If you’re a genre movie geek, you’re gonna love that James Gunn’s fingerprints are all over this thing. There’s snappy writing, ridiculous action set-pieces and numerous cameos peppered throughout and that’s even before the Marvel logo comes up!
Guardians of The Galaxy is a space faring romp that might have been a risky endeavour for Marvel Studios. After all, the last few space adventure epics have barely had any measure of success. Additionally, these are unknown characters outside of the world of comics, unlike the members of The Avengers, The Fantastic Four, or even The X-Men. While both Thor movies have hinted at the cosmic scale of the Marvel cinematic universe, we’ve barely caught a glimpseof the numerous forces out there, although The Avengers did introduce the Chitauri and we had a small glimpse of Thanos. Also, the mid-credits sting for Thor: The Dark World did set up the Guardians of The Galaxy with an appearance by The Collector (Benicio Del Toro). In this movie, however, we are zipping from planet to star systems and more, with Earth only making a smidgen of an appearance.
So here’s the simple summary, Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) gets caught up in the machinations of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who intends to destroy the planet Xandar, home of the Nova Crops. As you get into the movie, you can draw your own analogies in comparison to real world events, and see how everything fits in, not that it actually matters. Ronan’s the bad guy, everyone else tries to stop him. That’s the basic set-up. As for the rest? The characters are a joy to hang with for a couple of hours and the action set-pieces are exciting, though the movie does tend to get a tad ‘messy’. Someone might even spot the kitchen sink flying by somewhere.
Unlike with The Avengers where most of the characters had their own movie to establish their presence, almost every main Guardians of The Galaxy character had to have their character established within a relatively short time-frame. We are introduced to Peter first and then we follow him and discover the others as we go along. It works amazingly well with motivations set-up fairly quickly and convincingly that by the time the ‘Guardians’ do come together, we’re rooting for them. Each of the required characters has his/her/its own presence and they each have their moments, some have more than others.
Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) almost steals every scene he’s in while his companion, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) has his share of scene stealing moments. Zoe Saldana’s slinky assassin, Gamora, kicks-ass with the best of them while Dave Bautista’s hulking frame is hard to ignore every time Drax is on screen. And Bautista delivers a truly heartfelt performance to boot(!) with Drax having the most complete character arc possible among his comrades. And yet, Chris Pratt still manages to not only hold his own, but almost walks away with the movie. Karen Gillan completely banishes Amy Pond from memory with unexpected ferocity as Nebula while Lee Pace, a tad unrecognisable under the make-up save for his voice, clearly relishes his role and delivers a truly fearsome Ronan. The rest of the cast, from fan favourites John C. Reily and Micheal Rooker, to Glenn Close and Djimon Hounsou, do rise above the typical supporting nature of their presence in such a movie.
While director and co-writer, James Gunn manages to wrangle his stars and deliver on the action as well as the drama, he also manages to create a living and breathing (such as it is being in space) universe that is full of glorious life, be it the streets of Xandar, the alleys of Knowhere or even on the prison satellite, The Kyln. The production design is amazing and colourful, and if your eye is quick enough, you might spot some interesting things in The Collector’s collection. If there is one complaint for me though, it’s that aside from Groot and Rocket, there are no other aliens around that are truly odd, just humanoids of different shades. That doesn’t count the animals that Quill encounters in an early sequence nor does it count that amazing cameo that comes in the post-credit sting (sharp-eyed viewers will spot this character much earlier in the movie).
The true star of the show however, is director James Gunn himself. It’s one thing to throw everything AND the kitchen sink at the screen, but it’s a whole other thing to have utter control, making sure there’s nary a wrong step, while preserving the humour – be it in the writing or the performances – and keeping up the pace of the story. As much as Joss Whedon has done with The Avengers, Gunn has done equally much in keeping everything coherent here. From Slither to Super, Gunn has shown amazing growth as a director, and more so as a writer (from the humble beginnings of Tromeo and Juliet through two Scooby-Doo movies and the Dawn of The Dead remake). It is a testament to his skills that he’s been given the opportunity to write and direct Guardians of The Galaxy as well as its sequel. Will definitely be looking forward to that one.
For the most part, the movie delivers on all counts. The drama works, the action set-pieces are exciting and varied enough to always have something different to experience. The humour feels natural, and most importantly, the characters are a joy to spend time with which make revisiting them a very enticing proposition.
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Micheal Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C Reilly, Sean Gunn, with Glen Close, Benicio del Toro. Also featuring Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.
Directed by James Gunn
[Images by Disney via Image.net]