Guardians of the Galaxy: Hooked on a feeling!
by rick olivares
What makes for a cool science fiction film?
It’s got cool characters and aliens.
Captain Kirk is cool. Ditto with Han Solo. And so’s the entire cast of Firefly.
So how’s Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star Lord? Rocket, a genetically altered wise-ass raccoon? Groot, a spacefaring Ent? The blue-skinned Kree. As much as I thought that Vance Astro (the original leader of the first incarnation of the Guardians) was one of the best characters ever, the new team is way more diverse and max cool!
There has to be an absolutely cool spaceship.
Think of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon, and the Serenity.
The Milano, Star Lord’s starship has equal parts Robotech’s Valkyrie and Mobile Suit Gundam. It looks sleek and every bit like what a real sleek spacecraft should be.
And the dogfights in outer space are awesome!
There should be fantastic alien worlds that will suspend your belief.
Does this look like something Ralph McQuarrie, Roger Dean, and Michael Whelan can conjure?
Xandar never looked so good. Knowhere came to life. Morag! Totally bleak!
There should be some badass villain.
Do all sci-fi films require some death dealer like Darth Vader, Khan, or the Cylons? Nope. One of my fave sci-fi films Outland, a Space Western that well preceded Joss Whedon’s Firefly had ornery folks as villains. And who can forget Rutger Hauer’s chilling portrayal of Roy Batty in Blade Runner?
However, in this massive storyline for Marvel films that is no doubt leading to one of their comic line’s more famous stories, The Infinity Gauntlet (where Thanos is able to gather all the Infinity Stones that give him omnipotence, omniscience, and god-like powers that he will use to destroy the universe as a homage to his Mistress Death), there’s the super bad Ronan the Accuser.
Ronan is a military governor and jurist of the Kree race, who strikes a bargain with the mad Titan Thanos. In exchange for locating one of the Infinity Stones, Thanos will destroy one of the Kree’s hated enemies, the Xanderians.
When Ronan learns the true power of one of the stones in question, he decides to keep it himself and instead use it to destroy Xandar and Thanos. Verily, there is no honor among villains!
And now, we can add another criteria in grading sci-fi action films --- the soundtrack.
As the main character, Peter Quill/Star Lord is abducted as a child by Yondu (one of the original Guardians of the Galaxy in the comic version) and brought to outer space, he brings along his cherished Walkman that serves as one of his few links to Earth and his mother who passed away from cancer. The Walkman that serves as an emotional center point to the story plays a mix tape of songs from the 1970s and early 80s.
Their use in the film is never contrived. And they flow well with the various scenes where they are introduced.
Case in point: When Star Lord goes back to Kyln, the prison planet, to retrieve his Walkman from the guards, Rupert Holmes’ huge hit from 1979, “Escape” is playing.
Marvel Films has done it once more and in bold style. And for them to bring to the big screen a comic book team that previously wasn’t one of their top tier books – they’ve got balls!
And a sense of humor. You have to appreciate the script writing that is laced with humor that is never too much or little.
Drax (after Groot releases firefly like creatures from his body to light the way): Where did you learn to do that?
Star Lord: I am pretty sure the answer is, “I am Groot.”
Gamora: I am a warrior! An assassin. I do not dance.
Star Lord: Really? Well, on my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It's called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is.
Humor can be dangerous if not used properly. In Guardians, it comes when you least expect it such as when Star Lord dances in front of Ronan right before the Accuser is about to destroy Xandar. Quill’s distraction and delay tactics buys Rocket and Drax enough time to cobble a big gun to blast away the bad guy.
And when you think that Gamora is about to groove and sashay to the melody of Quill’s Walkman by film’s end (Marvin Gaye’s and Tami Tyrell’s magnificent “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”), she doesn’t at all. And rightly so because it would be so off putting. However, right before the credits roll, Groot gives in to his inner Kevin Bacon.
The humor hasn’t been stressed enough. And it’s a key ingredient in the Marvel Films much like icon Stan Lee did when he wrote their entire comic book line back in the day. And the result is a distinct and far contrast to the DC Films that are filled with characters with sticks up their butts.
The casting too is excellent! Chris Pratt is marvelous as Peter Quill/Star Lord. Dave Bautista turns out can act too! Guess all those WWE storylines prepped him for this. And Bradley Cooper who voices Rocket is a winner! Clearly, Rocket is a scene-stealer!
Director James Gunn ensures that the action flows smoothly and you’re never bored. Furthermore, it’s filled with cameos to keep the comic book geeks and purists happy while offering just enough backstory and intrigue for the newer fans to appreciate.
Case in point: The Collector who is one of the Elders of the Universe in Marvel mythology. In Thor: The Dark World, the Asgardian Thunder God and Volstagg bring the Aether to him prompting him to say, “One down; five to go.” A reference to the gathering of the mysterious Infinity Stones.
And there’s Cosmo the Space Dog, the Nova Corps, the Celestials, Knowhere, and Howard the Duck. Whew!
Guardians of the Galaxy is an unexpected delight in the vein of Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It expands Marvel’s cinematic universe and is a thoroughly entertaining film that begs to be viewed multiple times.
Oh, yes. It’s a cool sci-fi action film.