They got me with Go All the Way.
Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest Marvel comic and marketing monster to make the leap from the page to the screen, is the kind of movie that will have fans rehashing the one-liners and parade of visual gags through, at least, Labor Day. The most absurdly tongue-in-cheek of all the superhero movies, it makes The Avengers look like Schindler’s List.
And just when it seems as if this goof of a movie is going to spiral down a rabbit-hole of pop-culture conceits, the filmmakers do something to bring a smile — like playing the Raspberries’ gloriously effervescent 1972 hit Go All the Wayon the soundtrack.
Likable Chris Pratt is Peter Quill, a rogue and scavenger in a galaxy far, far away. Kidnapped from Earth in the late ’80s while still a kid — clutching his Sony Walkman with a tape of ’70s hits given to him by his mother before she died — Quill has grown into a rapscallion with a fondness for a music no one in this part of the universe knows a thing about.
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While on a mission to track down a mysterious orb that could bring him a small fortune, Quill finds himself in the middle of a galactic space hunt. Everyone wants this object, especially the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) who wants to (what else?) rule the universe, his warring warrior daughters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) and some strange guy who just goes by the name of The Collector (Benicio del Toro).
Meanwhile, others are chasing Peter, including a wisecracking raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper), his less glib talking-tree sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) and the band of mercenaries, led by Yondu (Michael Rooker), who snatched him from Earth in the first place.
To cut a 121-minute-long story short, Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax (wrestler Dave Bautista), a prisoner they pick up along the way, end up on the same side as the only force standing between freedom and tyranny.
As directed by James Gunn — who has only done smaller movies like Slither and Super before this — Guardians of the Galaxy never takes itself seriously and it’s often a visual and musical treat. The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb and David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream? Yes, please.
While the film’s core demographic will respond to the jokey camaraderie and special effects, it’s their parents and grandparents who will be downloading the soundtrack.
Yet, for all of that, the film begins to run out of steam in its second half as, like with so many superhero movies, things start to go kaboom and it becomes more like the films it had been slyly parodying.
But then they go and toss in the 5 Stairsteps’ forgotten but blissfully hopeful 1970 track Ooh Child and the realization dawns that, like other songs of that era often declared, everything’s gonna be all right.
GUARDIANS OF THE
* * *
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker
Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some strong language)
Running time: 121 min.