ON MONDAY EVENING, Marvel Studios unspooled a 17-minute, IMAX-enhanced preview of its raccoon-fueled galactic roll of the dice. And from the spotlighted comedic moments to the classic rock, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is certainly getting a precision roll-out.
First, “Guardians” writer/director James Gunn came on-screen to introduce the footage while also encouraging fans to try the film in the IMAX format (hence Monday’s sneak-clip screenings across the country being presented on IMAX screens).
Whether or not “Guardians” cinematically capitalizes on the IMAX format at length, a la Christopher Nolan’s Bat-films (therefore warranting the price of an IMAX ticket), literally remains to be seen. But Gunn picked the perfect scene to try to prove a point, using a space-jail scene (which we’ve already glimpsed in the trailers). If we’re to begin to judge “Guardians” by the footage shown in this sneak-peek, Marvel Studios appears well-poised to have another hit on its hands.
The space-jail scene gives fans their first look at the not-yet team. The Guardians are getting to know each other, so there’s much posturing within the interactions. The scene is built to introduce not only each space rogue’s personality, but also the individual fighting gifts. (Drax and Gamora? Dynamic hand-to-hand combat, Groot and Rocket? Surprising offensive firepower for a tree and a raccoon. Star-Lord? Pretty funny guy.)
Fans currently following the team in the pages of the Marvel Comic, as written by Brian Michael Bendis, shouldn’t be disappointed by this footage. And there’s enough action and charisma for the general moviegoer who might not be familiar with the team.
Marvel Studios is aware that the “Guardians” don’t come with the public awareness of their previous screen characters. The last time Marvel Studios put a team of heroes on the big screen — with “The Avengers” — it was an event. By the time “Guardians of the Galaxy” makes its debut in August, general audiences will know that Marvel Studios is not a one-team universe.
Here are Five Highlights from our viewing of Monday’s screening:
1. Rocket, man.
Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) steals the show quickly. And not for obvious reasons, either. Yes, it’s fun watching him go off Punisher-style with the ammunition, but Rocket establishes himself as the brains of a team that packs plenty of muscle. A brain that carries a big gun, that is. With all the talk of what Marvel Studios is going to do once Robert Downey Jr. leaves behind his franchise (if he’s done with the Iron Man armor after the third “Avengers”), how nutty would it be if Marvel’s next biggest star is a CGI raccoon? Yet it could happen.
2. A Groot-ing interest.
Groot is the gigantic humanoid tree voiced by Vin Diesel, who keeps repeating the line, “I am Groot.” That’s it. Rocket actually gives a detailed reason of why this is (he and Groot are buds after all, and Rocket apparently is more fluent in “I am Groot” than anyone else on the team). When the branches sprout…watch out! Diesel has surely never memorized a script faster.
3. The ties that bind Gamora.
The super-strong Gamora can fight quite well — it’s what she does best in her role as the most dangerous woman in the universe — and she doesn’t take any guff from the boys. And as intense a character as she is, and as fun as it is watching a green Zoe Saldana in action, it’s the family drama that makes this character tick: Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos (who will be played by Josh Brolin), an immensely powerful space-baddie who we saw at the end of “The Avengers.” Gamora also has a sister (Nebula), who was also adopted by Thanos. It will surely be a spectacle when the sibs’ paths cross.
4. Star-Lord: Leadership down.
Who is going to rally the troops when the galaxy is at stake? Enter Peter Quill — aka Star-Lord. Chris Pratt is the half-human/half-alien rogue who can’t stay out of trouble while trying to expand his intergalactic brand. No Captain America-like leadership here. As we see: He doesn’t just have a plan — he’s got 12 percent of a plan.
5. I-MAXimum effect.
IMAX should befit a film that takes place in the vastness of space. Thankfully, the popping effects in the screener signal the promise that “Guardians” will merit the higher price of an IMAX ticket.
You can follow Betancourt at Twitter: @adcfanboy.