Guardians of the Galaxy

The weirdest pic to come out of Marvel is great fun


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY directed by James Gunn, written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman based on characters created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Glenn Close. A Walt Disney Studios release. 122 minutes. Opens Friday (August 1). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNNN


This is the thing about the Guardians Of The Galaxy: they’re assholes, but they’re going to save the universe whether we like it or not. You might as well let them.

The latest Marvel Studios world-beater, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a blockbuster space adventure about misfit heroes trying to stop a maniacal zealot called Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) from wiping out everything and everybody who isn’t him.

And because it’s been handed to director/co-writer James Gunn (of the crazy-ass indies The Specials, Slither and Super), it’s easily the weirdest, loosest thing to come out of Marvel to date.

There’s a peripheral connection to the Avengers project, but Guardians is deliriously, insanely its own thing, possessed of an idiosyncratic, strangely intimate sense of humour and a magnificently diverse cast, all of whom find exactly the right tone of low-key commitment.

Chris Pratt becomes a movie star maybe three minutes into his screen time as space doofus Peter Quill, snatched off Earth in 1988 and bopping around deep space exactly like you’d expect a kid who’d grown up on James T. Kirk and Han Solo would.

Zoe Saldana gives “living weapon” Gamora a reflexive ferocity that softens as she comes to trust her new allies. And wrestler Dave Bautista has great presence and surprising comic timing as vengeful, insistently literal heavyweight Drax The Destroyer.

But it’s not just the principal cast – which includes delightful voice work by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as the odd-couple team of Rocket Raccoon and Groot the talking tree – that’s so on point.

Gunn fills every role with someone great: John C. Reilly! Glenn Close! Peter Serafinowicz! Karen Gillan! Gregg Henry! Even Michael Rooker slides effortlessly into the action as the cobalt-blue bounty hunter who abducted Quill from Earth 26 years ago, giving his lines a wiseacre swagger that means they practically form word balloons over his head.

Gunn somehow gets them all to find the reality in their absurd situations, which is what makes Guardians feel like a proper Marvel movie. Even the fate of the universe ultimately boils down to someone’s trust issues – as it ought to, I suppose.

And the bizarre tone that threatened to send his previous films out of balance isn’t a problem here. A movie about a guy who fights blue space crazies by teaming up with a talking raccoon and a 9-foot tree can never get too weird.

Everything fits. It’s so much damn fun.

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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