Guardians of the Galaxy

Released:  2014

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

Oscar Nominations:  Best Visual Effects (Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, paul Corbould), Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White)

SUMMARY:  In 1988, Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) mother dies in a hospital.  Overcome by grief, Peter runs out of the hospital and into the street, where he is abducted by a spacecraft run by a group of space pirates called the Ravagers.  The Ravagers and their leader Yondu Udonta raise Peter, but he eventually splits away from them.  In the present day, Peter arrives on the planet Morag.  He searches an abandoned city and finally finds a small orb, which he steals.  Before he can make his getaway, he is ambushed by a group of enforcers led by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), all of whom work for a Kree (a very advanced alien race) named Ronan.  Peter manages to distract the Kree and get away, but by stealing the orb, alerts Yondu to his whereabouts.  When Ronan learns that his men have failed to recover the orb, he sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it.  Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, the most notorious villain in the galaxy; she and her adoptive sister have been sent to work for Ronan as a gesture of goodwill.  Gamora finds Peter on Xandar, the Nova Empire capital world, where he is trying to sell the orb.  She ambushes him, but so do a pair of bounty hunters named Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper).  Groot is a gigantic tree with human-like characteristics; Rocket is a genetically engineered raccoon who is otherwise completely human.  All four grapple for the orb, but are arrested by the Xandar police and put into a notorious prison.  Gamora is almost instantly recognized for working with Ronan, and an inmate named Drax (Dave Bautista) tries to kill her as revenge for the death of his family (killed by Ronan).  Peter comes to her rescue, convincing Drax that allowing Gamora to live will bring Ronan closer.  To everyone’s surprise, Gamora reveals that she is working against Ronan:  he wants the orb because it will give him the power to destroy entire planets, and she is determined to ensure that this doesn’t happen.  She also knows someone who will buy the orb and make all four members of the group incredibly wealthy.  The group stages an elaborate escape; they are forced to bring Drax along when he helps them at a critical moment.  They travel to Knowhere, a haven for the galaxy’s criminals where the Gamora’s buyer resides.  The buyer, Taneleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro) discovers that the orb contains an Infinity Stone.  The Stone is so powerful that it is capable of destroying everything but the very strongest individuals, who are the only ones able to control its power.

Drax, who did not go to the meeting with the buyer, gets drunk and decides to hasten his confrontation with Ronan by calling him.  Just after the group learns of the Stone, Ronan and his followers arrive.  Drax is no match for Ronan, and is nearly killed; he is only saved when Groot uses special powers to revive him.  The entire group tries to flee by spaceship, with Gamora and Peter in individual pods, and Groot, Rocket and Drax in the main ship.  Gamora’s pod is destroyed, leaving both her and the orb floating in space.  Ronan’s men take the orb, but leave Gamora to die (there’s no oxygen, menaing that she has only a few minutes).  Rocket tries to convince Peter that she is as good as dead, but Peter calls Yondu, then leaves his pod.  He puts his helmet (which supplies oxygen) on Gamora, nearly dying himself before Yondu arrives and captures them both.  Yondu is ready to kill Peter, but changes his mind when he learns of the orb and its value.  The group of five, who have been reunited after Rocket and the others try to rescue them, realize that in all likelihood, they will die trying to defeat Ronan.  However, they all realize that allowing Ronan to use the Infinity Stone is unacceptable.  Meanwhile, Ronan opens the orb and touches the Stone, making himself incredibly powerful.  He then ends his alliance with Thanos, threatening to kill him in the future.  However, his first priority is eliminating planets, and he intends to start with Xandar.  Along with the Ravagers, Peter manages to convince the Xandar police force to help them in the fight against Ronan.  Rocket manages to blast a hole in the ship that allows the others in, but Ronan is too powerful.  Just when it seems like the game is up, Rocket crashes his ship into Ronan’s, fatally damaging it.  The ship begins plummeting down, with all five of the group aboard.  Groot shelters them with his body, saving them but sacrificing himself.  The rest emerge from the wreckage, only to find that Ronan has also survived.  They manage to get the Infinity Stone away from him; realizing that it is the only way to defeat Ronan, Peter grabs the stone.  Its power starts to tear him apart, but Gamora grabs his hand, sharing the burden; Rocket and Drax also lock hands with them.  Between the four of them, they are able to survive the Stone, and use it to kill Ronan.  The Ravagers leave soon after, taking with them what they believe to be the Stone in its orb.  In reality, it is a fake:  Peter has the real one, and gives it to the Xandar leadership.  In return for their efforts, the criminal records of the group are expunged; Peter is also told that the Stone did not instantly kill him because he is not a full human, as he believed.  Instead, he is only half-human:  his father was part of an ancient, mysterious alien race.  The group then departs Xandar, announcing that they will not resume their criminal lives as they are now Guardians of the Galaxy.

MY TAKE:  This is a weird movie, even for a comic-based superhero one.  I think that most of this is because there aren’t too many boundaries:  there’s tons of different species of humanoids (including a freaking tree with magical healing powers and a four-word vocabulary), a lot of planets and a backstory that isn’t explained very well.  Just look at the five Guardians:  there’s a half-human, half-unknown alien; a green alien who is the last of her species; the aforementioned tree; a human in a raccoon’s body; and a guy who is apparently human but has light blue skin.  Like I said, there’s no rules.  Also, some of the alien races are apparently okay, while others are murderous crazies.  Even among the bad guys, it seems like no two of them are the same species, which frankly makes things really confusing, as you spend a good amount of time wondering why the hell the apparently human Yondu has blue skin like Thanos.  I wasn’t fond of the plot either, as it involved so many different characters (too many names to keep track of) and a weak premise:  why would Ronan not have retrieved the orb before if it was so powerful?  The music was good, but it seems like one of those movies that you have to read the comic to really understand.  I’m sure it’s on the list because of the special effects, but frankly, there’s so many great special-effects movies (especially superhero ones) anymore that it isn’t that revelatory.  It came across to me as a very mediocre addition to the Marvel movies.

RATING:  Meh.

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