Here’s a surprise: Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest movie dispatch from the Marvel Universe, is great fun. Unlike such steroidal fare as “The Avengers” films, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, perhaps because it is directed by James Gunn, who is best known for micro-budget indies that send up genre flicks (Super, Slither). Certainly these Guardians are a ragtag group of mercenaries who don’t take anything too seriously: a wily human-raccoon hybrid voiced by Bradley Cooper; a tree-man voiced by Vin Diesel; a green-skinned female assassin (Zoe Saldana) who, unlike most comic book-pic women characters, actually has something to do; and a jacked-up Chris Pratt as a fortune-hunter with a predilection for “awesome music” mix tapes. Overall, despite its maelstrom of intra-extraterrestrial beefs and terminology, this is an unusually witty, even endearing, comic book movie, with serious visual wizardry and, yep, an awesome music soundtrack to sweeten the deal.
But we’ve got to ask: Why do actors of such caliber keep taking these roles? Pratt is an as-yet underrated Hollywood presence but rounding out the Guardians cast is a bevy of Oscar winners and nominees: Cooper, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Djimon Hounsou. Sure, the paychecks from these gigs might be good enough to finance these actors’ great-great-great grandchildren’s college educations. But is money the only reason to take these gigs? Believe it or not, industry insiders say no. Here are some other factors for our consideration: (more…)