Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana. Dave Bautista. Bradley Cooper (voice). Vin Diesel (voice). Lee Pace. Karen Gillan. Glenn Close.
Running Time: 122 mins
Well it must have been about 7 minutes since Marvel released their last comic adaptation so we were well overdue another. I’m fairly sure with the rate that they churn out these films we should be sick but as one of the shameless fanboy army i anticipate each spoonful of geeky goodness eagerly! None more so than the Avengers but this was a close second. I read very little of Guardians Of The Galaxy comics and i’m fairly even sure the comic writers themselves have barely read it! In fact i wondered if Marvel were releasing this gloriously ridiculous storyline and array of characters just to see if there’s anything they cant make money on!
Although the title is from the 60’s this actual team of characters first shambled awkwardly onto the pages of Marvel in only 2008 leaving most of us with only a vague idea of the characters, as Marvel’s sci fi attempts tend to only fair well with the more hardcore or niche fans. This works in the favour of the film though as there is little tradition to adhere to and it is basically James Gunn’s and writer Nicole Perlman’s to do with as they will. And man do they have a strange and loveable will. If you saw Gunn’s other two flawed but enjoyable, B-movie styled efforts Slither and Super you can see it was an admirable risk for marvel. A bizarre story about anti-heroes in the hands of an edgy film maker all around the glossy, morale world of marvel.
The story of the film is basically about a ragtag bunch of space criminals who form a dysfunctional team that will end up saving the world….but will they?….well, i suppose the mystery of that question evaporated quickly as Marvel already announced a sequel. This is not an original plot and fans of Joss Whedon’s much beloved and exalted series ‘Firefly‘ could understandably be upset as to why this film succeeds where Joss’s series was trampled underfoot. Or they could sit back and get their space anti hero fix from a damn good film.
We are introduced to young Peter Quill who after much upset and being verbally jostled around by his Grandad who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he even likes the kid, is eventually beamed up to space. Years later he is thrown together with Assassin Gamora, general money hunter Rocket Raccoon, Rocket’s ‘muscle’ of a tree hybrid named Groot and the deadly, serious and deadly serious Drax. All of them have different motives which lead them towards the goal of stopping Ronan The Accuser who is hunting for an orb in the possession of Quill.
There is a tad more with a fantastic support cast that in any other genre would either never meet or attract awards like a trophy magnet. Karen Gillan is Nebula the spited daughter of Thanos who joins Ronan’s cause, Glenn Close is inexplicably Irani Rael the leader of justice toting Nova Prime , Benicio Del Toro seems to savour his role as the collector and Michael Rooker is Yondu Udonta who brought up Quill without eating him mind and wants to get what he’s owed. Djimon Honsou is also Korath and admitted he took the role after his son commented on the lack of black actors in hero films. All these apart from maybe Glenn Close’s Rael are used well with even Udonta getting one of the coolest hero moments around and a great teasing last scene to win you over. Lee Pace is a bit pantomime as Ronan but isn’t in a position to hurt or help the film too much and handles the fantastic ‘dance off’ well.
The first 20 minutes or so do skip around more than a politician around the issues and I found myself slightly worried about the story and strength of the main crew. They seemed a little weak and cliche on their own but the first scene of them together calmed my frayed threads of geek nerves. The chemistry is by far and away the greatest feat of this film. But more about that in a little while.
After the wheel played introduction of the team which is well executed in a street brawl mess and then a prison breakout where the cliche message is strongly telegraphed that everyone in this group has a part to play…even if the part is delivering a fake leg….ok you got me that message is pretty unique. One obscure Nathan Fillion cameo later that had everyone googling there little fanboy hearts out, and the team get to really develop together.
Everyone puts in great performances, Pratt doesn’t always get the best lines in my opinion but like every film he’s been in he seizes every opportunity and is the very image of the loveable rogue without seeming like a Han Solo cosplayer. Quill’s love for Earth history is nicely played out with his mix tapes from childhood and the entire soundtrack of the film is made up of his favourite 80’s hits, great touch! The strongest nuggets of humour are from the reliable mine of human phrasing or actions that the aliens around him mis-understand. The legend of Footloose or explaining the phrase of people who have a stick up their butts, but not actually. Some references to Indiana jones and the suchlike are also nice. This is great for some solid chuckles and cements him as the human outcast, I felt this was under used but I would rather it be like that than over used and you almost feel James Gunn winking at you as if to say “gotta save some for the sequels”. Fair play imaginary James Gunn, fair play indeed.
Saldana is great as the teased love interest and the scarred rebel but as basically the straightest character in the team she still gets giggle-worthy moments and “pelvic sorcery” is a gem for the ages…never thought I’d type that. Bradley Cooper does a brilliant job of sounding not like Bradley Cooper and matches the fantastic CGI of his fan favourite character with genuine emotion. Everybody has set the internet ablaze with their love for Groot and Van Diesel is…erm…a superb tree. Well done Vin.
The real winner in my opinion though is Dave Bautista, as a wrestler he’s instantly criticised even more in the film world and he’s not even a popular wrestler generally so good luck Dave. Turns out he didn’t need it though as editing aside his comic delivery is second to none, physically and verbally. When I named Gamorra as the straight one i sensed a disturbance in the force as if a thousand outraged geeks cried out at once, as Drax must be the straight character right? Yes technically with the use of his blunt speech, no grasp of irony (although I’m sure he would say he is strong and would grasp it well) but with the timing I mentioned and random outbursts of emotion Drax often ends up as being the funniest member of the team. The one liners, the childlike smile on his face as Groot dispatches an entire squad and laughing at certain death. Dave Bautista is finally over with the crowd (wrestling reference, 50 bonus points.)
The humour is obscure to the point where it seems more like natural banter but with everyone having their own style. Joss Whedon is the master of banter but sometimes it feels like every character is pure wit incarnate, here though you have cheeky Quill, aggressive jibes of Rocket, repetitive Groot, frustrated professional Gamorra and accidentally funny Drax. Also running jokes help you feel you’ve been on a journey and become part of that group. When Rocket says “I need that guys eye” it’s a nice touch that only you and Quill get the joke. Not all of the humour is verbal too, look for Groot helping in the background a well shot prison scene.
The film also has genuine heart warming and wrenching moments alike as if it can’t decide exactly what to do with your heart yet so it just does kick ups with it. One great moment of sporadic clarity is a drunken Rocket who explodes into how he really sees his furry little self as the film doesn’t shy away from easily bypassed but effective issues. Also well utilised are great minor roles from John C Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz (the nemesis of auto spell), a seemingly random family who survive to later reunite with a minor character, the frankly lovely and unique sacrifice where you’re practically screaming their last line back at them and the cheesy but oddly well explained and fitting way to beat the bad guy. Even the seemingly ridiculous and over the top moment where Quill shows the strength of his feeling towards Gamorra is semi explained and used pretty well for some humour and character development.
The movie has great effects and is well shot with panoramic views, effective close ups, the vivid colours make for some wonderful imagery. Even on what could be throwaway scenes. Gunn has created a world which is a character in itself. The film is also sequel baited to the moon and back but instead of diluting the power of this as it’s own film you just rest easy in the comfort of knowing there’s even more to come.
Overall this film holds nothing new in the way of story, it ticks all the boxes of the new Marvel formula but it ticks them well in childish and fun crayon. And the fact such a crazy story can fit the formula so well is an achievement in itself. Marvel films have found the magic equation and since Joss Whedon broke the world with avengers they are getting better at it. In a lineup of the fantastic winter soldier, iron man 3 and the hiccup that was Thor 2, Guardians holds it’s own. And with the beginning of the Infinity Gauntlet any geek worth their weight in Infinity Stones will tell you that the Guardians have cemented their place in Marvel lore.
The Verdict These misfits are here to stay and near the end when Quill say he plans to do a “bit of bad and a bit of good” it’s nice to know this endearing bunch of outcasts aren’t changing for anyone.