'Guardians' a joyful burst of excitement, adventure - East Valley Tribune: Movies

'Guardians' a joyful burst of excitement, adventure

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Posted: Saturday, August 2, 2014 8:00 am

I keep regressing back to 10-year-old Eric mode when thinking about “Guardians of the Galaxy.” That little me, who comes packaged with a Lloyd Christmas haircut and habit of wearing utterly unflattering sweatpants, gets overeager and wicked tongue tied trying to express enthusiasm. The best part of a film or TV show or book was X, and Y, and sometimes Zed and Alpha too.

I'm trying very, very hard to avoid doing so while describing “Guardians,” because, well, I could dip into the rambling excitable boy I used to be. So to sum it up as succinctly as I possibly can, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the embodiment joyful awesomeness.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” has the delightful Chris Pratt playing goofy and ripped ladies' man Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord), who explores the galaxy as a glorified dumpster diver. After he finds a strange orb on a scavenging mission — an act that peeves father-figure Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) — Pratt attempts to cash in on his find but is intercepted by fearsome assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Saldana's robbery attempt is sabotaged by a pair of bounty hunters, Rocket (a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (a giant tree voiced by Vin Diesel), who are after a price placed on Pratt's head.

An ensuing arrest by the militaristic Nova Corps results in the four taking a trip to space prison, where they encounter the revenge-crazed Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista). Bautista's lust for vengeance is targeted at the insanely evil — or evilly insane — Ronan (an unrecognizable but wonderful Lee Pace), who, aided by Saldana's sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) happens to want the orb in order to destroy the planet Nova — home to characters played by Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz and others. Once the orb inevitably falls into Ronan's hands, it's up to the ragtag Guardians to stop him and save Nova from certain destruction.

There's way more to “Guardians'” plot than that — it has the same epic mythology as other Marvel film series like the “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America” –—and unpacking too much of it does take out a hint of the surprise from a movie based on a lesser-known Marvel series. Mentioning the existence of a more complex plot, however, serves as a roundabout way of complimenting director and co-writer James Gunn's management of the complicated storyline; in other words, his presentation is much smoother than the above description indicates.

Much of my excitement about the “Guardians” film over the last few months was associated directly with Gunn's involvement in the project, which was unexpected to put it mildly. It’s risky enough green lighting a film about the obscure Guardians, but handing it over to a man whose best known to general audiences for writing two “Scooby-Doo” movies and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake with a $170 million price tag is insane.

Gunn, however, has a knack for creating losers who have heroic intent but just need the right opportunity to do so, like Nathan Fillion's bumbling sheriff Bill Pardy in “Slither” and the Guardians, who at least sense the divide between right and wrong and know which side they should fall upon.

It’s one reason why hiring Gunn is a brilliant decision; he hits all of the proverbial notes correctly and creates a film with the right blend of action, comedy, pathos and dreariness. The combination is vital for a film like “Guardians,” which could easily be brushed off by saying it doesn't take itself too seriously or is meant to be the lighter Marvel film.

That isn't meant to underplay the comedy though, much of which comes courtesy of Cooper's Rocket and from Pratt's wacky antics (although everyone gets at least one very good line). Pratt's presence was the other major reason for my Guardians' gaga — watch a few episodes of “Parks & Recreation” to see why — and watching him transition seamlessly from serious man to goofball during the title credits justified my anticipation.

“Guardians'” sole bugaboo is a lack of time watching the five guardians bounce off one another because of the need to complete the origin story. It's the only reason why I have to dock the film a few points in the grading system, but it does make prospects of the sequel even stronger than before. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is awesome; “Guardians of the Galaxy 2: Electric Boogaloo” should be even better.

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