Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillen
Running Time: 2hrs 1min
Plot: Mega action-packed space opera set within the Marvel Universe. Five career criminal misfits (a human, a biologically enhanced assassin, a genetically enhanced racoon, a super-strong warrior and a talking tree) are forced together to finish a job; they then have to save the cosmos from obliteration.
How many guardians does it take to save a galaxy? Five. How many special effects people does it take to animate the guardians saving the galaxy? Lots more than five. Before Comic-Con hype, big name casting and trailer leaks, Guardians was one of the lesser known Marvel properties – in terms of popularity it was even smaller than Ant Man. It seems now though that the misfit gang of planet protectors could well save Marvel/Disney’s Phase 3 from its own bloated ego. With these off-the-wall characters and unconventional directing choice in James Gunn, the studio have made no assumptions of success; they really went out on a limb with Guardians of the Galaxy, and that limb is a strong one.
Aged eight in the year 1988, Peter Quill is abducted from planet Earth by space scavengers. Twenty six years on (now in the form of a buffed out Chris Pratt, who looks a new man) and we find him to be an interplanetary adventurer of the most deranged kind, risking life and limb to earn his next payout while listening to pop hits on his ancient Walkman stereo. He also calls himself Star-Lord. Nerfherding bandits such as himself can’t go long without getting in trouble, and that’s exactly what happens when he unknowingly steals an enormously powerful ‘infinity stone’. Before he can make a quick buck off the weapon he is waylaid by opportunists Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot the tree (voiced by Vin Diesel). Drax the Destroyer (Dave ‘WishesHeWasTheRock’ Bautista) and Gomora the assassin (Zoe Saldana) join them in lock-up, and the five eventually bond over their shared enemy, Thanos, the crazed space serial killer glimpsed post-credits in Avengers Assemble.
Guardians occasionally gets wrapped up in overly familiar ‘epic’ sci-fi tropes: Villainous villains commit planet-threatening villainies and our heroes fight back with massive SFX mashups featuring explosions and ships and explosions. Even though there are the same predictable motives and chaotically co-ordinated battle scenes there are some amusing quirks thrown in too. During one extended punch up a bad guy is trawling through his gloating speech when a space ship just crashes through the wall and takes him out; earlier in the film, a blistering firefight is interrupted while in full-swing to show Star-Lord haggling with an amputee for his prostheses.
In the role of Star-Lord Chris Pratt is rival to Kevin Kline and Kurt Russell in sheer roguishness, but he also has the perfect knack for comic delivery and self-effacing wisecracks. Zoe Saldana is prettier in green than in blue, and it must have helped to conceal her jealousy at being so short-changed in action scenes. Bradley Cooper sells his rodent avatar well, but Vin(e) Diesel’s sporadic, stentorian grumblings as Groot will win you over in the end – He is GROOT!
X-Men: Days of Future Past was Marvel’s heroin and cocaine film: dark, epic, consequential and above all serious. Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s helium and caffeine film: fun, versatile, unpredictable and non-lethal even in large doses – I’ll be seeing it again. Compare it to any drug you like though, because you’ll still come out of that cinema hooked on a feeling. High. On the believing.