Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn, Nicole Perlman from Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel
“No raccoons or tree creatures were harmed during the making of this film.”
The above quote, found in the end credits we all dutifully sat through, should tell you just about where the collective psychologically are (anybody who was involved with it and most who have seen it). Watching movies should always be this much fun. Assuming that the film you’ve chosen is supposed to deliver exactly that. James Gunn here has done precisely what he promised and with interest. The latest project from the Marvel Studios monster is an adaptation from the comic book of the same name, featuring a rag-tag group of mostly well-intentioned mercernaries turned stubborn but accepting protectors of the very same galaxy as mentioned in the title. They’re not a pretty bunch, on the whole, and you might be forgiven for labelling the collective as ‘misfits’.
There was a very real danger of superhero fatigue just around the corner, it seemed, and this effort may have pushed us all over the edge, a la lemmings, sick to the back teeth of Marvel’s apparent stranglehold over big budget blockbuster cinema these days. Additionally, throwing 170 million dollars at this new franchise in Marvel’s catalogue would at first have seemed like a potentially costly exercise that could easily have gone very wrong. Just sitting in the audience on opening night and watching the first fifteen minutes, however, will have changed all of that immediately.
Hailed in some quarters as ‘this generations’ Star Wars’, this initially seemed like a claim so lofty it was barely visible. Before viewing the film, however, you could potentially see where these early reviews were coming from. A collection of very real individuals thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, travelling across the galaxy to vanquish the root of all evil, locking horns with one another on a regular basis with often hilarious consequences. This could easily be a synopsis for A New Hope, after all. Guardians of the Galaxy is significantly undernourished in science-fiction romance here (though there are hints) but Gunn makes up for any shortfall with an abundance of good-feeling and very real comedy. Perhaps it shouldn’t work. Maybe Gunn shuld have toned down the funny? Not a bit of it. The humour is an integral part of the razor sharp script that appeals to all ages and without it, this may well have been nothing more than just another cgi-fuelled sci-fi story that lacked any kind of charisma or street smarts.
We meet the first of our Guardians, Peter, as a child, on the night that his mother passes away from a terminal disease. This just happens to be the same night that he gets abducted by aliens who, instead of eating him (the original plan, apparently) nurture and raise him to become a scavenger of some note. Sent to a desolate planet to recover a mysterious orb some twenty years later, this is when as an audience member, you realise just what a treat you’re in for and just how much effort has gone into the way Guardians of the Galaxy makes you feel.
Doubtless, this immediate good feeling is at least in part down to the inspired soundtrack, cleverly shoehorned into the story as the mixtape that Peter has continued to play for twenty years on his now archaic walkman, which contains some excellent choices, with the likes of Elvin Bishop, The Jackson 5 and others all contributing to the general air, mood and tone of effortless cool. Add to this the almost obsessive, compulsive feelings of ownership that Peter has towards this now aged piece of electroincs, this often makes for a handy McGuffin, which makes its presence (or lack thereof) felt on a number of occasions.
The rest of the Guardians are introduced quickly, so as to gather them together for the progression of the plot and there is a definite feel of The Usual Suspects about this bunch who inadvertently find themselves tied together to achieve a common goal, even if their motivations for doing so are often very different. The skill here is intertwining these different stories together in an enjoyable, cohesive and impressive narrative that works for all of them, which Gunn manages admirably, whilst still imbibing the story with enough scripting pearls to not only flesh out the character arcs, but also maintain their seemingly global likeability.
As mentioned, the film would be little without such an impressive script which prior to seeing the film, you might have thought would be out of place in such a tale, but this doesn’t turn out to be the case as the irreverant cool of the characters all play into the sharp and snappy dialogue. The banter between the main characters is a joy to watch and provides the majority of the belly-laughs, of which there are enough to keep you smiling throughout the running time.
Awash with impressive, immersive eye-candy, Guardians is not only a treat for scriptwriters everywhere, but also for those with a penchant for all things science-fiction. Unapologetically comic in content and delivery, Gunn has delivered what may very well be remembered as the best offering so far from Marvel. Enjoying all of the sassy bravado of Iron Man with a complete understanding of its trowel-laden irony. Brilliant performances from the entire cast leave no real areas for criticism. I hate it when that happens, but also really, really love it when it does.
Highly recommended for everyone. Go see it.