Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Producer: Kevin Feige
Studio: Marvel Studios
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Zaldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace
By far the most left-field Marvel film to-date; Guardians of the Galaxy follows the meeting and forging of an inter-stellar peacekeeping force of the same name. Making up this motley crew is a human thief abducted from earth in 1988 (Chris Pratt), a smack-talking master-marksman raccoon (Bradley Cooper), an enigmatic living tree (Vin Diesel), a deadly assassin with an unpleasant history (Zoe Saldana) and a stout warrior from a nigh-extinct race (Dave Bautista).
Marvel Studios have had some bizarre entries in their library and have delved into several genres in the process. Industrial espionage (Iron Man), mythology (Thor), war (Captain America) and their ensemble opus-magus (The Avengers) to only name a handful. However, when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced those in the-know and out of the-know with regards to its story and characters both alike reeled with some surprised. Regardless of the distance and angle that you looked at this project it represented a huge risk for the studio and for Marvel’s standing as it could either been an utter train wreck or could been the next best thing since Star Wars for the science-fiction genre. Fortunately, and for all involved and invested, it turned out pretty well. By no means a perfect film but easily among the best entries in the Marvel cinematic universe.
After a brief but heart-wrenching opening scene the film introduces us to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a lovable renegade on a treasure hunt on a forbidden planet. During his hunt Quill comes under attack from the treasure’s protectors and what follows is a mad sequence of events that ends up pitting Quill against a ruthless fanatic called Ronan (Lee Pace) and gathering a rag-tag group of fellow criminals that through shared hardship become a formidable team: the Guardians of the Galaxy. Among Quill’s motley crew is a genetically altered raccoon called Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a floral colossus called Groot who’s limited vocabulary belies his intelligence and strength (Vin Diesel), an infamous assassin and daughter of the mad titan Thanos (Zoe Saldana) and a mighty warrior with a major axe-to-grind with Ronan for the near-extinction of his species (Dave Bautista).
The genius stroke of this film is that everyone involved knew well in advance that there was an overwhelming chance that an overwhelming number of film-goers, even the hardcore Marvel readers, would have little to no idea who these cast of characters were: they’re the miss-fits, they’re the underdogs, they’re the most quirky and bizarre ensemble of unlikely heroes you’re ever going to see. Therefore rather than spend an entire film trying to sell people on the insane nature of its setup it decides to go big , playing up the insanity of the premise while incredibly keeping its feet on the ground when it needs to.
While Marvel’s films have generally contained some comedic moments Guardians is their first flat-out comedy with action sequences and some sprinkles of drama along the way. To his credit, director James Gunn and his team fully embraced this approach and it works incredibly well. After all, when a film contains a gun-toting talking raccoon with a serious Napoleon complex, a sentient tree capable of only saying one sentence, and a brutish alien that literally has no concept of what a joke or metaphor is it’s really god-damn hard to take it seriously. I always say that one of the best things a film can do is be aware of what it is and, if appropriate, attempt to push the envelope from there rather than end up looking pretentious and end up patronizing it’s audience. Gunn and Feige do this to a tee: when the film is funny, which it frequently is, it is and when it needs to be earnest or serious it is – it never crosses its wires accidentally and most things miraculously fit.
As well as containing commendable performances across the board, minus Lee Pace’s cut-out-and-forget villain ‘Ronan the Accuser’, Guardians contains what I believe are the best special effects and location design ever seen in a Marvel film and arguably seen in a science-fiction film for quite some time. This looks like a universe that has been around long before the audience was invited and will continue to exist long after the credits roll. Although it is fleshed out the question remains as to where this entry in the Marvel cinematic universe fits in and where it connects to other established characters. To be honest, I have no idea but I can make an amateur’s guess…
You might, in the near or not-so near future see Tony Stark (Iron Man) joining this team. Is this why “Iron Man IV” has not been confirmed? Will we be seeing Robert Downey Jr. going spacebound?
A mediocre villain (so much so that I cannot even recall what his objective was other than be as menacing as possible) is ultimately a small price to pay for what is, while not the best entry in this cinematic universe. an otherwise stellar film. There seems to be no stopping Marvel’s remarkable winning streak at the moment. This year alone Marvel Studios has come out with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past and now Guardians of the Galaxy. Well, okay, X-Men is technically owned by Fox but the fact remains that it is a Marvel property. This is also a cause for concern in a way, as no winning streak lasts forever and I would say Marvel is due a bomb… Surely?
Final Score: 9.5/10