Let me tell you about a man named James Gunn. Once a hired “gun” for cult shlock studio Troma Entertainment, Gunn rose to prominence as a sharp-witted screenwriter penning such “classics” as Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. After a few years of trudging through studio-driven dreck, Gunn was eventually given the opportunity to take the reigns as a full-fledged director. Gunn took this opportunity and made the B-flicks Slither and Super both to notable cult fervor. Gunn’s star had started to shine, but as we all know by now his star would only continue to shine brighter.
I don’t know how it happened, but someone at Marvel had the cojones to get James Gunn for their next big Marvel property. What did they see in Gunn? Was it his dark humor? Was it his ability to tell character driven stories surrounded by the absurd? Or maybe it wasn’t a gamble at all considering no one knew how big Guardians of the Galaxy could be, but big it has become. To think that a man with a background in B-movies could launch the summer of 2014’s biggest blockbuster by making a $170 million B-movie. It all goes to show that if given a serving, a truly hungry filmmaker can feast on greatness. Before I get mixed up by my own food related metaphors let’s shoot for the stars with a few words about Guardians of the Galaxy
The plot to Guardians of the Galaxy like so many other Marvel films is centered around that of a magical object. In this case, it is an orb uncovered by the lovable rogue Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), also known as “Star Lord.” Once stolen, the orb quickly becomes a hot commodity to both the dominant forces and bottom feeders of the galaxy. Perhaps the most formidable of the orb’s interested parties is that of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a blue-skinned maniac who wants to wield the power that dwells within the orb. Eventually, Star Lord teams up with an equally unusual gang of rogues, including; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a deadly assassin, Drax (Dave Bautista), an even deadlier assassin, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a rough-around-the-edges raccoon and a humanoid tree creature named Groot (Vin Diesel) who, well? He’s just Groot. Together the Guardians decide to deliver the orb to a buyer and split the profits. Though it’s only when faced with Ronan’s forces that the team truly comes together and saves the day.
The rogues and nerf herders that make up the Guardians capture all the best elements of beloved Sci-Fi classics like Star Wars and Firefly. Every member is a little bit Han Solo or a little bit Chewbacca. The difference being there’s more humor. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy might be the funniest movie of the year. They even made Dave Batista funny. Who would have thought a guy with past credits that include both Riddick and The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption could be such a lovable lunk head?
I love all the characters, but I have to give props to Pratt as he has to balance humor with heart to a far greater degree. He’s an amiable oaf, only enhanced by his wisecracks and penchant for oldies pop music. You feel for him, you feel for all of the characters. I don’t think I’ve gotten this teary-eyed over a tree since reading The Giving Tree in first grade. Gunn and his crew of misfits have given us something special. Who says superhero movies or sci-fi movies have to be stone-cold serious? GOTG pokes fun at a lot of the tired conventions we are used to seeing. Whereas most films of this creed would end in a very serious talk-fight-talk routine with the film’s villain, GOTG has Star-Lord distracting his foe with some very smooth dance moves. GOTG is a breath of fresh air in a summer that has primarily been a tight vacuum of uninspired sequels and soulless reboots.
But what has made this film resonate with people? GOTG is all about giving the underdogs a chance. Is it familiar? Yes. Is it entertaining? Yes. There’s nothing wrong with returning to classic motifs if you incorporate them with the right spirit and GOTG is all spirit. The effects? They’re fine, they’re what you expect to see in this day and age. The fights? Absolutely acceptable. The spirit? Through the roof. GOTG gives you the characters to root for… Or GROOT for? Sorry. I’m glad that Marvel has discovered so much untapped potential to create something new and exciting. It makes me want to blast my walkman and look for artifacts in dingy space caves.