Review by Tom Mimnagh
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, John C Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, Glenn Close
Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
Certification UK 12A | US PG-13
Runtime 121 minutes
Directed by James Gunn
As an avid reader of comic books, I am always excited when a big Marvel movie hits cinemas – especially with the recent run of hugely successful and hugely enjoyable adaptations, growing and expanding the Marvel universe in the process. However, the idea that Marvel would ever take a punt on making Guardians of the Galaxy seemed a very unlikely pipedream. Most comic book movies have some basis on Earth, with humanity’s existence at stake, but Guardians has always been concerned with events on a more galactic scale – which is something that, beyond Star Wars, has been difficult to translate to mainstream blockbusters.
For the uninitiated, Guardians of the Galaxy follows the adventures of an unlikely band of “heroes” who are brought together to protect the galaxy. In this instance, this is the team of Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill), a human who was abducted as a child and has become a sort of space outlaw; Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos; Drax the Destroyer, a mountain of a man hell-bent on revenge for the deathss of his wife and children; Rocket Raccoon, a genetically engineered, wise-cracking, gun-toting raccoon; and Groot, a tree-like creature with a vocabulary limited to "I am Groot". They are about as unconventional a team as you could hope to find, as they take on the might of Ronan the Accuser, a Kree fanatic with his sights set on destroying the planet Xandar.
If that synopsis sounds like it is vaguely impenetrable for those not already familiar with Guardians, fear not – because one of the biggest strengths of GOTG is the clarity of storytelling. There are numerous points throughout the film where things could have become confusing or overly complicated, but the characters are so well defined and so well drawn that it becomes easy to differentiate. Another huge strength for GOTG is the use of well-placed levity. There are numerous nods and winks throughout, including sly in-jokes and one-liners, and often from unexpected sources such as Groot and Drax.
The actors who play the Guardians all put in an excellent shift, making the most of their roles. Pratt imbues Quill with a sense of the likeable everyman, but mixed in with a healthy dose of channelling Harrison Ford as Han Solo, while Saldana is excellent as the lethal weapon with a conscious. Cooper and Diesel both excel in their vocal roles as Rocket and Groot, with Cooper especially being almost unrecognisable. However, the biggest surprise was Bautista. As a professional wrestler, he of course has the look to portray Drax, but he brings a real sense of presence and humour to the role which he hasn’t previously displayed elsewhere, which could mark this out as a real breakout role for the grappling legend.
Being a Marvel film, it goes without saying that GOTG looks amazing. The galactic scope of the film really allows for a contrast of landscapes and a backdrops, which plays to the Mouse House subsidiary’s strengths in production. When combined with the awesome soundtrack (which plays an important role in the film, as much as any individual character), this really sets the stage for the epic sheer size of the world that Gunn has created.
Although it would be easy to simply gush about this film, it would be remiss of me not mention a few minor quibbles. The role of Thanos seems somewhat superfluous, as he adds very little, and it robs future films of the potential reveal of a big character. Also, the role of The Collector seems marginalised and really only exists for providing exposition, but this is a minor gripe considering, and didn’t have a huge effect on my viewing experience.
For purists, this is something of a mishmash of elements from different incarnations of Guardians of the Galaxy, and if anything it bears more resemblance to the 2008 version of the team which is the iteration that I am most familiar with. Like any Marvel movie, or in fact any comic book movie, it would be impossible to be completely faithful to the source material. As we witnessed with Zack Snyder’s take on Watchmen, sometimes doing so can even be detrimental to the film. However, for the most part Marvel has once again managed to put together something which pays homage to core elements of the comic books, while not adapting it panel by panel, scene by scene. It is quite a feat making one of Marvel’s more niche, less well-known properties into a summer blockbuster, and making it seem so effortless. One of the best films Marvel has made in recent years, and well worth your time.