Team Rocket!

I give it 5/5 : So today we went and saw the highly anticipated (for me, anyway) new Marvel flick, “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I’d never read the comic and was completely unfamiliar with it; thus I really had no interest in, or expectations of this movie prior to having seen the trailer several months ago, and then I have to admit, I was hooked…(“hooked on a feelin’…high on believin’…” as the soundtrack goes). It’s fantastic, a sumptuous visual feast of special effects, CGI animation, and costuming. It’s got a great script with a lot of nods to the 1980s, when I was growing up, and some thrilling action sequences interspersed with wacky humor. It’s adventurous, fun, and funny, with a talented cast who turn in some top notch performances.

I’d really expected to like Peter “Star Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) more, based solely on the trailer. He steals the show in that trailer, even though it’s also the audience’s first glimpse at the film’s most novel characters of Rocket the Raccoon and Groot, his tree-like sidekick. Quill is charming and witty in the trailer, and I have to admit, I was sort of disappointed that this level of charisma and appeal didn’t carry well through the movie. He’s likable, yes, and heroic for sure, (and Pratt is delightful in the role) but the character doesn’t seem to go through the kind of hero’s journey, the sort of well-developed or defined character arc that seems called for. True, Quill does shift throughout the movie from being a smarmy, self-centered kind of guy to one who is suddenly intent on saving the world, but there’s really not an epiphany moment that lets us know why he wants to make this kind of change in his life. His attraction to Gamora doesn’t seem like sufficient enough cause, at least not in the way their relationship was presented in the final cut. His final sacrifice in the end was powerful, but would have held even more weight with the audience, I think, if we’d believed this was truly a tremendous act for him, a complete change in his normal course of behavior. 

That being said, Rocket and Groot made this movie for me — and I think it’s because walking into the theater, I had no expectations of them whatsoever. I was expecting Star Lord to be the character I’d find the most appealing, the one who undergoes the big catharsis and discovers his inner hidden hero. Imagine my surprise, then, Rocket is instead the character who has these revelations, and for whom the heroism is a real stretch, a real sacrifice — and the best of the bunch. My husband commented that Rocket and Groot were the “Han Solo and Chewbacca of the movie,” and that’s true in a lot of ways. Groot defers to Rocket, defends and protects Rocket, and Rocket is the only one who understands the subtle nuances behind Groot’s solitary line of dialogue, spoken in any number of circumstances and with any number of possible interpretations: “I am Groot.” Rocket is brusque and short with Groot, as Solo often was with Chewie, but there’s definitely love between them.

I have to admit, Bradley Cooper did a great job as Rocket, giving the raccoon not only a hot temper, but a lot of emotional and psychological depth. Yes, the CGI animation on Rocket captures facial expressions with astonishing precision, but without Cooper’s voice to match the dialogue so perfectly to those expressions, the character would have seemed flat and cartoonish. Instead, Rocket comes across as one of the most well-developed of all the movie’s characters — and the one who undergoes the greatest transformation for the better.

Vin Diesel does the voice work for Groot, and if I’m not mistaken, did the motion-capture work for the CGI character, as well. I expected Groot to be the bit player in this cast, but instead, like Rocket, he shows an amazing range of depth and emotions. He cares about his friends and defends them with ferocity. At the same time, he can be surprisingly gentle and self-sacrificing. His scenes of genuine caring are the ones that stand out the most in my head, even above and beyond the action sequences. Groot’s facial expressions were phenomenally created; his large, glossy, expressive eyes were absolutely lifelike. 

Together, Rocket and Groot stole the show for me, with Dave Bautista as the eloquent, yet vindictive Drax the Destroyer, coming in a strong third. Surprisingly, these were the three characters I expected to like the least, or at least care the least about. They turned out to be my favorites in a film with plenty to choose from.

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