I WENT TO A MARVELOUS PARTY
Main Cast: Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper
Director: James Gunn
Things are looking up around Chateau Maine. I received a call from Joseph, my manager, telling me that he had been contacted by the producers of some new television program called Dancing with the Star or some such and they would like me to appear on their new season. As I am a star of the first magnitude, I can only assume that I am the star of the title. Joseph says that there are a few other well known celebrities being approached. As every star needs a supporting cast to truly shine, I shall be gracious in letting a few lesser lights appear. I need to head to YouTube or one of those other new fangled websites that seems to have emerged in my absence and check out an episode or two of past seasons to see just what sort of thing this is before I sign the final contractual paperwork. I would not want to be part of something that makes me look anything other than completely glamorous in the eyes of my adoring public.
Chateau Maine itself has nearly recovered from the little problems with poor Neely O’Hara’s wedding. I do hope she is enjoying her new life but I fear her choice of couture may be somewhat limited. I’m having my private seamstress, Kim Dee run her up some charming little burquas in cerise and lavender chiffon to send her as a late wedding present. MNM wedding planning is still open for business but the phone has not been ringing as much as I would like. Last week it was two wrong numbers and a lady truck driver asking to use my services in setting up her wedding to a carpenter named Karen. I’m not sure Chateau Maine is the backdrop she’s looking for so I referred her to my friend Nan who runs divine little all women ceremonies at Michfest.
Normy has been working very hard on a new tone poem based on the works of Umberto Eco and has nearly finished the first movement, so to celebrate, the two of us went off hand in hand to our local cineplex where we chose the new comic book movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, as being amongst the least offensive titles. We were unfamiliar with the characters or material, not being great consumers of comic book fare, but the buzz the other night at The Ivy had been very positive so we thought we would give it a whirl. We were pleasantly surprised.
The plot is a farrago of nonsense about a powerful orb containing a weapon of incredible power known as an infinity stone which is wanted by various factions of warring alien races. It serves as an excuse to introduce us to our hero, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt in a star making performance), a human abducted by alien pirates from earth as a child. As an interplanetary rogue, he is soon thrown together with an odd assortment of creatures including a brainy talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a somewhat dim witted and entirely literal muscle bound blue skinned thug who is covered with intricate body art named Drax (WWE star Dave Bautista), a rather odd talking tree of limited vocabulary named Groot that seems to have escaped from a Peter Jackson Entmoot (voice by Vin Diesel), and a female green skinned martial arts humanoid weapon named Gamora (Zoe Saldana). (I’m not making this up, I swear.) Our intrepid heroes team up to take on an arch villain Ronan (Lee Pace) who has it in for the planet Xandar ruled by Nova Prime (Glenn Close). Add in an evil Josh Brolin, a completely wasted John C. Reilly, a wisecracking blue skinned woman weapon named Nebula who is sister to the green one (Karen Gillan), and a collector of unusual artifacts (Benicio del Toro), then throw all the pieces in the blender and hit frappe.
Most of the cast are playing caricatures, rather than characters, but Chris Pratt in the lead finds a nice balance of humanity and daring do and reminds me a bit of Harrison Ford when he first burst on the scene. If he chooses the right properties and has the right management, he is a movie star in the making. He remains with you long after most of the supporting cast turns vanish into the ether. Zoe Saldana doesn’t make much of an impression under her Elphaba makeup. Lee Pace makes a convincing heavy, quite different from the somewhat fey and ethereal characters he usually plays. The CGI creations of Rocket Raccoon and his pal Groot are flawlessly done and integrate quite well with the humanoid world. Pages upon pages of animators float by during the credits showing the skill and care which went into their creation. If there is a weakness, it’s that the stock situations make this the cinematic equivalent of Chinese food, an hour later and you have trouble recalling any specifics.
I found the movie hugely entertaining. It has some of the classic cliffhanger brio of the original Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and the whole film races along at breakneck speed from one elaborate sequence to another. The production design (Charles Wood) takes us to a number of different planets and features everything from gleaming cities borrowed from Tomorrowland to space debris fields borrowed from Gravity while maintaining a unified look and tone. Costumes and character looks are a bit like a slightly tamer version of The Fifth Element. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne is no Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Where the movie really shines, however, and transcends the usual Masters of the Universe nonsense is in its use of music and sly eighties references. Our hero, Quill, also known as Star-Lord for somewhat opaque reasons, was kidnapped from earth by space pirates in the late 80s and the one thing he has kept through all his adventures are his walkman and a mix tape of his mothers favorite pop music of the 70s and 80s. There’s something surreally trippy about the mix of outer space and Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling or 10cc’s I’m Not In Love that lift the whole thing into pop culture heaven. Writer/director James Gunn has come up with a formula that should fall flat on its face, but works, especially for an older audience that actually remembers the 80s. (The short post-credits scene is perhaps the ultimate 80s joke and will have no resonance to anyone under the age of 35).
While Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t as good and is not likely to have the cultural impact of a film like Star Wars, it’s a great summer evening popcorn film, hugely entertaining and definitely worth a look. Like most big releases, it’s getting the 3-D treatment but it strikes me that 3-D isn’t likely to add much. Save the money and buy a box of Twizzlers to go with your popcorn instead.
Orb stealing. Stan Lee cameo. Crystal trinkets. Gratuitous prosthetic leg. Corpse mining. Outer space rescues. 12% plans. Dancing Star-lord. Dancing Groot. Courageous pilots. Gratuitous Glenn Close grimaces.