By Joe Strange
A thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac walk into a movie theatre, and everyone loses their heads because they’re the frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy, the last entry in Marvel’s Phase 2 before the Avengers Age of Ultron was on a lot of radars, some were following it because they were fans of the source material, some because they’re fans of Marvel movies in general, and the rest? Well they were following it because they were pretty sure it wasn’t going to work.
The truth is, Guardians of the Galaxy shouldn’t have worked, a property that no one really knew much about, with characters that are just ridiculous and all in an attempt to fit into a wider, established universe, but boy does it. James Gunn has created a fantastic film, full of fun, feeling and incredible design.
The heart of the movie is the Guardians themselves, the rag tag group of misfits who have taken it on themselves to help save the universe from a power crazed, revenge obsessed, member of the Kree; Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).
Peter Quill (known as Starlord, to himself) is our anchor to earth; having been abducted at a young age he’s the only human in his world of aliens, space ships and galactic zaniness. As Quill, Chris Pratt channels all of the best parts of Harrison Ford from both Indiana Jones and Star Wars, while mixing it in with his own roguish charm. He has a fantastic way of going from boy like wonder to sly and thoughtful. Quill is the type of person you’d like to go for a beer with but you’d have to keep an eye on your wallet.
Zoe Saldana’s Gamora acts as a foil for Starlord’s carefree and charming attitude. A cold, hard assassin with justice on her mind, Gamora is untrusting and sceptical. But Saldana’s performance humanises her, as does the excellent script which writes her as much more than just the femme fatale sidekick, we see the heart of ice begin to thaw once others begin to trust her, letting us know that the reason she never opens up is because no one’s ever knocked before.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively) are difficult to talk about individually as they’re basically inseparable. Rocket is a hard edged, aggressive biological experiment who covers up a deeply troubled soul with quips, anger and a penchant for explosive weaponry. The giant talking tree, Groot, on the other hand is a friendly, loving and gentle giant, as long as you don’t hurt his buddies, in which case he will impale you on a knotted limb and throw you against a wall.
Despite being the two non humanoid characters in the gang, Groot and Rocket actually bring the most feeling to the film, their companionship is truly touching, and the two actually bring some of the most beautiful moments in the film.
During the run up to the release I was more than excited for these four characters, so much so that I forgot about the fifth member of the Guardians; Drax the Destroyer. It’s easy to think of Drax as just the muscle, but he’s much more than that and I actually found myself laughing more at Dave Bautista’s excellent portrayal of the incredibly literal and crazy knife maniac than I thought.
If the characters are the heart of the film, the soundtrack is the soul. A lot of the trailer focus was on the mixed tape that was the only thing Quill had on him when he was abducted and the music that was on there (which consists of a brilliant selection of retro hits from Blue Swede to 10CC). The appearance of these songs always fit perfectly with the scenes and distances Guardians from being just another sci fi film with a boomy soundtrack. Saying that the original score is atmospheric and varied, with a nice mix of motifs, some of it is quite reminiscent of the Avengers’ soundtrack.
The writing, much like the film, had the potential to be clichéd, generic and lacklustre, but it’s not that at all. At every moment that you think you know what silly, overused action quip they’re going to throw at you they make it a curve ball and play around with the conventions. According to Bautista, a lot of the dialogue was improvised, which shows as the chatter between the crew seems very natural.
Finally, the personal highlight for me was the film’s design. Everything from the dark ruins to the shiny, London inspired home of the Nova Corps is excellently executed and portrayed. But I mean, what’s a space opera without ships? And in this regard Guardians really doesn’t disappoint, all the crafts in the film, especially Quill’s Milano, which has influences of Birds of prey and a fantastic colour scheme, look amazing As do the costumes, all of which look practical, realistic and uniform ( the reason for which is apparent later in the film)
Between the excellent writing, fantastic characterisation and brilliant design, Guardians has the potential to be one of my favourite Marvel films yet, the space romp gives watchers a well needed break from the plight of earth, as well as a better look into what’s going on in the big wide galaxy, all in preparation for the Age of Ultron and phase 3.