Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted: August 5, 2014 in Film reviews

Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

In 1988 a young boy named Peter Quill runs away from the hospital after witnessing his mother’s death. He doesn’t get far before a huge alien spacecraft descends out of the night sky and abducts him.

Flash forward 26 years and Peter Quill (Pratt), or Star-Lord as he likes to be known, is working as one of the Ravagers, a group of thieves and smugglers. After stealing a mysterious orb however, he decides to betray his fellow Ravagers and take the item for himself.

Unfortunately the orb contains an unimaginably powerful weapon, which is wanted by Ronan, an alien fanatic hell bent on destroying half the galaxy. Ronan sends his assassin Gamora (Saldana) to retrieve the orb. Meanwhile Yondu (Michael Rooker) the leader of the Ravagers and a twisted father figure to Peter, has put a bounty out on his head.

When Star-Lord reaches the planet Xandar he is ambushed by Gamora, but the pair of them are then ambushed by a pair of bounty hunters after the reward money. Rocket (Cooper) is a genetically engineered racoon, and his partner Groot (Vin Diesel) is a sentient tree creature who can only say three words; “I am Groot”.

After a mighty struggle Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket and Groot are arrested by the Nova Corps (an intergalactic police force) and sent to prison where they meet Drax (Bautista) a man who takes things far too literally, and a man who wants revenge on Ronan for the death of his family. Seeing Gamora Drax tries to take his revenge out on her, until she claims she hate Ronan as much as anyone, and after Star-Lord makes the point that with her on their side Drax stands a better chance of defeating Ronan.

And so the five disparate losers join forces to escape from prison, and then head for a lawless city in space in order to sell the orb and split the profits. Along the way however they might find they have more in common that they think, and that they’re all a lot nobler than they thought they were.

I think I can boil my review down to just three words. I am Groot!

Of course I am Groot means different things at different times during the film, but I think I can safely say that when I use the phrase what I actually mean is fantastic, awesome, enjoyment.

It sounds a cliché to say it, but I honestly cannot remember the last time I had this much fun at the cinema, that’s how enjoyable Guardians of the Galaxy is.

It really shouldn’t be, it features a bunch of lower echelon Marvel characters, one of whom is a talking rodent, another a walking/talking tree. It has a familiar central McGuffin; a powerful object of the kind we’ve seen referenced in several Marvel films so far (specifically Captain America, Thor and The Avengers), the bad guy is a trifle bland and the film ends up with yet another giant battle above a city that gradually gets more and more pummelled.

The thing is that none of the above matters one jot when a film is this exuberantly, joyously, bonkersly brilliant.

Yes I know bonkersly isn’t a word…

From the moment Star-Lord stands in a long buried ancient city, keys up his Walkman (complete with mix tape) strikes a pose and the main title fills the screen you know this is not going to be a film that takes itself too seriously. And thank goodness for that! I like dark and gritty as much as the next guy, but it seems just about every film these days wants to be moody and deep, even superhero films. By contrast Guardians of the Galaxy feels like a throwback to an era of filmmaking where the object was just to have fun.

I hesitate to mention it in the same breath as Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Indy and their ilk, because the proof of the pudding may well be in the re-watching, but it really does have that kind of exuberance, down in part to Gunn’s direction, a spot on pithy script, and a very well assembled/created bunch of Guardians!

Pratt is superb as Peter Quill, having the rare talent enjoyed by the likes of Harrison Ford and Nathan Fillon of being able to play a wise cracking hero who just manages to stay the right side of being a dick. Saldana perhaps phones it in a little, and is slightly outdone by the (underused) Karen Gillan as her homicidal sister. She makes for a strong female presence though, and it is hard to shine when you’re playing the straight man. Bautista is similarly playing the straight man to Quill Rocket and, to some extent, Groot, but he is very funny playing a man who just doesn’t get metaphors. As he says, “Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too quick.” Given he’s an ex wrestler he certainly looks the part, but his acting ain’t too bad either and he’s central to a rather funny scene at the start of the end credits…I shall say no more except to say that this scene is way funnier than the one right at the end of the credits.

A talking racoon with a big gun is a risky proposition, but between a wonderfully realised CGi creation, and Bradley Cooper’s wise ass voice acting, Rocket really comes alive and is definitely up there with the Gollums of this world. That he manages to not only be cool, snide and funny, but also display pathos and emotion is testament to a good job all round.

This just leaves Groot. Some might say Vin Diesel was on easy money with a character who can only say three words (actually four as it turns out) but it’s amazing just how many different ways he can say it, each time meaning something different. Vin’s inflections are aided by another well realised creation and it’s really hard not to love Groot.

Lee Pace is saddled with a fairly dull bad guy, even if he isn’t quite as drab as Ecclston was in Thor 2, but he’s more than made up for the by aforementioned Gillan and Rooker (who chews the scenery, spits it out, picks it up again and chews it some more, the guy really is a legend).

Great characters, great script, cool spaceships and an awesome 70s/80s soundtrack that makes perfect sense, this is a film full of humour, heart and fun.

Really there’s only one thing left to say… I am Groot!

  1. Mim says:

    Aaah, I so need to see this film! Maybe I’ll be able to persuade the Mr to go this week…

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