Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillian, Michael Rooker, Dijmon Hounsou, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz with Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel
Plot: Five outlaws are brought together after a deal goes wrong. They end up banding together when they realise the product that brought them together is actually a weapon of mass destruction.
Movies like this only come once in a while. Despite the massive success of Star Wars and Star Trek, giant space epics are a rare species. Mainly this stems from a worry that they will be accused of borrowing from the two giants of the genre. In fairness, Guardians of the Galaxy does suffer from copycat syndrome, but its main objective is giving the audience the giant Sci-Fi adventure that we don’t see too often in cinema.
Guardians of the Galaxy’s biggest success is the characters at its heart. All of the non-stop explosive action wouldn’t mean a thing if we were given some dull, cardboard cut-outs holding it all together. The biggest debate this movie will throw up as you leave the cinema debating who is your favourite character, as every one of the leads gives a pretty compelling argument for why they deserve the number one spot. For me, it is the star of the show, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, or Peter Quill. He is the human element here, the little boy abducted and thrown into this Sci-Fi world. At the same time, he embodies the roguish Han Solo/Malcolm Reynolds charm that every Sci-Fi nerd hopes he will become if thrown into these circumstances. He is always loveable, even when he is at his most selfish. For me, he steals the best gag in the entire movie, when he comes up with an outside-the-box way of distracting Ronan. Zoe Saldana definitely makes for a strong female role model, a niche she seems to carving for herself in the Sci-Fi universe. She is bad-ass from the first fight and also has interesting connections to the wider universe. Bautista might be the novice actor here, but he surprisingly is the deepest of the five. He has the tragic back-story, but that never gets in the way of his strongman act. When you have a WWE star in your cast, you make the use of his skills as a fighter. He also has the amusing trait of not understanding metaphors, which is a great in-joke that often sparks up exposition scenes. The animation for Groot and Rocket is phenomenal .You catch every emotion from their faces and the actors still get to communicate everything they need to. If Guardians does want to go full-on Star Wars, then there is a lot of money in selling Rocket merchandise.
Weirdly the thing that got most people so hyped about Guardians of the Galaxy was not the Sci-Fi or the action, or even the wider universe for upcoming Marvel movies, but the soundtrack. It is a pretty great soundtrack and some of the uses of music will easily help this film achieve cult status. However, it is not the particular songs or montages that make the soundtrack so great. The soundtrack serves a much higher purpose. Quill is our gateway into this universe (every great Sci-Fi has one). This gateway is the connection between the fantasy and the humanity of modern life. The aspect that Quill and the writers bring into Guardians of the Galaxy is music and that is what makes the heart behind this film so special. When Quill tries to open Gamorra’s eyes to morality, he uses music to help her understand his culture and past. Humanity’s history is soaked in World Wars, corrupt governments and some truly horrible moments (even right now, historical monuments are being destroyed in Gaza), but the thing that the movie and we take from the entire culture of humanity is music. This is what makes ‘Marvin Gaye’ and ‘Jackson 5’ so special in this movie they are the representation of our history. That is a really beautiful thing I took away from the movie. It also helps that no matter how epic and action-packed Guardians of the Galaxy gets, it still finds time to reference Kevin Bacon in Footloose.
I don’t think I am quite on the bandwagon though. Sure, I loved every moment of it, and it never showed signs of lapsing into ridiculousness, despite its manic plot, but there is something very average about it. This might seem like madness, as Gunn really does throw everything at this film. However, no matter how explosive and amazing I left the cinema feeling, I realised that there was little beneath the surface. Give Guardians a year and it will settle into one of the more average Marvel flicks. Part of this is Marvel’s inability to take anything seriously. This works well at the start, when we are being introduced to all of the characters and need levity to access empathy in this oddball universe, but nearer the end, we need a bit of darkness to settle onto the script. Lee Pace throws everything at Ronan the Accuser, but when no one else wants to be serious, he just feels like he is the punchline of a joke he doesn’t quite get. The fights are a bit too dependent on CGI. The space battles are very ‘crash-bang-wallop’ none of it really appealing to me. I don’t get how critics can condemn Transformers for this one day and then celebrate Guardians of the Galaxy as the Summer blockbuster of the year, despite the fact it is constantly doing the same thing. It cannot quite find the right tone to end the movie on and as a result, the climax felt a bit through the motions to me. Banding together as a team to stop the warlord from obtaining the Macguffin – we’ve been here before; it’s called every other Marvel movie.
Final Verdict: Guardians of the Galaxy is a great summer movie with fantastic characters and non-stop action, but it’s not quite the power-house it has been made out to be.