‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a gas

Marvel’s newest entry into the Marvel-verse  in film, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is a fun and witty gallop through the galaxy, with plenty of sympathetic characters and a dance-worthy retro to 1980s soundtrack that will make you think of a young Kevin Bacon.

Where Captain America is almost a grimly good-hearted patriotic vehicle with few laughs, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is an origin story that brings together a fearsome foursome with the human hero, Peter Quill providing laughs and the sidekicks are the straight-man, woman-oid, raccoon and tree. “Guardians” tell us how Peter (Chris Pratt), the gorgeous but green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the blue-skinned and red scarified warrior (Dave Bautista) and the tree-based life form named Groot (Vin Diesel) and his best friend freak-above-nature Rocket (Bradley Cooper) became known as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Peter earned his hero name.

The movie begins on a serious note. The year is 1988 and a young Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleff) is brought to his mother’s death bed. She (Laura Haddock)  is bald and pale. She asked to hold Peter’s hand, but he refuses only to reach out when she had died. His grandfather (Gregg Henry) tells young Peter to leave the room and while the adults gather around the dead mother, Peter runs outside the hospital and into the night which suddenly becomes bright as day. He’s abducted.

Flash forward 26 years later and Quill is part of a space pirate crew, the Ravagers, but today he’s working on his own, landing on a planet to steal a sphere which contains something worth a huge bounty. Although he’s been “adopted” by the blue-skinned leader of the Ravagers, Yondu, young Peter still thinks of his mother, listening on his Walkman (the pre-iPad Japanese innovation) to the mixtapes she made for him (Awesome Mix Vol. 1).

Yondu doesn’t inspire love or loyalty, but he does have a fearsome weapon that he controls with sound. Yondu’s sounds are like a master to his unloved but desperate dog. Peter’s mixtapes are about the joys of dancing and Peter keeps encountering space cultures that need a little bit of Kevin Bacon’s Ren from “Footloose.” That’s not a reference I’m pulling out of an imaginary black hole. That’s actually used in this movie.

If you grew up in the 1970s or if you love classic pre-disco rock/pop, you’ll be grooving in your seat. Some of the scene and music match ups add to the humor of this good-natured cowboys in space yarn. Even the younger generation will recognize some of the names such as Michael Jackson or David Bowie. All 12 of the songs live up to being truly awesome.

1. “Hooked on a Feeling” Performed by Blue Swede
2. “Go All the Way” Performed by Raspberries
3. “Spirit in the Sky”* Performed by Norman Greenbaum
4. “Moonage Daydream” Performed by David Bowie
5. “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” Performed by Elvin Bishop
6. “I’m Not in Love” Performed by 10cc
7. “I Want You Back” Performed by Jackson 5
8. “Come and Get Your Love” Performed by Redbone
9. “Cherry Bomb” Performed by The Runaways
10. “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” Performed by Rupert Holmes
11. “O-O-H Child” Performed by The Five Stairsteps
12. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

As many men are pre-occupied with games involving balls, it won’t surprise you that several male humanoids with egos on steroids are desperate to get a hold of this silver sphere. Think of it as getting the autographed ball of the current baseball homerun king, but better because instead of cork or whatever is in the middle of a baseball, this silver sphere contains the infinity stone whose possessor can rule the universe by destroying whole planets one at a time.
Peter doesn’t yet know what’s in the center of this sphere, but he does know that Ronan the Accuser wants the sphere having evaded his servant Korath. Ronan is working for the unforgiving Thanos, and having been warned for returning empty handed, asks for another chance. Ronan then sends his adopted daughter, the assassin Gamora.
Peter lands on the planet Xandar, home of Nova Corps, where he plans to sell the sphere but is first ambushed by Gamora and is pursued by bounty hunters, a genetically re-engineered raccoon named Rocket and the tree-person Groot. The Nova Corps arrest all four of them and throw them into a prison where the guards are only there to prevent them from escaping and not especially from killing each other.  Gamora becomes the target of hate because Ronan has destroyed many families across the galaxy, but Peter convinces one particular inmate, Drax, that he can use Gamora to meet Ronan and exact a more meaningful revenge.
Rocket, with his superior knowledge of technology, engineers a dramatic escape, and they literally flee to nowhere or in this case a place called Knowhere. There, Gamora takes them to her buyer–Tanaleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro), a collector of things, which includes sentient beings which he enslaves and preserves in his archives. Tanaleer knows how to open the sphere to reveal what it holds but things don’t go well for Tanaleer (slaves are not to be trusted) and Ronan soon arrives and gains control of the sphere with the infinity gem.
From here, our heroes must work together to retrieve the stone and save the galaxy, making sacrifices that will cement their friendships.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” under the direction of James Gunn (who co-wrote with Nicole Perlman), this movie hits all the right notes. We have sympathetic orphans in Peter and Gamora. Then there’s a gruff mutant in the wise-cracking Rocket whose soft-spot is the one-sentence usually cheerful Groot. What could be more back to nature than a noble savage that’s a tree? Lee Pace’s Ronan is like the evil version of Drax. Both are bent on revenge, but Kree leader Ronan has made revenge his religion and death of all Xandarians his goal.  Similarly, Gamora’s predicament as an adopted daughter of Ronan trained to be an assassin is mirrored in blue with Nebula (Karen Gillan).  Our villains have pathos and misguided rationale for their actions. Yet nothing here gets too sappy, even with Groot. And the action never gets too serious that there’s not a moment for a well-time comedy bit.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” bring a heavy blast of humor into the Marvel-verse without sacrificing character development and CGI-generated action sequences. Get ready to groove in an all 1970s way as you blast into the future where a gemstone can mean the destruction of the worlds and a gang of orphans. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but “Guardians of the Galaxy” are the infinity gem and the universe’s best humorous heroes.

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