A smaller entry into the Marvel comic book universe, but nonetheless witty and exciting, is this wrecking crew of misfits. First bowed in 1969, this rag-tag bunch of miscreants were brought together to fight the bad guys and win the day back then, and so it is again in 2014.
Human Peter Quill, aka Starlord (Chris Pratt), was abducted by aliens when he was ten-years-old from Earth and whisked away to who-knows-where in the galaxy. Now an adult, he’s a cocksure rascal, part Indiana Jones, part mercenary for hire who’s been sent to find a mysterious silver Orb. But what he doesn’t know is that that Orb holds a dangerous secret. It’s coveted (much like The One Ring) by a super bad guy named Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) who wants his villain in charge, Ronan (Lee Pace), to find it and bring it to him. . . or else!
Ronan sends his beautiful green-skinned assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after Peter and the Orb, but there’s a snag. There’s a bounty on Peter’s head and wanting to cash in is a pair of hunters: Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically enhanced raccoon who’s got a serious attitude problem along with a hair trigger, and his trusted companion, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a mighty 8-foot tall tree-ish creature that only says, “I am Groot”. Think “Master Blaster” from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
Anyway, during a street melee on the peaceful planet of Xander, they’re all arrested by Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly) and shipped off to prison where they meet fellow prisoner Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a hulking WWE-looking brute that wants revenge on Ronan. They all form an alliance and manage to escape, with Gamora seeking out The Collector (Benicio del Toro) who buys the Orb, but also explains that inside the thing lies the fabled glowing blue Infinity Stone, capable of unimaginable power and destruction if fallen into the wrong hands. Which it does!
Ronan gets a hold of the stone and, in a double-cross, decides to annihilate Xander and then Thanos for good measure. The leader of Xander, Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close) orders that Peter and his band of misfits lead the charge in stopping Ronan. Soon, everyone is after Ronan, the stone, Peter, or all three! It’s an epic battle of space ships and wisecracks as the good guys try and keep Ronan from landing his ship and touching Xander soil and making the planet a smouldering little cinder using the stone. (personal note: They have all this advanced technology and no teleporter? Seriously?)
Directed by James Gunn (who directed the last Scooby-Doo movies), really has a flair for the funny and it works in this obscure little Marvel gem that snuck in the back door while everyone else was looking at The Avengers and all their companion films. The screenplay by Gunn and Nicole Perlman has plenty of pop-culture and sly self-aware references that it keeps the movie humming along at just over 2 hours.
Chris Pratt is carefree and reckless like a young Harrison Ford with just a dash of cynicism and Bradley Cooper’s voiced CGI raccoon Rocket is just hysterical to watch. Zoe Saldana, all green skinned and kick-ass (Captain Kirk would jones for her) is great as is Bautista, who is a wonderfully smart dim-bulb.
The movie works on so many levels and is so watchable that you can forgive the many plot holes and forced romance between Peter and Gamora.P.S. Stay until after the credits for a quick brush-stroke featuring a Marvel character from the 70’s that some despise to this day!
The Dirty Dozen (1967)