You will be hard-pressed to have more fun at a movie than you will at “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The latest entry in the Marvel Comics adaptations is a visual feast (especially in IMAX format) with a smart and funny script and some winning performances that gets this franchise off to a roaring start. It’s a near-perfect example of how to make a big-budget summer blockbuster.
“Guardians” follows the adventures of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who was captured by aliens on Earth at a young age and has settled into the life of an intergalactic scavenger hunter.
Quill steals an orb that he thinks will lead to a big payday. The orb proves to be more than he bargained for – Quill becomes the target of a ruthless ruler named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) looking to expand his kingdom.
Desperate to save his skin, Quill enlists the help of some unlikely allies – including an orphaned assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a genetically engineered raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and an assassin named Drax (Dave Bautista) looking to avenge his family’s death.
The five allies set out to protect the orb from Ronan and save the galaxy from possible destruction.
There are so many elements in play that make “Guardians” so much fun.
For starters, director James Gunn has created a fully realized universe – a dazzling cornucopia of CGI that makes this world come alive on the big screen. It’s as impressive visually as anything in the “Star Wars” series.
“Guardians” could have easily tried to get by on visuals alone – and it may have worked to a certain extent – but it gets an added boost from the script by Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlmen. The dialogue has sizzle, and the film is peppered with lots of humor, getting the most out of this talented cast.
Pratt does most of the heavy lifting, showing he can carry a film of this magnitude, but Cooper, Saldana and Diesel are good too.
The biggest surprise, however, is Bautista, the WWE wrestler turned actor who shows a comedic side that could elevate him into a full-time acting gig. He’s really funny here, with a performance that rivals that of fellow wrestler-turned-film star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t quite reach the same height as the Marvel gold standards, “The Avengers” and the original “Iron Man,” but it’s pretty close. It’s a rousing start for the newest comic book franchise.
Also in theaters
This week’s other new release, the James Brown bio “Get On Up” (B), may not be as entertaining from top to bottom as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but it is memorable in its own right – with a potential Oscar nomination-worthy performance from ChadwickBoseman.
From the moment he appears on screen, Boseman is totally believable as Brown, capturing everything from his voice to his mannerisms to his larger-than-life stage persona.
It’s a fabulous performance in a film that has a lot of problems.
Directed by Tate Taylor, the man behind “The Help,” “Get On Up” chronicles Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to becoming one of music’s most influential performers.
Taylor opts to jump from event to event in a nonlinear fashion, with the movie jumping decades from scene to scene. It’s one of many directorial decisions that Taylor makes that don’t work that well. Another directorial miscue involves dropping the fourth wall from time to time as Boseman directly addresses the audience. It’s a device that seems out of place.
Taylor’s attempt to spice the film up is all the more puzzling considering Brown’s life story is full of intriguing elements, some that are covered well here and others, not so much.
You get plenty of his friendship with fellow musician Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), one of the first people to recognize Brown’s unique talents.
There is also plenty about Brown’s childhood, abandoned by his parents and left to live with his aunt (Octavia Spencer) who ran a brothel. But the film doesn’t spend as much time with some of the more seedy elements of his life, with little of the film’s 130 minute running time devoted to his arrests, drug problems and domestic abuse. (One would assume to keep it at a more box office friendly PG-13 rating).
All these shortcomings makes Boseman’s work that much more impressive. He is absolutely electric on screen. Brown had the moniker as the hardest working man in show business, and Boseman works hard to make “Get On Up” succeed. The performance scenes are fantastic, but Boseman brings more to the role – delivering a performance that is as good as Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles or Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne’s Tina and Ike Turner.
In a better movie, Boseman would be a shoo-in for a best actor nomination. He still may get one, despite a film that isn’t quite on the same level as his brilliant performance.
“Get On Up” is PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.