Sunday 3 August 2014

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace
Runtime: 121 minutes

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest Marvel Studios property to make the transition from comic book page to summer blockbuster - starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper, this action-packed sci-fi opera ranks alongside The Avengers and The Winter Solider as one of the best films Marvel has made yet.

Star Trek always taught us that space was the final frontier - but for Marvel Studios, it's just another stepping stone on the journey to blockbuster success. They've conquered Norse mythology (Thor), sepia-tinged war movies (The First Avenger) and the 70's political thriller (The Winter Solider), but now Marvel are taking on one of the most cherished sub-genres of all; space opera.

Based on a series of comic books that originally debuted in the 60's, Guardians of the Galaxy follows a group of roguish types who band together in the face of adversity. Lead by man-out-of-time Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the Guardians are an eclectic bunch to say the least; there's Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green-skinned assassin with a grudge, Drax (Dave Bautista), a maniac with a tortured past, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a gun-toting 'raccoon' with a quick wit, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a loyal protector in the form of a walking tree.

Ever since it was announced, this project has been dubbed Marvel's biggest risk. To base a film on a previously little-known entity when characters like Iron Man are (safer) household names is ballsy to say the least, especially with rivals DC currently bringing the two biggest superheroes together for the first time.

Except, Marvel recognise this. From the very first trailer, this movie has been all about answering one simple question - "Who?" They don't expect audiences to know who Star-Lord and Gamora are, but are committed to proving naysayers wrong through quality. They're motto right now should be something like 'trust us, you'll love it!"

And you should trust them - Guardians of the Galaxy isn't just as good as you've heard, it's even better. It's the breath of fresh air the comic-book genre needed right now, the complete opposite of complex retcons and unwanted reboots threatening to stagnate the genre. These self-proclaimed a-holes are more likely to save the day with a ton of sass than a sulky swish of the cape - and the resulting two-hour film is a fun thrill ride which will leave audiences grinning from ear-to-ear.

As Quill, Pratt is great at embodying the loveable antihero role. He's confident, loaded with referential humour (great Footloose and Indiana Jones jokes!) and above all, entertaining. Zoe Saldana takes on the role of 'colourful skinned sexy alien' (again) in Gamora - she's kind of the 'straight-guy' of the group, repeatedly bemoaning being "surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy".  She kicks a whole lot of ass however, making her a combination of River Tam and Princess Leia.

Out of the lead group, Rocket is the character destined to launch this film into the stratosphere. He steals the show, with Cooper's wonderfully rich voice acting laced with a winning blend of sarcasm and confidence. The VFX work on both Rocket and his bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) is brilliant, the two characters feeling as fleshed out as the rest of the gang.

The film is goddamn hilarious, with the script possibly being its strongest element. Prepare to spend a lot of this film clutching your sides, as I don't think I've laughed this much at a film since The Lego Movie. Much like The Avengers, the group spend a lot of time bickering and dissing each other,

Visually, the film is like the anti-Snyder movie - whereas last years Man of Steel was drenched in a washed-out and woefully drab colour palette, Gunn injects colour onto the screen wherever possible. From the vivid green of Gamora's skin to the array of purples and blues that stretch across outer space, this film is a beauty to watch.

It's in the villain stakes that Guardians of the Galaxy loses some steam. Lee Pace is great as the malicious Ronan the Accuser, but his motivation to wreak havoc is still thinly written. He's nowhere near as one-note as Malekith was in Thor: The Dark World, but still not as memorable as Loki or the Winter Solider.

Josh Brolin crops up in a cameo as overarching big-bad Thanos, the Emperor Palpatine to Ronan's Darth Vader, but his presence is really just to sow future seeds. With just over a minute of screen-time, it's a throughly underwhelming reveal.

The prize of best villain goes to Karen Gillan as the fierce and scenery-chewing Nebula. Sister to Gamora and daughter of Thanos, Nebula might have little to do other than stomp around being sulky, but Gillan squeezes out 110% from the role. There could, and should, have been more of her.

In terms of pacing, this film is something of a helter-skelter ride from start to finish. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's too quick. Sometimes, I wanted the film to peel back and take a breather between set-pieces. I can understand why it doesn't, but personally I felt that the two-hour run-time raced by far too quickly. All this boils down to is me saying: "more please!"

Lastly, the soundtrack is great, loaded with pop songs lifted straight from the 80's; from a prison break scene to 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)' or tooling up to 'Cherry Bomb' by The Runaways.

The Verdict: 9/10

The Marvel film for people who like their superheroes (if you can even call them that) sassy and trigger-happy rather than bestowed with an unwavering dedication to justice, Guardians of the Galaxy brings back the space opera in a big way. Drawing on everything from Star Wars, Firefly and Farscape, Guardians is a colourful, irreverent and bombastic film which ranks along with Marvel's best. A must-see.


  1. Nice review here. I personally wouldn't consider this a superhero movie myself, but a full blown space opera through and through. This movie was a blast though, and definitely delivered. I will disagree with one point, though. Rocket wasn't the show stealer here, that role belonged to Groot. Vin Diesel was absolutely INCREDIBLE in this movie, conveying SO MUCH all while only saying a single phrase throughout. AWESOME!

    1. Agreed, Groot was awesome. The end credits had me doubled over with laughter! He's like a loveable, non-hairy Chewie! I'm tempted to head back and see it again, that's how good this movie was. Thanks for commenting Chris.

  2. I'm certainly curious to see this movie. When I first heard about it I thought it sounded like a ripoff of Farscape (hey, I didn't know the comics and it basically has the same premise) but the trailers do make it look like a lot of fun.

    There was also an exclusive clip released recently that does have me curious to see how that escape plan plays out. I mean I guess I can see how having a guard's armband might be important but I have no idea what Rocket plans to do with that guy's prosthetic leg and the battery or how they're going to get those items after the alarm goes off.

    1. Don't worry, that scene is a real gem and you won't be disappointed. I heartily guarantee a good-time at the movies if you head to see this film, one of top 10 of the year for sure. Thanks for commenting John!

    2. I would recommend watching this film for the sole reason of finding out what Rocket plans to do with that leg! Great review by the way :)
      - Allie

    3. Thanks Allie! You're right, that scene with the leg was a real corker :)

  3. I'm gonna try to see this one this week, very excited! It does indeed feel fresh - it is one of those superhero movies but the characters are so unknown it barely counts as one, hell, cast is rather unknown too and the studio took such a risk. Those risks when they pay off usually end up with great first movie and the start of new franchises, like with PotC. Hopefully the Guardians will have better sequels, though.

    1. Totally agree, it has been great to see a big gamble from Marvel pay off in such spectacular fashion. I don't think anyone predicted this film being the big hit it was. With a sequel not booked in until 2017, it sounds like they'll really be taking their time to get it right, something Pirates kind of fumbled (although, I maintain that Dead Man's Chest ain't half bad). Thanks for commenting Sati!

  4. I am Groot! (Nice Review!)

    I absolutely loved this movie. I think it stands out from other Marvel films because it's the funniest and most heartfelt.

  5. Great review! I'm glad to see this risk for Marvel is paying off. I look forward to the 2nd one.

    1. Same! And everyone doubted them to begin with...what idiots we are ;) Thanks for commenting Brittani!

  6. Glad you loved Rocket, as well! He was awesome! (as was the soundtrack)

    However, I didn't care for Nebula. She just didn't have any reason to be there, in my opinion.

    Great review!

    1. Noooo, Nebula was ace! (Unashamed Doctor Who fan failing to recognise her character was underwritten)

      Dat soundtrack tho - I mean, dayum! It's been on repeat in my car for days :) Thanks for commenting Tanner!



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