3 out of 4 stars
Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Iron Man have become Marvel’s movie masterpieces, amassing a pile of box office cash as big as Mount Rushmore, where the faces of the four iconic superheroes should be forever etched in time.
Now, it’s time for the comic book giant to consider adding the portraits of an arboreal alien, the deadliest woman in the universe, a maniacal, muscular freak bent on revenge and of course, a machine gun-toting raccoon.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot, a tree-like creature created through CGI and voiced by Vin Diesel; the sexy, green-skinned killer Gamora (Zoe Saldana); the brutish Drax the Destroyer (WWE star Dave Bautista); and the ferocious and funny Rocket (CGI, voiced by Bradley Cooper) will never be confused with the Avengers, but they certainly put the fun in dysfunctional in the witty space opera.
The two-hour story is comic-book simple. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human who was kidnapped from earth as a young boy, hooks up in prison with a fearsome foursome and bond over a common goal: prevent the all-powerful Orb from getting in the hands of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who wants to use it to turn a peaceful planet into powder.
Quill – the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw “Star-Lord” – and his eclectic buddies travel the galaxy in a fun, visually pleasing journey that combines more explosions than the Fourth of July with enough fight scenes to make those loyal to the comic book proud.
It’s a journey through time, literally, as the movie – at its best when watched in 3D – is set to pop songs from the 1970’s and 1980’s that come from Quill’s Walkman cassette player, his last possession from earth, making for the perfect soundtrack.
The Guardians are complemented fantastically by John C. Reilly (Corpsman Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Djimon Hounsou (Korath), as director-writer James Gunn fast-moving script seamlessly translates the comic book to the silver screen.
There’s no question Groot, Gamora, Rocket and Drax have never met a weapon they couldn’t master, but are they strong enough to leave a lasting impression at the movie theater?
Make no mistake: Marvel has set the box office bar so high that Robert Downey Jr. needs an even more powerful Iron Man suit to clear it.
Galaxy of the Guardians is Marvel’s first non-sequel film since July 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, which grossed more than $370 million worldwide off an about $140 million budget. The Avengers (2012) and Iron Man 3 (2013) generated $1.5 billion and $1.2 billion worldwide, respectively, ranking them as the third and the fifth highest-grossing films of all time, according to BoxOfficeMojo. Avatar ranks first at $2.8 billion followed by Titanic ($2.2 billion), while Frozen lovers can rejoice knowing at $1.07 billion, it’s the highest-grossing animated picture ever, just ahead of Toy Story 3, and 10th overall.
Even Marvel’s lesser-grossing films in the past year were heroes at the box office, as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World took in more than $713 million and $644 million worldwide, respectively.
Guardians of the Galaxy, with a budget of around $175 million, may not put up much of a fight against “The Avengers,” whose star power always has always shined much, much brighter. Unless you grew up hanging out at Collectors Corner in Baltimore, could you honestly name any of the Guardians if you saw them in a comic book? You can’t say the same thing about the Avengers, can you?
But we’re not shopping for comic books.
We’re going to the movies, where the chaos Guardians of the Galaxy will make perfect sense.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 18 years experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He’s also an editor for CBSSports.com. He’s crossing his fingers the only baseball team in Baltimore that will contend for a title this summer won’t be his fantasy squad, the Catonsville Cartel. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.