Guardians of the Galaxy
What makes for an epic space adventure? Well, part of the “Star Wars” success, besides the brilliant classical soundtrack, was the development of its characters, its willingness to change moods, its sense of humor, and its ability to switch back and forth between macro and micro: from galaxy-shaking events to quiet personal struggles. Oh, and its main characters were endearingly flawed.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” has all of these ingredients, with slight variations (like an 80’s pop soundtrack) and it’s become an almost-instant box office success. It remains to be seen, of course, if it will stand the test of time, but it unashamedly admits at the end that it anticipates sequels, and, truth be told, here’s hoping they bring back this winning combination.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) plays the sad little boy who had to watch his mother die, then immediately gets abducted by aliens? Now, as a young man, he’s a techno-savvy mercenary but has this huge soft spot for a special 1980’s “awesome mix No.1” cassette tape that his dying Mother left him. Other than that peculiar vulnerability, he is fearless and resourceful and wise-cracking with a hint of outlaw, kind of like Harrison Ford as the leader of a renegade band. His “Chewbacca” is Groot (the voice of Vin Diesel), a big, hulking, walking tree who says little but is great to have on your side in a fight.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is the chick in spandex with the attitude, who’s also pretty good at karate, Drax (former professional wrestler Dave “The Animal” Bautista) provides the hulking muscle (but isn’t it tiring to be flexing all the time?). Ah, but the sidekick who really steals the show is Rocket (the voice of Bradley Cooper), the techie raccoon with the sharp mind and the even sharper tongue. All this verbal sourness keeps our heroes from being too saccharine, especially as they are combating the interplanetary evil forces, who are trying desperately to get hold of a special metal orb that somehow contains the secrets of the universe.
Yeah, it’s a little comic-book-y (well, it is from Marvel Studios), and at times it bogs down in its own idiom, as the uninitiated (older) viewer tries to catch up to all the sci-fi lingo: though admittedly, stopping to explain it all would be even more tedious. The we-gotta-save-the-world-right-now urgency gets a little tiresome after a while, but the whole melodramatic effort keeps from falling over of its own weight by the interspersed sardonic comedy and intentionally lighthearted moments.
Best of all, the kids like this one, and it conveniently hit the big screen just before school’s back in session. That alone gives it the impetus and momentum to be the sleeper summer movie surprise.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas