Fans of Marvel films will know that the producers and people in charge of these things seem to fall back on the popular franchises, the easy dollars, the safe bets. Spiderman, X-Men, Iron Man and others have all seen reboots and sequels galore because they’re well known franchises that people trust and will go to see. However, when news broke that Marvel, along with director James Gunn (Super), were changing the game and releasing a film based on the Marvel comic series “Guardians of the Galaxy”, it was anybody’s guess how this new bizarro experiment would turn out, and now, after finally going to an IMAX showing of the film in 3D, I can confirm that the chips that Marvel placed on the table were a worthwhile bet, because Guardians of the Galaxy, and I say this with a level head, is possibly the best Marvel film yet, and if not it is certainly up there at the top of the pile.
The trailers that were released over the past months garnered much attention from the media and fans alike with its curious imagery, strange characters, interesting casting choices and heavy-comedy-style. Some people were put off by the weird new Marvel film, calling it “silly”, some people expected a flop due to the fact that that it is, or was, an unfamiliar, as far as the general populace is concerned, franchise, and some people were excited and exhilarated by the idea of something fresh, something new and something, finally, that wasn’t just a reboot or sequel.
The plot follows Peter Quill, aka Starlord, who has retrieved an ancient artefact orb type thing and finds himself on the run from people attempting to take it from him lead by the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace). Bumping into four other individuals with extremely different backgrounds, Quill, along with Rocket, Groot, Drax and Gamora, attempt to stop those that are seeking the orb, and in the process prevent them from demolishing the planet.
It is a plot about a group of misfits trying to save the world then, but the way in which the “Guardians” meet is interesting to begin with, their utter dislike, and disgust, of each other brimming over into violent fights in the early going. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is a brute who is seeking vengeance due to the death of his wife and child. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) an assassin originally sent by Ronan to retrieve the orb though with intentions of her own. Rocket the Racoon, a, erm, racoon (Bradley Cooper) who has a penchant for big guns who can create a bomb from scrap at the drop of a hat. Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree-like-creature who old speaks three words (“I am Groot”) and is the “muscle” for Rocket, and Starlord (Chris Pratt) the warrior of the story but with a difference, he’s clumsy, sarcastic and likes 80’s pop music, like, bigtime. On their tails are Ronan who is played brilliantly and with brilliant agression by Pace, as well as Yondu (Michael Rooker), a barbarian in blue who originally abducted Starlord from Earth when he was a child and along with his gang is also seeking the orb. Other cast members include Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, a strange character that Del Toro puts his usual and distinct weirdness into. Glenn Close as Nova Prime is also here though her character has little inclusion in the film, it is still cool to see her when she is there. Mention also needs to be made about Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Nebula, a cohort to Ronan. She is great and looks bloody brilliant. I needed prompting that it was even her at first. I want more of that character.
Yeah, it’s as mad as it sounds, and that’s a good thing. It looks slick, like most recent Marvel films do, but feels different. The tone is different, the writing is filled with much more humour and innuendo, and the characters, with all their flaws and habits and heroics, are magnificent. Groot can only say three words and is a CGI creation, yet there is a soulfulness behind his eyes and he is a joyful character to watch. His bond with Rocket is one of the highlights of the film. Pratt, as Quinn, manages to hold the movie up, as the main character of the story it is nice to see him surpass expectations and take his everyman style that he became known for in Parks & Recreation to the big screen. Saldana looks great and offers the straight and down-the-line character which is needed here, and Bautista, as Drax, manages to pull off a character who is both funny and vicious, and he was given some of the film’s best one-liners. The whole cast had a chemistry and it shows. Yeah, even Rocket and Groot looked like they were enjoying the experience.
The music is a big part of the film experience too, mixing a booming and majestic score with a soundtrack of pop songs from the 80’s in a way that is explained well in the story itself. Seeing Starlord boogie to the sounds of Blue Swede, David Bowie and 10CC is hilarious and works really well. It is also fun to pick out some of the cameos and random voices that are in here, a game in itself. Rob Zombie as the voice of a ravager, Seth Green as the voice of a certain character in the very end credits (I won’t spoil that one), Alexis Denisof (Angel) as “The Other”, Nathan Fillion (Firefly) as the voice on a prison inmate, Stan Lee as a ladies man, Lloyd Kaufman (Troma) as a random prisoner, and even James Gunn himself as a Sakaaran. Very fun indeed.
Gunn, who I liked as a director anyway as a big fan of his Rainn Wilson fronted film “Super” has shown that he is capable of great things with a giant budget and a cast who work well together. He has created a comical, memorable, action-packed epic of a Marvel movie that is easily accessible to non-fans as well as thrilling for existing fans, something not easy to accomplish yet Gunn does it with apparent ease.
My negatives about this film? More Rooker, more villain backstory and more Groot, but then again, I’d co-finance a film purely about that loveable fucking tree. I find it hard to pick apart a film in which I had so much fun and I can’t wait to watch it again. Pure entertainment.