Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Michael Roker, Djimon Hounsou, John C Reilly, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice)
Running Time: 121 mins
Release Date: July 31st
The Kree, a blue skinned humanoid race, have spent decades in a star war against the people of Xandar. With a peace treaty signed, both sides seem happy to live in serenity. Not Kree general Ronan the Accuser (Pace) however. He feels betrayed by his own people and, with the help of bad-guy-in-chief Thanos and the mysterious Orb, hopes to exact his ultimate revenge on the Xandar people who have killed so many of his kin.
That is where Peter Quill (Pratt) comes in, Orb in hand. Abducted from Earth on the day his mother died in 1988, Quill (or Star Lord as he’d like to be known) now hops from world to world as some form of galactic pirate, robbing from the rich and keeping for himself. Either that or performing ‘pelvic sorcery’ on the females of nearby worlds, all soundtracked by cheesy of ‘70s hits; a walkman and cassette tape his last remaining earthly possessions.
A twist of circumstance sees Quill land in prison with assassin Gamora (Saldana); genetically-engineered, racoon bounty-hunter Rocket (voiced by Cooper); his bodyguard/houseplant Groot (voiced by Deisel); and figurative behemoth Drax the Destroyer (Bautista). Together they must keep one step ahead of Ronan if they are to be the reluctant saviours of Xandar, all in the name of self-preservation.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a fast moving, fast talking thrill ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Indeed Guardians is almost self-mocking, with nods to ‘80s pop culture and other earthly paraphernalia – you’ll see Laika, the dog Russia sent into orbit in the ‘50s, running around in a space suit, for example – that are almost tantamount to winks at the camera.
But that’s the aim of director James Gunn throughout. Guardians owe far more in style to Serenity (or even Lethal Weapon) than it does to anything that preceded it in the Marvel canon. It is a comedy film gift-wrapped as action in a sci-fi setting. There are no benevolent super men standing for ‘truth, justice and the American way’, there are merely five mortals thrust into extenuating circumstances. Indeed, the only way you can tell it’s Marvel is the references to Thanos and infinity stones.
And it works. Despite the cosmic setting, it feels more real than The Avengers, with the characters the key to this. Pratt is fantastic in his first lead role as a roguish philanderer suffering from arrested emotional development. Cooper too brilliantly vocalises Rocket’s frustrations, while Groot is, err, Groot and Bautista is fantastically deadpan as the strictly literal Drax. What’s best is that everyone is blessed with a fantastic sense of humour perfectly fitting their character.
It’s a shame that Saldana is, as Gamora, the same straight-laced, reluctant love interest we have seen her play in both Star Trek and Avatar. Ronan, too, is never really explored as a character in any depth. Both are a little too solemn for their own good.
Right down in its heart Guardians of the Galaxy is an uproarious comedy. It’s fun and funny from start to finish and doesn’t lack in heart or action when they’re needed. Marvel have torn up their usual playbook here and, in the process, have outdone themselves. This may not be the Citizen Kane of comic book films, but it’s certainly the feel-good, popcorn hit of the summer.