It starts with a mixtape labeled: “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” — filled with tracks from the ’70s and ’80s. The mixtape, like the music, takes you into another era — the one when new “Star Wars” movies were being released into theaters and “Star Trek” was still running on TV. The force was with us as we “explored strange new worlds, seeking out life and civilizations, going boldly where no man has gone before.”
That’s the tune director James Gunn sets up with his Marvel film, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a time capsule to the “old” frontier.
The “Guardians of the Galaxy” aren’t your conventional superheroes. But neither are the crew of Josh Whedon’s “Serenity.” These intergalactic guardians are rogues, thieves and smugglers, assassins and killers — all with their own agendas. And their origin story starts in prison.
The captain of this Space Western (written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman based on Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett’s comic books) is Peter James Quill (Chris Pratt), or, as he likes to call himself, Star Lord. When we first meet him, he’s stealing this orb while rocking out to Redbone’s 1974 hit, “Come and Get Your Love.”
But Quill’s not the only one that wants the orb. “This orb has a real shiny blue suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon sort of vibe,” says Quill.
Quill’s mentor Yondu (Michael Rooker) would love nothing more than to sell the orb to the highest bidder. The Collector (Benecio Del Toro, “The Usual Suspects”) wants to add the orb, and the infinity stone it contains, to his collection of outer worldly treasures (which includes the Terrasect from “Thor: The Dark World“). Green-skinned Gamora (played by Zoe Saldana of the modern “Star Trek” films) is sent to secure the orb for Ronan (Lee Pace), but she wants to betray him for killing her parents. Ronan, like all evil-doers, wants the orb for world destruction. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) wants to inflict revenge on Ronan. And Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his pal Groot (an Ent-like structure voiced by Vin Diesel) are hired mercenaries, looking to capture Quill for their own financial gain.
As you can imagine, the rest of “Guardians of the Galaxy” plays out like a 121-minute game of capture the orb, accompanied by flying ships and explosions. We’ve seen this story dozens of times before with varying degrees of special effects. (The visual effects artists of “Guardians of the Galaxy” successfully disintegrate the faces of men while animating CGI and rotomation animals.) But “Guardians of the Galaxy” strikes a chord.
With the help of Blue Swede, David Bowie, the Runaways, Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye and the Raspberries, Gunn drums up our nostalgia — reminding us how awesome the ’80s were while paying homage to the science fiction stories we grew up on. Now that’s a tune we can listen to.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” was directed by James Gunn and written by Gunn and Nicole Perlman based on Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett’s comics.