Release Date: 31st July 2014
Running Time: 121 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro
Just exactly how many of you are suffering from Marvel fatigue right now? Unbelievably, this is the 4th movie to come from a Marvel franchise this year following sequels to Captain America, Spider-Man and X-Men. Not that any of these have been especially patience-testing, but with sequels to other comic book adaptations 300 and Sin City also out this year, you might be forgiven for wishing that anything vaguely superhero or comic affiliated would just bugger off for a bit. Enter Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s likely that unless you have an extensive knowledge of comics that you haven’t the foggiest who these guys are, which is actually rather refreshing considering the over-familiarity of the rest of 2014’s comic releases . Thankfully however, this has a lot more in common with the space opera than any superhero romp, and feels mostly devoid of any of the baggage that goes with them.
Abducted by a spaceship in the late 80s on the same day as his mother’s death, Peter Quill aka ‘Starlord’ (Pratt) is Earth-born (“Terran”), but has never returned since. Earning a living by scavenging and stealing his way across the Galaxy, Quill finds himself landing in prison after he comes into the possession of a mysterious orb, which unfortunately also has other interested parties. In a bid to escape, he forms an unlikely alliance with a couple of brightly coloured humanoid aliens (Saldana and Bautista), as well as a talking racoon (Cooper) and his laconic, walking tree (Diesel). Together they become the “Guardians of the Galaxy” -a rag-tag bunch of mercenaries, ‘losers’ and ‘a-holes’, as they christen themselves- challenged with saving the universe from mass destruction.
Whereas on paper this might feel like ground firmly tread before (and possibly a bit silly), the appeal of Guardians of the Galaxy is surely with credit to its director. James Gunn brings his trademark rascally humour as seen in his previous genre-comedy efforts Super and Slither to give it that extra bite; it feels tantalisingly close to a 15 rating, pushing the boundaries of the 12A just that bit further to make it the most adult (if not the most mature) of the Marvel movies thus far. The constant references to 80s pop culture, music and science-fiction are also the benchmark for much of the humour, which sets it apart from the other Marvel entries in terms of its intended audience.
It is a riot, though. Chris ‘so hot right now’ Pratt has already had a big comedy hit this year as the voice of Emmet in The Lego Movie, and brings a similar unlikely hero vibe to proceedings as the supposedly self-titled ‘Starlord’. Everyone else is on top form too: unexpectedly Dave Bautista apparently has excellent comic timing as Drax the wordy thug who can’t understand metaphors, and lovable duo Groot the tree and Rocket the racoon steal the show by channelling Han Solo and Chewbacca at their most endearing.
The cast list itself is hugely impressive, but there are so many of them that they barely make an impression: Saldana’s role requires her to play it relatively straight, but she does so ably. Karen Gillan and Lee Pace are slightly dull villains, but Gunn stalwart Michael Rooker is entertaining as the leader of a band of crooks and scavengers, and Glenn Close gleefully gets to call someone a ‘prick’. Everyone is clearly having an absolute ball, and where it might occasionally start to come away at the edges, its sheer desire to please its audience almost always pulls it through.
Throw in a thumpingly brilliant soundtrack, some striking visuals and a good slice of genuine heart to go along with its myriad of laughs and Guardians is a winner, as well as the best sci-fi romp since Joss Whedon’s Serenity back in 2005. Oodles of fun. Remember to stick around after the credits too; this one unsurprisingly has the silliest denouement yet, but those savvy enough will surely get a kick out of it.