Well, it’s official: Marvel can officially do no wrong. The new franchise launcher Guardians of the Galaxy, based off of one of the wackier comics from the annals of the legendary comic brand, is barely in theaters and it already has one of the best Rotten Tomato scores out there. And it must be said, it’s a real head scratcher—for all its visual glory, its forced heart n soul (the film is stuffed chock full of montages featuring folksy rock tunes from the later 20th century), there isn’t much new here at all. While this intergalactic saga may feel like a devout homage to Star Wars, it’s arguable whether copy would be a more apt description. The list of Star Wars moments in this film is long, from a viewfinder in the film’s opening that is a replica of R2D2’s projection, to a planet-destroying villain donning a black cowl who speaks to a wrinkled evil overlord on a giant screen.
And a note on the villains here—why do the bad guys always want to destroy everything? After Thor, Lord of the Rings and countless other sci-fi and space fantasy tales featuring cosmic baddies hell-bent on ending the galaxy just cuz, we gotta say, that isn’t really cutting it anymore. A bit—no, a ton—more character development would have served everyone here.
And that brings us to the Guardians themselves. The saving grace (or rather, the crowning achievement) of this film are the 5 actors who portray the Guardians, to varying degrees and in various media, and they do phenomenally well with what they’re given. But it must be said, for all their witty banter and electric chemistry, they’re mostly just there, and we get only the vaguest of references as to how or why they become who they are: the always-poised and brilliant Zoe Saldana is a slick operator as a mysterious assassin, but what makes her tick? Who has she killed? What’s her story? And Rocket Raccoon, voiced by a brash Bradley Cooper, is a super complicated engineered rodent of some sort, but how the heck did this earth creature end up this far in outer space? Why does he talk? Maybe the director could have forgone at least one (or three) of the music montages in order to ground his characters a bit more.
As for the lead in Guardians, Chris Pratt turns on the charm to the max, and he just barely holds it together. He’s more than upstaged by Saldana, Cooper (shameful if you think of it, since he plays a 2.5 foot tall raccoon), and Dave Bautista as Drax, who delivers some of the best one liners. Amidst all the sci-fi frill, the actor to steal most of the film for me was The Walking Dead’s Michael Rooker as Yondu, who has the most badass weapon in the entire movie (and curiously, also the smallest). Go figure!