Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
(12A) Running time: 121 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
First announced a few years ago at Comic-Con, Guardians of the Galaxy started out by baffling Marvel fans, and movie fans especially had no idea what the Hell it was all about. Even some Marvel fans had no idea who these characters were, and a talking Raccoon and a walking tree did not so much excite fans, but confuse them. Marvel was growing in popularity by this point, and The Avengers had just taken over the world, so what was the deal with this bizarre, potentially dangerous film that appeared to have no connection with regular Marvel heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America. What was Marvel’s thinking?
Having James Gunn attached to direct, the man behind the excellent horror comedy Slither was a step in the right direction, but then the characters began casting up. Chris Pratt as the lead (hilariously called Star-Lord, another alienating idea that just sounded ridiculous) had fans curious as the whether the up and coming actor could hold a film. The cast just continued to improve as names like Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker and John C. Reilly signed up, then discovering big names like Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel were voicing the bizarre thugs consisting of a talking Raccoon and a tree continued to excite genre fans. People were still unsure, curious, a little daunted by the idea and if it could really work. Then the trailer dropped, and with its totally un-Marvel like design, brilliant but odd choice of music and razor sharp comedy, Guardians of the Galaxy was beginning to look very exciting.
Marvel pushed the boat out on advertising, fans were talking, and suddenly the film has become the third biggest opening feature of the year, and for good reason, it is bloody brilliant and more than lives up to the hype! Those of you who are still not convinced, trust me when I say YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!
As expected, the film is a million miles from any other Marvel film, and it just goes to show that if Marvel are brave enough to take a gamble, it can really pay off. Naturally most of this is down to Gunn and his incredible skills as both writer and director, but the cast are just excellent here too, and the special effects team have put together some of the most amazing special effects you will see all year. As an added bonus, and I hate myself for saying it, the 3D is actually spot on for once, and really enhances the viewing experience.
The film owes a massive debt to 80’s sci-fi films and TV shows, and even uses that good old 80’s mix tape as part of Peter Quill’s (AKA Star Lord, and trust me the name works brilliantly) troubled past. Guardians flows along at an astounding pace considering its running time, but somehow manages to feel fresh and exciting every single second, and Gunn is happy to just let his talents run wild. Like the good times 80’s classic films, there is no reason here to be serious, to conform with the norm, and to play by the rules. Guardians has an anarchic feel, but a playful, relentless sense of self parody and a terrific sense of humour. It is one of those rare films that does everything you want it to do, but does it in a way that is cool, hip and not in your face. If Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) wants to deliver a punch-line, he will deliver it, knowing it should have come, but doing it in a way that has a big smirk on its face, knowing that he got there before you really expected it. If a Raccoon (kind of) wants to wield a massive gun, and deliver a cheesy “oh yeah” as he does so, he will, and for some reason it will not sound cheesy as all. John C. Reilly’s Corpsman Dey can openly act stupid by declaring “I don’t believe anyone can be a 100% dick”, and instead of the audience sulking at a forced joke, they erupt in laughter.
There is magic at work here, magic of the incredibly geeky kind, but played in a way that even non geeks can enjoy. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film in the cinema that conjured up quite the level of fun and excitement as this astonishing space opera did.
By now you should know that the Guardians aren’t your typical band of superheroes, and they all get together in prison, following a genius and hilarious hunt for Peter Quill. He has stolen an Orb, an Infinity Stone, and one of six stones Thanos (the big villain who will start to make his presence known in Marvel’s Phase III) needs for ultimate power. Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) has made a deal with violent, at times very scary villain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) to retrieve the stone. Thanos’ daughters Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) will help, with Gamora (who is adopted) sent to find Quill and retrieve the stone. Quill has broken his deal with life time friend and saviour Yondu (a truly hilarious and utterly brilliant Michael Rooker) and has decided to sell the stone for himself, prompting Yondu to put a price on his head. As Gamora closes in on Quill, so do Rocket Raccoon and his thuggish muscle Groot (trust me, by the end of the film you will want a pet Groot), two thieves looking to claim the bounty. All get arrested, they meet the simple Drax in prison, and so the Guardians of formed.
This all happens in the first twenty minutes or so, and from here on in things just continue to get better and better, and the excitement and fun only heighten as the film moves along at its blistering pace. Gunn designs some amazing action sequences, from the ballsy prison break out, to Star Wars like space battles, to on the ground combat, all with a cheeky smile, huge amounts of ambition and a real sense of knowing his audience. The action is jaw dropping, and you would think the comedy might deter from the spectacle, but it doesn’t, and if anything it adds to it, brilliantly.
There is even room for emotion, and somehow it is a god damned walking tree and a talking Raccoon cross breed experiment that provide most of the heartfelt scenes. An amazing achievement considering! Saldana oozes sex appeal as the green skinned Gamora, Pratt absolutely shines as Star-Lord and Bautista steals the show with his expertly written one-liners (“nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast, I would catch it”). Rooker looks as if he is sharing a private joke all the way through, doing his best not to laugh, while the villains all create over the top nasty characters that also bring a sense of fun.
There is never any real sense of danger or threat, but there doesn’t need to be. Guardians is a thrill ride, a rollercoaster of terrific comedy, big action and some expert banter. Rarely have I seen a film that delivers everything as it should be done, but this film nails it. I had so much fun watching this, and I could recommend this for hours, and it is the first film in a long time I am re-visiting at the cinema. Guardians of the Galaxy is the best Marvel film yet, without a shadow of a doubt, and the sequel cannot come soon enough!