi soap opera, “Guardians” has all the right elements - brash, bright, confident, off-kilter and brimming to the top with outlandish characters.

Speaking of characters, Pratt is as endearing as he’s always been. Fans of “Parks & Recreation” already know of his cuddly charm, but those unaware of his skill will find his Peter Quill equally as rascally and mischievous - like a human golden retriever who is always so darn friendly, you overlook the times he breaks into the trash can and messes in the house.

But this show is stolen by Cooper and Diesel, even if we never see them and the latter’s monologues are limited to only three words. Both make their animated characters so fully realized you cannot help but side with them. They lend the film swagger, even though it is filled with it.

When they are all together, it’s hard not to be pulled into their tractor beam of charm, watching them narrowly navigate through various levels of peril. All the while, each is given time to demonstrate the heart that pulses through the entire film.

There will undoubtedly be a sequel, but with so much room in the funky space sandbox Gunn and company have created, it’s a franchise that feels as boundless as its interstellar title.