Great characters, great laughs and just a great deal of fun
Avengers meets Star Wars for some Indy-flavoured full-throttle sci-fi-western-fantasy hi-jinks in the vein of Whedon’s Serenity.As we gear up for War in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Phase 2 concludes its run – following Shane Black’s razor-sharp Iron Man 3, Alan Taylor’s good-but-not-so-dark Thor: The Dark World and the Russo Brother’s unexpectedly tremendous Captain America: Winter Soldier – with...
A sci-fi fantasy romp across the galaxy written and directed by the guy who wrote the Scooby-Doo movies and directed the low-budget horror Slither and the low-budget Kick-Ass-riff, Super; starring a guy from a TV comedy (Parks & Recreations’ Chris Pratt), a blue-green alien Zoe Saldana, a WWE wrestler, a CG raccoon and what looks like a miniature tree ent. I don’t think that’s quite what anybody expected.Still, there are three words that we’d all do well to remember: Trust in Feige. Kevin Feige has been a tremendous guiding force towards crafting this multi-billion-dollar now-intergalactic ensemble superhero character movie franchise thingy. He’s done little wrong so far, and this is certainly no exception.
Indeed, out of all of the Marvel adventures brought to the Big Screen over the last 6 years, this tenth entry is easily the most outright fun.
After being abducted by salvaging space pirates, Peter Quill – who would prefer to be known as Star-Lord – grows up to be one of them, and thinks that he may have struck gold with a highly sought-after artefact. When he gets his hands on it, however, it kick-starts a chain of events that see several of the galaxy’s best chasing him, and finds himself at the heart of inter-planetary feud where those very same bounty-hunting enemies may well be the only people who can help him stay alive.
Kick-starting with a wonderful nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark, Guardians establishes its credentials early, and shows you exactly what they’re aiming for. There may well be some nice action sequences, and galaxy-far-far-away effects, but it’s the humour, characterisations, and the excellent it-would-make-Tarantino-jealous soundtrack (Marvin Gaye, Blue Swede, 10cc, Redbone, Jackson 5, The Runaways, Five Stair-steps - trust me, most of you will recognise all of the songs even if you don't know all of the artists), that truly drive the piece. Certainly if Whedon didn’t have a hand in the script for this, then Gunn should consider a side-career of ghost-writing for the Buffy creator; his trademark humour is stamped all over this piece, which could have easily been reworked as either a Serenity sequel or even a Han Solo prequel – in some ways – both of which should be regarded as big complements.
Introducing the world to all of the bigger players in the Marvel Universe must have looked like a walk in the park in comparison to what they had to do here, too, with a quintet of arguably the least well-known sub-characters in the comic universe all needing to be brought up to scratch and integrated within a 2-hour runtime. In this respect Guardians absolutely nails it, not least thanks to Chris Pratt’s lead beats – he makes for a great, goofy hero, who would like to think of himself as ‘Star-Lord’ despite the fact that few have even heard the name; and those that do, think it’s just a cute self-appointed nickname.
But it’s the ensemble effort that makes the piece, with Zoe Saldana’s kick-ass enhanced-assassin bringing her fighting a-game to the table, whilst allowing for some nice undertones of often hilarious attempted romance; Vin Diesel’s growling tree-ent somehow becoming a valuable member despite his desperate lack of vocabulary; and an almost unrecognisable Bradley Cooper providing razor-wit and superb banter as, well, a talking raccoon. It’s the WWE wrestler, however, who really surprises – with Dave Bautista playing a muscle-bound, vengeful alien who, hilariously, takes everything everybody says literally. Cue this up against Pratt’s sarcastic, metaphor-spewing cowboy leader and you’re in for some tremendous belly-laughs.
The most fun - and probably funniest - outing in Marvel's canon, Guardians, whilst apart from the rest, establishes itself as a worthy addition.
Of course, whilst I wax lyrical about the film I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – it’s not without its flaws. As much as you’ll enjoy the humour and the fun space-fantasy romp, by the end of it you may yearn for a little bit of real, tangible universe, where CG isn’t blasting away at you from every angle; you’ll probably wonder whether the ‘big bad’ villain could be any less one-dimensional (Karen 'Dr. Who' Gillan's unrecognisable - but no less attractive - henchwoman is far more interesting); and you’ll also pray that one day (probably not next time, because that’s the Age of Ultron), the Marvel Studios consider not trying to top every last entry with an even bigger, even more planet-destroying, giant-ship-crashing, mega-set-piece.
Still, there’s no point in getting hung up on any of that. You’ll freely forgive all of it, especially since this is the introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy, and introductory movies often have an uphill struggle. It’s the sequels where the writers can go and do something different (a suit-less Iron Man, a dark Captain America) and, with the sequel to this already green-lit, I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to it.
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