by Jeff Walls
Beginning with the 2008 release of Iron Man, Marvel has been the dominant film studio when it comes to consistently producing blockbusters. They have become to this decade what Pixar Studios was to the last decade: a consistent source of quality entertainment. Not only that, but by tying all of their films together, they have created a cinematic universe that is currently unrivaled. The studio’s newest movie will serve as a big test to see just how popular the Marvel brand has become. Whereas most of the general public had at least heard of characters like Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, if you would have asked ten people on the streets just a year ago who the Guardians of the Galaxy were, I bet at least nine of out ten would have no idea. That’s all about to change, though, as Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic, Star Wars-esque space adventure.
The movie opens on Earth in 1988 and introduces us to Peter Quill. After witnessing the death of his cancer-stricken mother, Quill is promptly abducted by aliens. Flash forward twenty-six years and Quill is now a space pirate who calls himself Star-Lord. After retrieving and attempting to sell a small, metallic orb, Quill finds himself arrested and thrown into prison. While there he meets an interesting cast of characters, including a master assassin named Gamora, a brawler named Drax the Destroyer, and a pair of bounty hunters: one a brash raccoon-like character named Rocket, the other a giant, peaceful—except when challenged—humanoid tree. They team up and manage to escape prison, but it turns out that was just the first of their problems.
The orb that Quill stole contains one of the infinity stones, a stone with magical powers much like the tesseract cube from The Avengers. The evil overlord Thanos has recruited the vicious Ronan the Accuser to obtain the stone for him, but Ronan has other plans. Once he gets his hands on the stone’s magic powers, he plans to use them to destroy all those who stood against him. To stop him, Quill and company must work together and become what the movie’s title suggests: the guardians of the galaxy.
While rival comic book company D.C. Comics has gone for a more serious tone when it comes to their movie adaptations, Marvel has done well to remember that audiences go to comic book movies mostly to have fun. The sense of fun that runs throughout the entirety of Guardians of the Galaxy is a perfect example of that. Although all of the Marvel films have had a sense of humor, Guardians of the Galaxy is by far the closest the studio has come to producing an out-and-out comedy. The movie is hilarious.
The fun doesn’t stop with the comedy, however, as the movie is also filled with some exciting action scenes. The fact that the bulk of the movie takes place on the far side of the galaxy from Earth allows director James Gunn and his co-screenwriters to take the adventure in many different directions. What results is a space adventure that is reminiscent of a certain George Lucas-directed sci-fi flick. In an interview, star Chris Pratt even points out that Peter Quill was a child of the 80s and would have watched all of the Star Wars movies. As such, it makes perfect sense that the adventurer he turned into would have a lot in common with one Han Solo, as that is exactly who a kid of that decade would model himself after if he suddenly became a space adventurer.
The many 80s references are a fun part of the movie. Who would have thought that a Kevin-Bacon-in-Footloose reference would have felt so at home in a movie that takes place in outer space? The movie’s soundtrack is fantastic, featuring classic songs of the 70s and 80s that are all contained on the “Awesome Mix Volume 1” cassette tape Quill keeps in his Walkman.
In short, the word that I keep coming back to in describing this movie is “fun.” There are plenty of plot holes and actions that require the audience to suspend its disbelief a bit, but this is pure entertainment. Marvel has another definite hit on its hands with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16, the AMC Kent Station 14, and the Century Federal Way. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again?