Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

 Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan.

Plot: Ronan the Accuser (Pace) seeks out ‘the orb’, a mysterious object he can trade with Marvel’s ultra big bad Thanos (Josh Brolin), in return Thanos will destroy the planet Xandar. Ravager Peter Quill/Starlord (Pratt) acquires it first, setting a chain of events in motion that brings together Quill, convicted psychopath Drax (Batista), bounty hunters Rocket (Cooper) and Groot (Diesel) and Thanos’ rebellious step daughter Gamora (Saldana) who team up and attempt to save the Galaxy. 

Review: Over the last decade Marvel has brought well known comic book characters to the big screen, impressively linking them all under one huge story arc. Whilst managing to cram all of their main characters from 5 different films into The Avengers, Marvel has played everything pretty safe, introducing characters that even the uninitiated fans know of, this is the reason why Guardians is Marvel’s biggest risk to date. The Guardians have featured in Marvel comic books since their first appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes issue #18 in 1969 but only received their own stand alone series in 1990, because of this not many people are aware of the team that includes a genetically modified talking racoon and a sentient tree named Groot. It seems the only way for Marvel to continue to push the boundaries is to take such risks.

This film could simply have been a plot developer for Avengers 3, the impressive factor here is how well it does to establish itself as its own movie rather than just a little story to keep the main Avengers arc motoring along. Many factors contribute to this, most of all the way director/writer James Gunn (Super, Slither) develops this group of unlikely heroes to characters we genuinely care about. This is achieved through snappy and sometimes hilarious dialogue between characters, especially from Quill and Rocket, there are also moments of genuine heartbreak. 

Overall this is a very solid film with hugely enjoyable scenes, none more than the prison break sequence where Rocket especially comes into his own. Throughout, the film is entertaining, clever, silly, cheesy and by far the funniest Marvel movie so far. The nostalgic element that is so prominent here works brilliantly, stemming from Starlord’s “Awesome Mix” tape soundtrack to the 70/80s movie references. Chris Pratt, a very charismatic lead is supported by Rocket and Groot’s relationship that is comically similar to the relationship of R2D2 and C3P0. Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Gamora is solid but nothing more, although her character has a lot of room to grow in the future with her ties to Thanos. Although, however surprising, It is in-fact WWE Superstar Dave Batista Drax that steals most of the film’s funniest moments with his deadpan portrayal of a character who takes everything literally.

The villains, however, face the problem of been horribly underwritten. Lee Pace’s Ronan does nothing more than scowl and has his obligated action scenes as the film’s main antagonist. Gillan’s Nebula feels as if she was almost forgotten about in the writing process but manages to show her acting prowess in what little screen time she gets. The reveal of Thanos is arguably the most important scene of this film albeit it only lasting a few seconds. The appearance of Thanos is somewhat cartoonish, something I’m hoping changes before Avengers 3.

Unfortunately, Guardians succumbs to Marvel’s third act syndrome where everything that has happened in the film leads up to a climactic sky battle that is wearing a little thin now. It seems like Marvel is determined to stick with the formula that up to now has worked, but it feels like it’s time to start coming up with fresh climaxes to keep the fans guessing.

Guardians of the Galaxy is by far the biggest risk Marvel has taken, but with a superb script and likeable leads, James Gun has allowed the Marvel Cinematic Universe to expand its horizons into the cosmos.

4/5