Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest instalment in the Marvel cinematic universe, starring Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a galactic outlaw who was abducted from Earth as a child. Whilst on the hunt for a mysterious orb, Quill (referring to himself as ‘Star Lord’) is caught up in the midst of several other interested parties, notably assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is sent to retrieve the orb for Ronan the Accuser, a tyrant who plans to use its secrets to destroy the planet Xandar.
Based on one of the oldest Marvel properties, featuring a talking raccoon and from the director of the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, there is an awful lot that could make Guardians of the Galaxy a whimpering cinematic disaster. But somehow, James Gunn has managed to rope everything together almost perfectly, and the key has to be the tone of the movie. Unlike an awful lot of the super-hero movies of late, it doesn’t feel the need to play everything with a straight face. Sure, it has its emotional moments, but the fast-paced and often very funny script prevents it from being too serious.
Our ragtag collection of leads – as well as the aforementioned outlaw and assassin – contains Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, a walking tree serving as bodyguard to Rocket, a raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, and Dave Bautista as walking muscle Drax ‘The Destroyer’. The combination of leads are the greatest strength the film has to offer, bouncing off each other eclectically and likeably, their personalities never sacrificed for (but rather enhanced by) the script. Vin Diesel as Groot manages to be the beating heart of the film, despite only ever having one line of dialogue to speak, and Dave Bautista is a revelation in comedic timing. The five guardians combined create what is fast becoming one of my favourite on-screen ensembles, that I actually think will have more re-watch value than Marvel’s runaway success Avengers Assemble.
The film is handsomely shot, the frame oozing colours in every shot, the palette keeping a cheerful aesthetic to match the sensibility of the script but restrained with a slight filter to prevent it from slipping into cartoon territory. The cinematography pack a real punch, and often comes to the rescue during the non-comedic highlights, including one visually astounding and quite emotionally powerful set-piece set in the vacuum of space. The soundtrack is a cracking collection of 70’s/80’s hits, including everything from the Jackson 5, Blue Swede and David Bowie. Established very early as a key part of Star Lord’s character, it isn’t just a selection of songs thrown in for want of a better soundtrack, and if you don’t find your feet tapping along at any point then frankly there’s no hope for you.
Whilst the film carries itself with vigour, and doesn’t waste time devolving into a romantic subplot, the ending drags on for about five minutes too long, and there are a select few elements in the final action sequence that are flat-out ridiculous even by the standards of a movie that features a talking raccoon. The talented Karen Gillan as villainous Nebula feels very over-shadowed in the finale which is a real shame, and Benicio Del Toro is criminally underused save for spouting some exposition here or there.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the result of placing the A-Team at the controls of the Millennium Falcon. It’s a much-needed injection of fun into the drab, gritty landscape of summer blockbuster season and – despite stumbling a little along the way – knows that the key to saving the future lies in the past. So wind up your best mix-tape, don your battered old Sony headphones and dance to its tune like the fate of the world depends on it.