August came early to IMAXs across the country today, as Marvel Studios hosted a sneak peek for Guardians of the Galaxy. The outer space epic stars Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as the titular Guardians, a band of interstellar misfits dedicated to saving the titular galaxy. Marvel’s advertising for the film has gone out of its way to focus on the character fundamentals at the core of an ambitious and out-there premise, but today’s 17-minute sneak peek was our first chance to see the Guardians in action. We’re not about to go spoiling the whole thing for you with a scene-by-scene breakdown. Instead, we thought we should share our initial reactions to Marvel’s riskiest gamble since The Avengers.
Short answer: it works. The trailers and ads that have been released thus far have been an exciting blend of oddball humor and intense action, and that’s exactly what the 17-minute scene from the preview delivered. Well, close to that, anyway. The preview started with an introduction by director James Gunn (who directed the superhero flick Super, but go check out his earlier film, Slither, to understand why he’s a perfect choice for this material), who explained that the slice of the film we’d be watching was one of several re-mastered for the IMAX format.
“Bigger is better,” he says at one point, and it’s hard to disagree with the statement after seeing what Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be putting on screen. After opening with the same rap-sheet roll call from earlier trailers – which was the introduction for many viewers to Peter “Star-lord” Quill, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon – we get to see the place where they all meet: The Kiln, a massive space-based prison that will certainly be more impressive the bigger your theater screen is.
From there, we get our first real glimpse of how the film’s dialogue is going to play, and the results are encouraging. The new inmates that will eventually comprise the Guardians swap barbs and backstory as they make their way through prison processing, and the early banter has a lot of spunk to it. The sequence looks to take place shortly after these characters have initially crossed paths, though the only thing they have in common at the present moment is a shared desire to get out of the joint. There’s a lot of snark and sarcasm flung back and forth, and while it’s getting a lot of exposition out of the way, the dialogue trades on the same pithy friction that drives all good team-up films, including Marvel’s own Avengers.
The rest of the sneak peek is spent on the gang’s setpiece escape, which demonstrates the unique skillset of each team member. Rocket takes the lead from the get-go, and more than anything, the preview makes clear that he and Groot (whose favorite, and only phrase, “I am Groot,” gets a lot of play) are going to be the breakout stars of the film. A cockney accent makes Bradley Cooper’s voice as Rocket harder to discern, but that helps give the heat-packing critter a unique identity. He and Groot are the brains and the muscle of the operation, respectively, which they showcase brilliantly in the preview’s best scene: as Rocket explains the steps needed to execute the jailbreak, Groot is busy in the background and out-of-focus getting the escape started. It’s a hilarious bit, and shot in a way that highlights Gunn’s knack for sly physical comedy.