Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie, and is important because the relatively unknown characters allow the filmmakers at Marvel and Disney to stretch without endangering their pride and joy personalities from other properties: Mr. Fantastic, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, Peter Parker, Professor X and Marvel’s (not Disney’s, not yet…) other flagship characters.
In Guardians you’ll find Zoe Saldana going from her blue skin in Avatar to her normal look in Star Trek into this green skin for her Guardians of the Galaxy part. Remember Susan Oliver as “the green girl” in what is arguably the best of the original Star Trek films, the pilot known simply as The Cage. It’s not a stretch to think that Marvel and Star Trek borrowed ideas from each other, though little green men and green skin is somewhat of a cliché in everyday science fiction.
Vin Diesel has three words in Guardians, “I am Groot.” Didn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger have just 64 in the first Terminator film and 700 words in Terminator 2? Vin’s got Arnold beat with this one – and reportedly the actor behind Mr. Riddick said these three words in multiple languages for the dubbed versions! The CG characters are very appealing, more so than one would think. And after a summer of very poor 3D facsimile, this epic really has extraordinary 3D that adds to the story and the visuals. The treat is Rocket Raccoon, the little genetically mutated rodent voiced by, of all people, Bradley Cooper. Cooper is arguably and perhaps the most recognizable leading man in Hollywood these days, and it doesn’t even sound like the Bradley Cooper we know. Cooper isn’t even known for this genre of flick, which makes his addition all the more appealing. The closet thing to it is his stint in The A-Team. Michael Rooker as Yondu and Lee Pace as Ronan won’t be as remembered as their characters, this is a character driven movie and no actor puts his or her brand on it the way Jack Nicholson’s Joker was more Jack Nicholson than Joker (giving Heath Ledger the golden opportunity he took full advantage of, creating a Joker for the ages.) Even Glenn Close, with her overpowering presence, takes a back seat to her film persona, La Prime Nova “Nova Prime.” This is a team effort with director James Gunn (he who wrote the 2004 screenplay to Dawn Of the Dead; no, he’s not the villain, Jaime Gumm from Silence of the Lambs) making the best of it, as Heath Ledger did in The Dark Knight, and being announced as director for the 2017 sequel.
Guardians of the Galaxy Full Trailer Official
Now all this perspective aside, the film is a welcome roller coaster ride that, my word, is so different than the Iron Man/Thor/Captain America plots, as creative as they are, permeating the silver screen these days. Yes, there are explosions in space, yes there are even Riddick moments as the orb of everyone’s affection is the primary motivation for this cast of questionable characters from different parts of the universe – or galaxy – to converge, join up and proceed to throw the monkey in the wrench.
These relatively unknown entities, though we Marvel comic fans of long ago certainly know Thanos and the villainous Kree, have participated in an intriguing epic which – like the Planet of the Apes reboot, was more of a surprise than one expected prior to walking into the theater. And both the new Apes and this new Guardian series are more popular than even the wizards of the movie industry thought they would be. Zoe Saldana as Gamora here still has her Neytiri identity from Avatar sitting inside the #1 worldwide film of all time. And she’s scheduled for Avatard 2 (2016), Avatar 3 (2017), and Avatar 4 (2018.)
Saldana, like Will Smith, is amassing a huge science fiction resume that would make 1950s/1960s character actor Whit Bissell blush with envy – Bissell, found in I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, Star Trek: The Trouble With Tribbles, Soylent Green – (side note: this writer meeting Bissell at a Science Fiction conference in the 1970s.) was ubiquitous in the genre when it wasn’t cool to be so. Now it’s a new era where being in a “sci fi” movie isn’t typecasting the actor as a second class citizen. Saldana, Halle Berry and other A-list actresses enjoying the legitimacy – and notoriety – of being chosen for these blockbuster films of the new millennium. When a Will Smith 1996 flick Independence Day is in the Top 50 worldwide gross all time on a list flooded with fantasy and science fiction (from the #1 Avatar to #3 Avengers to 007 and Batman and Harry Potter and the rest,) it is certainly an interesting time for a Chris Pratt to blast into that select group on a film I peg to do at least a billion dollars.
The image of Pratt riding in his spaceship on the internet as Guardians of the Galaxy smashed the opening record for August is a far cry from his overweight slob that had to drop 60 pounds to become a handsome leading man. You can Google the “before and after” picks to see the extraordinary transition that would be hard for a true changeling to muster.
From director Gunn:
“Chris came in probably 60 pounds overweight, completely out of shape, did not look like a superhero,” says director James Gunn. “But within 20 seconds, I turned to the casting director, Sarah Finn, and said, ‘He’s the guy.’ Read more:
It’s inspiring for any fellow who wants a model of how to lose so much fat and turn it into muscle – and go from sloppy to attractive. But Pratt did it, and in doing so, Is set to become a film star of giant proportions.
So that’s my take on Guardians of the Galaxy, but it opens the door to look at why these lesser known stars are more appealing in these roles, generally, than the Jack Nicholson types, who are too well known to be resilient enough to even attempt to be chameleon like anymore. When you get a Nicholson or a Ben Affleck, that persona is first and the part they are playing will always take a back seat.
Robert Downey Jr. being the exception to the rule as, like Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Downey Jr. was born for the part.
The main problem is this: Ben Affleck as Daredevil (he a better Daredevil than Batman, we know THAT in advance,) didn’t do what Robert Downey Jr. did as Iron Man/Tony Stark. Affleck wasn’t bad in the film, but he also didn’t give the 2nd string Marvel hero any real bite. Shame on Affleck for that. He could have made Daredevil and his blind attorney alter ego his own, and Affleck just didn’t even try. Good does not translate into great, no matter what Woody Allen says about just showing up.
Experimenting with a string of actors playing an iconic figure – and we go to the competition – DC Comic s for the comparison – George Clooney, Val Kilmer, the insufferable Michael Keaton all playing the Caped Crusader, was forcing “New Coke” on a market that wanted the real thing – the Coca Cola original formula. My point is that by doing a “color by the numbers” and being too careful with the Fantastic Four, it resulted in absolutely zero chemistry between Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards) and Jessica Alba (Sue Storm.) Go back to that movie and note, Victor Con Doom, as played by Julian McMahon, and Richards, the protagonist vs the antagonist, the super brain vs the super brain, was the real chemistry at play, and it wasn’t exploited enough. The forced romance destroyed the two films in the franchise released by 20th Century Fox. Sure, the 2005 film made 330 and a half million on a budget of 100m according to BoxOfficeMojo.com while Rise of the Silver Surfer pulled in 289 m on a budget of 130m, according to that same source. Both films turning a profit, but nothing near the staggering returns made on the Christian Bale Batman series or Roger Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
Which brings us to the relatively unknown Chris Pratt, now in a movie as big as Aaron Johnson’s Godzilla. Pratt and Johnson are two new leading men that have pretty much come out of nowhere to the mainstream, perfect for the parts they have to play. But keep in mind, it is each franchise that has given them this platform to establish their talents in a way lesser projects failed to do. Put Oliver Stone’s Savages against Godzilla to see what I mean.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.