The box-office success currently being enjoyed by the latest sci-fi superhero caper, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is both unexpected and instructive.
At first blush, the project had little going for it, because it wasn’t about a big, invincible, stellar hero like Superman and his high-flying ilk—but about a mangy mix of “losers” including a self-styled “Star Lord” superhero nobody has heard about, a green-skinned female alien, a ratty raccoon—and a tree! What great exploits can we expect from such a mangy managerie? —Why, very little at all!
True enough, when “Star Lord” (Chris Pratt) is presented with his superheroic task of saving the universe (for the nth time) from utter domination or destruction, we don’t expect much from him at all!
The other characters start out as antagonists and competitors, but are soon forced to work together to survive the onslaughts of the film’s utterly invincible principal villain—until they find themselves doing something completely unexpected, especially from certified losers like them: They end up, no longer as mangy competitors, but as friends.
Initially, they would seem to be incapable of loving or even liking each other, but the film smartly and warmly makes the unlikely not just possible, but even hugely appealing and inspiring. This definitely isn’t easy to pull off, because the Guardians look like they don’t have much going for them other than bravado and wishful thinking. But, they eventually warm up to each other, and we end up doting on them, in turn.
The key shift comes when the seemingly sullen and unfeeling tree, gratingly named Groot, reveals his emotional and even poetic nature, making us realize that all creatures, no matter how seemingly unprepossessing, possess something special and valuable that we should be grateful for.
This is an unexpectedly moving insight to gain from such a seemingly brutish bunch of firewood, and the artistic incongruity makes the realization both moving and memorable.
“Guardians” is so full of unexpected surprises and grace notes that it’s turned out to be the current film season’s biggest “sleeper” hit, grossing more than $90 million on its opening weekend—leaving its more “stellar” competition far behind.
—Just goes to show that inspiring and diverting movies about losers who turn out to be winners, if effectively and convincingly limned, are in no danger of overstaying their welcome on the silver screen!
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