Although seemingly geographically removed from the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor et al Guardians Of The Galaxy is undoubtedly a Marvel Movie. The formula that has served them so well up until now remains unchanged; out-of-left-field director choice, tick, eclectic but perfectly cast group of actors, tick, and of course enough vibrant colours and dialogue to keep all the family enthralled.
Abducted from earth as a young boy Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) grows up to be a scavenger of rare items around the galaxy. But when he finds a certain orb he puts himself in all kinds of danger. Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) wants the orb and dispatches his lethal assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it for him. But Quill has other problems, there’s a bounty on his head and Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a hostile raccoon experiment gone wrong, and his loyal buddy Groot (Vin Diesel), a lumbering tree-like creature, are on to him. Thrown in jail together the mis-matched group meet Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and, with the promise of a huge reward for selling the orb to the right buyer, the gang escape and embark on a mission that will decide the threat of the whole galaxy.
Guardians Of The Galaxy is never afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve; part Flash Gordon with an obvious slice of Star Wars and a hint of The Chronicles Of Riddick thrown in for good measure it is always an enjoyable, if cartoonish, space opus. Not surprising, given Joss Whedon’s creative guru presence over all things Marvel, the biggest influence seems to come directly from Whedon’s Avengers but more importantly Firefly and Serenity.
While there is a plot, primarily based around a MacGuffin, which is rightly played up via a Raiders of The Lost Ark / Maltese Falcon gag, Guardians is at its genuinely brilliant best when focusing on the gang themselves. Like the Avengers bickering or the crew of Serenity facing impossible odds but still managing to have a witty quip ready to hand, it’s nearly impossible not to fall for the charm of this rogues gallery of characters. If anything the ‘plot’ annoyingly gets in the way of this, the token scenes of exposition and pantomime villainy occasionally slows the warp-speed of delight right down to an irritating crawl.
Thankfully these moments are few and far between and instead director James Gunn, who has a little experience with superheroes in Super and creepy space monsters with Slither, executes the CGI infused set pieces with aplomb and a tongue-in-cheek sense of fun that keeps a smile firmly planted on your face. The Guardians jailbreak in particular is a fantastically choreographed scene that starts and ends with perfectly placed gags which bring a laugh and cheer.
Crucially though Guardians is a return to a more ‘fun’ brand of blockbuster in a summer that has otherwise aimed for a more serious approach. As great as Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, X-Men: Days Of Future Past and Captain America: The Winter Solider have been they’ve all been executed with an almost Christopher Nolan level of furrowed brow gravity. Guardians is the opposite, a true summer blockbuster that asks next to nothing of your intellect but instead throws quirky characters and big bang extravagance at you in a way which will have you delighted you spent your money as opposed to a Transformers level of disappointment.
Central to the entertainment on offer is a cast on banter flinging fun form. Zoe Saldana proves once again that you can paint her any colour and she will still be able to kick ass, bring genuine warmth to her character and dominate the boys better than anyone. Dave Bautista is suitably knuckle-headed in his performance while the likes of Lee Pace and Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan do the clichéd bad guys thing with ease. Rocket, voiced with little-man syndrome anger by Cooper, is as indelible as any character you’re likely to see this year and his side-kick Groot quietly steels almost every scene he’s in, especially a post-credit sequence. But the real star of the show, and an actor who has for some time threatened to become the “next big thing” is Chris Pratt. His Peter Quill doesn’t have a huge arc but when he’s this cocky, this charming and this good looking it’s hard to care. With his dry delivery and casual swagger he’s the closest thing we have to a new Han Solo, until the actual Han Solo returns to our screens next year.
Hands down one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences you’re likely to have this year Guardians Of The Galaxy is mad, over-the-top summer behemoth in the best way possible. If you leave it without a smile and the urge to buy the soundtrack, you probably live in a galaxy far, far away.