Guardians of the Galaxy – Review

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Super Furry Animals

The ensemble cast crash, whack and wisecrack their way to glory in this gleefully escapist, fresh and surprisingly character-driven comic book film.

12A, 121 mins

****½

Who would’ve thought that a bearded thief, a green lady, a hulking red man, a sentient tree with limited ‘vocabulistics’ and a talking raccoon would make such a good team? Certainly not I at the outset. When the first trailer for the film came out, I had two thoughts. One, I’ve never heard of this lot. Two, they look weird and I don’t think I’ll like it. Boy, Guardians proved me wrong.

At this point I suppose I should reel out the plot (although it’s almost immaterial in something like this). Yes, there’s the stereotypical good versus evil stuff, you know the drill, but here I go.

In 1988, the young Peter Quill runs away after a particularly traumatic event and ends up being captured by an alien spaceship. Time passes, and the next thing we know, Quill is an adult (Chris Pratt), plundering planets for their bounty. Oh, and he calls himself Star-Lord. He gets himself into trouble, needless to say, when he retrieves a mysterious orb that some bad people seem to want, setting himself on the path to meeting some, shall we say, colourful characters.

The aforementioned rainbow people of the piece, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, green), Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Groot the talking tree (ahem, ‘voiced’ by Vin Diesel) and Drax (Dave Bautista, red all over) sort of stumble into things when various shenanigans ensue, and that’s the joy of Guardians. Yes, the main characters were always going to end up together, but there’s no real structure to how. In Avengers Assemble it was planned, but here they’re thrown together, and they spend much of the film wondering how they won’t knock each other into next week. The oddball dynamic and the fact that the group are all misfits only makes their eventual team-up all the more endearing.

Meanwhile, there are Bad People wanting to do Bad Things. Sorry, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace, Thranduil in the Hobbit films, looking like a Death Eater crossed with one of those blue whatsits out of Avatar, but suffering from very chapped lips) wants to get his paws on that orb for nefarious reasons. Naturally, some explosions and chase scenes ensue. A blue and bald Karen Gillan also features, for no real reason.

It helps that in this particular comic book film, rather than the aliens coming to us, we go to them, and the whole thing feels very Star Wars. Space is a dangerous place, with bounty hunters, human experiments and mortal peril all over the shop. When all save Groot and Quill are first introduced, they legitimately look like people you wouldn’t want to cross in a deep dark space alleyway, if such a thing exists.

One of the best aspects of Guardians is how different it is to previous Marvel films. The Avengers all seemed instantly heroic – here they’re all ‘something good, something bad’, a mixture of both. A healthy balance, then, and one that Marvel desperately needs. Unlike the other comic book collective, this lot are in need of redemption, and luckily they have Groot to help them branch out.

And, as is almost a given in comic book films these days, there is a suitably epic theme tune to make you feel as though you could climb Everest in a heartbeat or unite with just about anyone in the face of certain death. The film also boasts a very retro soundtrack in addition to its theme tune – 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling and lesser-known David Bowie track Moonage Daydream all feature here, to great effect.

All of the above put together means that Guardians is great fun. Quill’s attempt to teach Gamora about dancing via Footloose is a particular highlight, but the film as a whole is packed with funny moments, which are in no small part due to Rocket and Groot. There’s an offbeat sensation to everything, a quirkiness that seems new to Marvel – earthlings are called Terrans, Quill dances around alien caves whilst miming to his Walkman (yes, Walkman), and Drax’s race of people are immune to metaphor. No, really…

But Quill remains the anchor for everything, and there’s always a feeling that he hasn’t quite outrun the sadness in his past. He’s driven by the need to forget, and beneath the layers of fun and intergalactic frolicking, each one of the Guardians is trying to escape from something. And together, they each find someone to share the ride and let out the animal within (and, when needed, rein it in). That just leaves me hoping that everyone has their own Guardians out there somewhere – though hopefully one of them ain’t a pocket rocket with a gun.

Star-Lord and Co say they’ll be back, à la James Bond, again giving them that old-fashioned feel, but in a reassuring way. The Guardians of the Galaxy will return – and I’ll be all too happy to welcome them when they do.

Alex Nicholson

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