(US - 2014)
Directed by James Gunn. Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Gregg Henry, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Fairbank, Sean Gunn, Tomas Arana, Krystian Godlewski, Laura Haddock, Wyatt Oleff, Alexis Denisof, Ralph Ineson. (PG-13, 121 mins)
In keeping with the recent tradition of Marvel installments being tailored to the stylings of their directors--Shane Black's IRON MAN 3 and Anthony & Joe Russo's CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER--James Gunn fashions GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as very much his own film in the guise of a Marvel production and the results are fantastic. Starting his career by scripting Troma's TROMEO & JULIET (1996), Gunn moved on to Hollywood and penned the two SCOOBY-DOO movies before making a name for himself by writing Zack Snyder's surprisingly good 2004 remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD. That got Gunn his first feature directing gig, 2006's tragically underappreciated and wonderfully oozy and slimy SLITHER. Never the most prolific of writers or directors, Gunn resurfaced five years later with the dark-humored indie SUPER and again with a segment in last year's awful MOVIE 43. Gunn seems an unlikely choice for Marvel, but really, it's that kind of outside-the-box thinking--turning IRON MAN 3 into a smartass Shane Black movie or CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER into the superhero version of a '70s paranoia thriller--that's made much of their recent run of films so successful. As someone who's not a comic book guy, I take these kinds of films at face value for what they are in and of themselves, not where they fit in the Marvel universe or how faithful they are or whatever. That said, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the best Marvel movie I've seen. It's the best movie of the summer. And it may very well be the STAR WARS of its generation, a film that helps shape a childhood with its spectacle and imagination. Yeah...it's that good.
Cherry Bomb"), but Gunn's take on it has Gamora yawning and Rocket adjusting his nutsack. The leads are perfectly cast, Pratt is a smartass without being grating, and Cooper's vocal delivery of the hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside Rocket is spot-on (Gunn's brother Sean filled in as Rocket during filming to provide sight-lines and a model for the actors to look at; similarly, Krystian Godlewski was the surrogate Groot on-set until the effects were completed and Diesel's motion capture work was CGI'd in). Everyone else, from the supporting actors on down--even Gunn regular Gregg Henry--gets a moment to shine, and the film is so good that you don't even mind that the great Djimon Hounsou is saddled with a stock henchman role when he could've made a terrific Ronan himself.