Marvel has yet again dipped into the bag marked “Unknown comic book characters”. With a brief dust off, lick of post ironic humour and judicious use of CGI, the studio has created another healthy franchise.
Young “Peter” is called to his mothers death bed as she is cruelly taken by cancer. Already distraught and armed only with his “Walkman” and “Awesome mix tape #1” for company, he runs from the hospital, only to be abducted by an alien ship, as you do.
We next meet Peter Quill, a.k.a “Starlord” (Chris Platt), some 26 years later on the planet “Morag”, as he attempts to steal a mysterious Orb in a “Indiana Jones” style heist. This despite being distracted by his trusty “Walkman” mix tape, providing a good excuse for an eclectic “80’s” movie soundtrack.
Despite varied methods of protection and a rival in the shape of “Korath” (Djimon Hounsou), sent to find the orb by evil “Ronan” (Lee Pace), Peter prevails. He jets off in his nifty spaceship the “Milano” with his precious bounty in hand.
Reneging on his deal with his business partner, “Starlord” figures if somebody is chasing the item it must be valuable. As usual in these type of movies, “Starlord” is messing with “powers he cannot possibly imagine”, as the Orb contains immeasurable power to destroy, well just about anything and everything.
Valuable and dangerous, the perfect movie “MacGuffin” to build a chase story around, albeit set in space.
So we have a free-wheeling, wisecracking pirate spaceship commander on the run with bad guy “Ronan” chasing him. However, even evil baddies have a strict hierarchy with the evil chain of command leading higher to a shadowy presence, “Thanos” (Josh Brolin).
All that would be required is for “Starlord” to accidentally pull together a team of mismatched misfits to help him in his quest and we might be looking at “Star Wars” for a new generation.
Cue, through various plot twists and turns, “Gamora” (Zoe Saladana) swapping her “Avatar” blue hue for a green complexion this time out. “Gamora” has definite father/daughter issues to work through but is handy in a fight and easy on the eye.
Next we have man mountain “Drax The Destroyer” (Dave Bautista), prone to beating people up and an innate inability to understand metaphors. Also hell-bent on revenge following his own earlier family issues.
Ironically, the best characters in the film do not exist at all but are provided by seamless CGI. We have a walking talking tree “Groot”, yes you read that correctly. Voiced by Van Diesel, clearly branching out with only one line of dialogue, “I am Groot”. Groot exhibits childlike wonder and compassion yet possesses capacity for violence when his leaves are ruffled.
Finally and most likley the crowd favourite, we have “Rocket Racoon” voiced by Bradley Cooper. Fortunately he can translate “Groot’s” limited syntax and despite being short and well, basically a racoon, he makes up for this in attitude.
Both “Groot” and “Rocket” get hero sequences almost worth the price of admission alone, you will know them when you seem them and are sure to be repeated clips forever. These two characters all but steal the show from their real life counterparts.
As mentioned, this has a considerable “Star Wars” feel, the characters are fun to be with, Platt makes for an engaging hero. Admittedly not young Harrison Ford levels of screen charisma, but cocky, self deprecating and exasperated when his own self importance fails to resonate with others.
On occasions the film is not quite as funny as it thinks it is and the denouement is from the usual Marvel box marked, “endings”. The baddies are somewhat colourless, one promising character “Nebula” (Gillan) fails to get the screen time she deserves.
The film plays out at a superficial level, there is little attempt at depth and the soundtrack has no John Williams style heft. Many younger viewers may hit Wikipedia to find what a “Walkman” is and those funny cassettes things, what are they for?
But none of this really matters, overall this is smart movie making and custom built for a self aware target family audience in 2014. The defining word is “fun”, this film has it in spades.
Many had dismissed the film as a stretch too far for Marvel, obscure characters including a tree and a racoon how could this possibly work. With a sequel announced even before the movie opened, this is another hit for the studio. Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro also get a look in, we may see more of them next time out.
If the nascent franchise can keep the characters fresh, a family friendly level of violence and a consistent tone, we can expect and enjoy more of our motley crew in 2017, they will be welcome indeed.
Highly enjoyable space shenanigans with great characters, all phasers set to “fun”, a “Star Wars” for the new millennium generation.
Sure to become part of popular film culture film lore. If silly sci-fi fun similar to “Serenity/Firefly” and “Galaxy Quest” lights your boosters, then go see this on the big screen now.