MARVEL'S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
(PG13) 121 minutes/Now showing/ **½
The story: In Missouri, 1988, a boy, Peter Quill, is taken by aliens and raised by the Ravagers, a band of space pirates. During an attempt to steal a powerful and mysterious object, the adult Quill (Chris Pratt) is ambushed by the henchmen of the supervillian Ronan (Lee Pace), but he escapes.
To destroy Ronan, he later bands with a superintelligent raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a giant tree-being Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an assassin. The group forms what will become the Guardians Of The Galaxy.
The movie that promised to be the gonzo sibling of the more serious Avengers franchise has turned out to be awfully short on irreverence or humour and long on incoherence.
Any hope of director James Gunn (Slither, 2006) bringing his cheeky B-movie attitude into this work was crushed in the first action sequence, and in the second, third and in what felt like the two hundred others, each trying to top the other in the number of things whizzing around, going boom or collapsing.
Instead of charming the audience, his course of action seems to be to overwhelm.
The comic banter within the band of Guardians (though they are not yet given that name in this origin story), so tantalisingly teased in the trailers, could be heard only sporadically underneath the explosions.
And when it could be heard, it was because the bellowed line delivery was taking the place of the explosions.
Gunn is not a believer in juxtaposing quiet with loud, or slow with quick; the pace is uniformly frantic throughout.
When plot is not being dispensed (usually with rapid-fire exposition, the names of alien races and who is fighting whom flying through the air like so many buzzing bees), the musical montages come in at regular intervals.
The songs, lite-rock classics from the 1970s and 1980s, are well chosen, but after two or three jam interludes, it begins to feel like pandering.
Pratt, an actor who combines all- American good looks with just enough snarkiness, is well suited to the role of space cowboy-lothario, but the script cannot quite decide on Quill's level of competence; he wavers between smart and stupid, depending on what the plot finds convenient.
Perhaps it was too much to hope for a smart, cartoony and slightly parodic space romp, instead of this, a more standard-issue Marvel superhero offering that is closer in tone to Thor (2011) or Captain America (2011) than Flash Gordon (1980).
This article was first published on August 1, 2014.
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