The galaxy is in trouble. A talking raccoon, a wise-cracking thief and a walking tree represent the best hopes for salvation.
Comic book and space fantasy fans will see how they do Friday, when “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the latest installment in the Marvel cinematic universe, opens in theaters across the country.
While casual pop culture aficionados know at least a few things about recent movie sensations Superman and Iron Man, they might be clueless about Rocket Raccoon, Star-Lord and Groot.
“They’re all secondary characters,” said Jevon Kasitch, manager at Electric City Comics in Schenectady.
“They’re also-rans, characters who have been bouncing around the background of other titles. They got picked up and gathered together. The series has worked, there’s always been a fondness for the property. Done correctly, it’s decent space fare.”
Marvel is banking on epic space fare, and company brass are hoping for three words — late summer blockbuster. While the comic book giant’s “Iron Man,” “Thor” and “Captain America” franchises all have taken place on Earth, this is the first Marvel production with a cosmic setting.
’Guardians of the Galaxy’
WHERE: Capital Region movie theaters
WHEN: Opens Friday
HOW LONG: 121 minutes PG-13
MORE INFO: www.marvel.com/guardians
The story is from the grab-and-chase playbook: Earth man Peter Quill — who likes to throw around the fancy code name “Star-Lord” — steals a powerful orb that Ronan the Accuser wants, and Ronan is full of bad intent. Quill learns how powerful the orb is, and gathers his crew to battle Ronan and his boys. Explosions, mayhem, fights, assorted weirdness, more explosions, music from the 1970s and ’80s and a bunch of one-liners are all in the script.
Early reviews are in. As of Monday, the film and television website Rotten Tomatoes counted 27 positive reviews and one negative review for a 96 percent rating. The site calls the movie “just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect — as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor.”
The “Guardians” have been around since 1969, when the comic book first hit the shelves. The latest series began in 2008. And the movie apparently is packed with more comedic elements than past Marvel productions, which have included a friendly, always-ready-with-a-quip neighborhood “Spider-Man.”
Kasitch has no problems with the talking raccoon — although some Marvel fans still wince at the memory of “Howard the Duck,” the live-action 1986 bomb about a cigar-smoking, lecherous fowl.
Time and technology have made life easier for the gun-toting Rocket.
“The difference is 25 years of CGI [computer-generated imagery] technology,” Kasitch said. “When they made ‘Howard the Duck,’ the special effects weren’t up to the standard they needed to do that. Now they are.”
J.C. Glindmyer, owner of Earthworld Comics in Albany, says the movie certainly has buzz.
“The way they’re marketing it, they have star power with Chris Pratt, he’s got a following,” he said. “Last year, at the New York Comic Con in October, Marvel was selling limited edition Rocket Raccoon dolls and the lines were out the door in anticipation of this movie.”
For casual viewers who want to learn more about Groot and the gang, here are some facts:
- Ronan the Accuser has been working for Marvel since 1967, when he showed up to challenge the Fantastic Four during the well-regarded Stan Lee-Jack Kirby writer-artist days.
- Star-Lord has star power on his side: Bradley Cooper provides Rocket Raccoon’s voice. Vin Diesel does the vocals for Groot.
- A “Guardians” sequel already has a release date — July 28, 2017.
- Look around the stores — you’ll be seeing Guardians video games, T-shirts, hats, Halloween costumes, backpacks and cosmetics. Rocket is expected to be the film’s breakout character.
- Benicio del Toro shows up as The Collector, and the role has been described by director James Gunn “an outer-space Liberace.”
- Zoe Saldana, who plays the emerald-skinned Gamora, has worked in space before. She’s played Lt. Uhura in the last two “Star Trek” movies.