Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace
Have I Seen it Before: I’m not sure what insisted that I make it for the opening weekend of a movie featuring characters I had no prior awareness, but we all made it, and now Star-Lord and company are all a part of us… And many of us were not opposed to the idea of a (new) Howard the Duck movie as we thought we might have been beforehand.
The state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was probably more precarious in 2014 than Disney and Company. The movies had yet to flounder at the box office, and The Avengers (2012) was one of the big box-office money makers of all time. But, as could clearly be seen now through the lens of hindsight, the characters we had all come to love (or, more accurately, the actors playing them) might not be cost effective for the bean counters anymore.
And so, Marvel would have to start dipping deeper into the catalog. It was a gamble on Marvel’s part, but they could afford to gamble a bit at this point in their output. But they did it in a smart way. They did it just a little bit, and they made sure the movie they branched out in was actually pretty good. And they managed to stumble upon the reality that Chris Pratt was a verifiable movie star*.
And so the movie plays out like an approximation of what it would be like if Quentin Tarantino made a high-action space opera**. Gunn may not quite be the mast craftsman that Tarantino is, but the dish is made with the right ingredients, and presents a pretty enjoyable feast, all things considered.
On one directly critical note: is it weird that I think the biggest suspension of disbelief in this movie is that I’m supposed to somehow believe that a cassette mix tape has crystal-clear audio quality nearly thirty years after it was originally mixed? When played through a walkman that was just as old? That the tape ever played that well? In a movie filled with hollowed-out god heads, tree men, and the blind faith that a superhero movie with no known superheroes could ever hope to be any kind of hit, the music presentation probably shouldn’t bother me, and yet, there are moments when I can’t quite push it out of my mind.
*Although I’ll admit that I might be wrong in this assessment. The end titles call the shot that the Guardians will return. I mean, I suppose they might have been able to guess that even if the movie underperformed, they would play a vital role in the quickly forming Infinity Saga but man… Especially in a movie with the aforementioned Howard, they should have allowed for the possibility that this might not work out quite as well as they might have hoped.
**Which—to be fair—he still may do.