Release date: 7th August 2014

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Djimon Honsou, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace

Classification: M (Science Fiction Themes and Violence)

Review by Peter Gray

At a time when comic book movies are all starting to feel a little too familiar, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ comes along with its own attitude and agenda, with the intention of catching its audience with their guard down, and rightfully wows them with a cocksure attitude and a high level of self-awareness. It’s an understatement to say that Marvel Studios have been on an enviable winning streak as of late, and though they have thrown their weight behind this with a considerable budget and an obvious amount of faith, you can’t help but feel like this is still somewhat of a gamble with none of these characters particularly familiar to the general masses, and the overall tone far less serious than that of its counterpart ‘The Avengers’. Even an oddball choice of director in James Gunn (‘Slither’, ‘Super’ and writer of ‘Scooby Doo’) proved how against the rules ‘Guardians…’ was playing but therein lies its success; it’s the type of film that plays like it has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I am unashamedly a fan of the Marvel films and the way they have built their interweaving universe with each project is something to admire but there’s an excitement in how ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ pushes all the mythology to one side and stands tall on its own. It shares the same universe (in some aspects) of the past Marvel films, and has elements meshed throughout that plant the seed for future endeavours (cross-over?) but the refreshing thing about this film is that anyone can view it and, I dare say, will enjoy themselves immensely. The story itself is nothing we haven’t come across before in that a band of misfits are unwillingly thrust together to save the galaxy from an evil warlord hell-bent on controlling the universe, but just as the film serves us up something we’ve all become too accustomed to, it introduces elements that similarly make it feel brand new. Whilst it is predominantly an action/sci-fi fantasy film (if that combination isn’t enough) ‘Guardians…’ introduces a slew of other genre elements along the way to culminate in the kind of schlocky 80’s escape picture this film clearly holds at its core; the 1980’s inspired soundtrack is the icing on the cake with the most random assortment of tunes this side of a Quentin Tarantino film that for some reason all harmoniously fit together despite the surrounding insanity.

As for the ‘Guardians’ themselves, Gunn has assembled one of the finest ensembles seen on screen in a good while who, as to be expected, pride themselves on how unlikely a choice they are. Chris Pratt, walking away from the film a certified star, plays the anti-hero Peter Quill with the right balance of heart and swagger that brings to mind a certain Harrison Ford character from another space-friendly sci-fi extravaganza. Genre “it girl” Zoe Saldana continues to impress as the green skinned warrior Gamora who more than holds her own in a male dominated universe, continually having to prove her worth as someone who can be trusted despite her alleged father being the evil lord Thanos who reigns over the whole Marvel franchise like a God growing less patient waiting to strike. Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, perhaps the biggest surprise of the film, delivers a surprisingly compelling performance as the brooding hulk Drax, a violent inmate who holds a grudge against Ronan (Lee Pace), an ally to Thanos, for slaughtering his family. As physically imposing as Bautista is, ironically it’s his use of subtle comedy that really make him stand out in a performance that delivers more than it should. The two who are likely to leave the strongest impressions though are Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, arguably the film’s biggest names who don’t get one second of visual screentime. Voicing Rocket, a wisecracking racoon and his gentle giant companion – who happens to be shaped like a tree – named Groot respectively, the duo manage to bring such vitality and personality to these creations that you can’t help but be lured in by their plights. Cooper livens up Rocket with an effortlessness that transcends the character to being more than just a funny visual, whilst Diesel’s simple dialogue of “I Am Groot” is alarmingly effective with the emotion displayed allowing his three words to mean something different each time they are uttered. Plus I dare you to not want to rush out and buy your own Groot as he is easily the more adorable character in the universe.

Not to be outdone, the supporting cast is just as impressive with Michael Rooker sinking his teeth into the semi-villainous role of Yondu, a paternal figure to Quill, and John C. Reilly and Glenn Close enjoying themselves as officers of the universe hoping to save the galaxy on their own accord. Benicio Del Toro, whose appearance was first introduced in the post-credit sequence of ‘Thor: The Dark World’ (which felt wildly out of place), also makes a brief entrance as the eccentric Collector, an obsessive keeper of all the intergalactic items in the galaxy.

Crazy, sweet, exciting, and very funny ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is the most fun Marvel have had as of late, and provides a wonderful out-of-the-box option to tide fans over until ‘The Avengers 2’ looks to outdo this one next year.

My rating: 4/5

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