Who would have thought that Marvel’s next highly entertaining, multi-million (hopeful billion) dollar cinematic adventure would be set in a futuristic space world, whose tonal and narrative flow is shaped around a retro-filled soundtrack with songs dating from the 1960’s to 1980’s? With hits including Blue Swede’s Hooked On a Feeling, The Runaway’s Cherry Bomb, The Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy is the epitome of silly, mindless fun at the movies. I’m not sure what Marvel Studios obsession with Marvin Gaye may be currently, but after having the song Trouble Man dictate the narrative for the highly impressive Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year, it seems that the powerhouse studio is repossessing old concepts and ideas, and polishing them up quite nicely. With a bit of frantic, highly busy visual effects as well as engrossing dark physical and illicit family comedy, and presenting them in exuberantly exciting fashion for people of all ages to enjoy, Guardians of the Galaxy is a clear-cut winner.
There is no denying that Guardians may very well be Marvel’s own Star Wars for a new generation of highly diverse and eager young filmgoers; the film, which is inspired by the classic series, also does a great job spoofing much of the universe brought to life by George Lucas in the seventies. Guardians is, in many senses of the phrase, a roller-coaster ride of a film whose intention of fun is never questioned. If ever Disney wanted to shape a theme park ride around any of their properties, Guardians would surely be their best bet–never mind Pirates.
Geek culture has officially taken over cineplexes, and for the most part, so will Chris Pratt, whose turn as Peter Quill a.k.a Star-Lord, will surely be the clear victor at this weekend’s box office. Quill, a rambunctious outlaw whose fame as a nuisance to the galaxy is as important as his alias, leads a rag-tag group of criminal misfits to iconic hero status. Like most heroes, Quill isn’t quite sure he knows he’s a hero yet. Stealing and collecting junk from around the universe on his filthy Corvette-like spaceship he uses more like a bedroom for alien women than as a means of transport, Quill finally steals something so powerful, it threatens to destroy the world and him, forever. But unlike Indiana Jones, Quill doesn’t have to dodge booby-traps and outrun giant boulders, instead he just has to deal with an array of peculiar characters including; a crew of awful aiming mercenaries loyal to Ronan (Lee Pace) led by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), bounty hunters Rocket (a genetically modified, wise cracking racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper), a humanoid tree Groot (voice by Vin Diesel), an assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and a murderous maniac intent on vengeance Dax the Destroyer (former wrestler Dave Bautista).
Eventually, everyone involved with Quill and the orb he has stolen are imprisoned (except the bad guys of course). In prison, the five begin unlikely friendships based on trust, sacrifice and intimidation that allows them to escape prison and set a course to a buyer, The Collector (Benecio Del Toro) who will stop at nothing to have the newly stolen possession in his hands. Upon discovering Quill’s possession of the orb, Ronan gets direct orders from Thanos (Josh Brolin) to retrieve it. Led by his muscle Nebula (Karen Gillan), Ronan and his dark army go to extensive corners of the galaxy to retrieve the orb, and kill anyone in their way.
Guardians can rest assure that it is by no means a revolutionary film to defies the boundaries of the superhero narrative and the ‘stop the bad guy from destroying the world’ cliched storyline we have come to love and hate. Thankfully, the film is a practice of clever humour and nuanced physical slapstick that make its way into the superhero genre. Pratt does a star-lording job of leading a fresh group of actors to new heights in super hero comedy as well as interacting and getting the most from his voice cast.
Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) whose previous work makes no indication at all that his fit in Marvel’s world of intergalactic superheroes would work, does a surprisingly fantastic job writing and directing obscure comic book characters. Obvious losers in the comic book world, Gunn does an amazing job of making the Guardians cinematic heroes whose allure on screen, consisting of saturated visual effects and computer generated imagery, make for one of the greatest complete ensemble of the summer. So what if his overly ambitious score is distracting to viewers during intense scenes of built up drama and highly concentrated action. Gunn, has us, from the films first frames, hooked on a feeling of nostalgia and escapism that we haven’t felt for a long time.
Guardians is in no way a galactic achievement in the world of villains and heroes. Pace, who originally auditioned for the role of Quill, is wooden, unrecognizable and suffers greatly from any real ability to scare his audience with fear or threat. With the occasional close-up to the dark eyes or tarred teeth, Ronan is quickly overshadowed and squashed by the menaced-voice, short presence of Thanos. With the promise of such an iconic villain’s chaos and the repercussions it will have in the world of the Avengers and now the Guardians, the film is very much an introductory film with very little new superhero material and rather a pastiche of potential for bigger threats and danger for future installments.
The true Guardians of the film’s comedy lies with the men. Cooper, who gives real spunk to Rocket and his unnecessary tools of escape, provide the film with some of its most hysterical moments. While Diesel’s limited dialogue and pitch-perfect execution of three words humanizes the comedy in the film, even if the character is the least human like of them all. Held together by (a little pun intended) the star making performance of Pratt, it becomes clear quick that, Saldana and her character Gamora have her work cut out for her throughout the film. Both Cooper and Diesel do a wonderfully playful job of bringing as much of their personality to the roles as possible, and with hyper satisfying results.
Guardians of the Galaxy may provide audiences with some of the most real, authentic, hysterical laughter of the summer in a world set far beyond our reach and understanding, but one thing becomes clear, Gunn and fellow screenwriter Nicole Perlman give new, stellar life to comic book comedy in a film that will surely have audiences laughing uproariously in harmony.
The film offers up something good and something bad that will be highly anticipated in the sequel that was announced by Marvel in 2017. Driven by Pratt, a soundtrack that will surely have you bobbing your head and stomping your feet in utter content, Guardians of the Galaxy may very well be the most fun you will have at the movies this year.
Night Film Reviews: 7.5 Out of 10 Stars.
Marvel’s best film, or a filler for future films to come? Is Guardians of the Galaxy a tremendous achievement or does it suffer from introductory bore? What did you think of the performances, story, and world Gunn and Marvel have brought to the big screen? Leave all your comments and thoughts below in the comments section. And don’t forget, I AM GROOT!