DIR: James Gunn • WRI: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Fred Raskin, Hughes Winborne, Craig Wood • DES: Charles Wood • MUS: Tyler Bates • CAST: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana
Guardians of the Galaxy continues Marvel’s impressive streak, with its characteristic technical polish and comic irreverence.
It opens brilliantly. In 1988, young Peter Quill listens to 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” on a mix tape. His grandfather takes him to visit his dying mother, who has a gift for him. Young Peter’s grief and sorrow at her death are too much to bear. He runs from the hospital, falling to the ground, crying, emotional, upset. Suddenly, out of the darkness, a spaceship appears and takes Peter up in a beam of light. The sequence takes a cheesy song, milks the sentiment from a dramatic situation, before ending with the humour and irreverence that director and co-director James Gunn sustains for the film’s length.
He keeps the action moving at a frenetic pace, introducing a ragbag of cynical characters motivated mainly by greed or a desire for vengeance. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has grown up to be an interplanetary bandit, choosing “Star-Lord” as his moniker. He has made a deal to source a mystical orb, finding himself caught up in political strife. Ronan (Lee Pace), a radical Kree, agrees to retrieve the orb for Thanos in return for his assistance in defeating his enemies, the Xandarians.
While trekking across the universe, Quill teams up with Rocket, a genetically engineered racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper; Groot, a tree-like creature, voiced by Vin Diesel; Drax (Dave Bautista), a warrior seeking vengeance against Ronan for killing his family; and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), an orphan trained by Thanos. Also in the mix are Yondu (Michael Rooker), a bandit and father figure for Quill; Nova Prime (Glenn Close), leader of the Nova Corps and protector of Xandar, whose force includes Rhomann Dey (John C Reilly); and The Collector (Benicio del Toro), who keep his collection of space oddities in a place called Knowhere.
Groot almost steals the film. He can only say, “I am Groot,” and the running gag works well. A wide-eyed smile on his plain face, expressing delight after he has beat up some goons, provides another highlight, while the light given off by his branches gives the film one of its most striking images.
Rocket vies with Groot for attention, coming up with elaborate plans (notably to escape prison on Xandar). Benicio del Toro hams it up in his small role, while Glenn Close has one of the film’s best lines, a nicely timed delivery of a single choice word.
Surprisingly, Chris Pratt is the film’s weakness. His face, one of the few not plastered in layers of makeup or CGI effects, lacks expression, and Star-Lord makes for a poor main character among the more entertaining array of supporting players. He’s funny, sure, but he lacks the charm or charisma of, say, Han Solo.
Guardians of the Galaxy risks being an elaborate send-up of the Star Wars movies, but it’s been put together enough style, imagination and panache to make it an entertaining effects-laden extravaganza worthy of judgment on its own merits. Sequel guaranteed and, based on the first instalment, should be highly anticipated.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Guardians of the Galaxy is released on 1st August 2014