Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn, 2014) – Peter Quill bands together with an alliance of extraterrestrial misfits after stealing an orb coveted by Ronan the Accuser.
Armed with good humour and fun personalities, the alliance of lovable a-holes makes a great debut in Marvel’s latest superhero venture.
Guardians of the Galaxy certainly qualifies as uncharted territory. For one, foreign appellations of planets and species – the likes of Morag or Kree – risks alienating sci-fi detractors. Its colourful backdrop also seems a tad too bright, even against Joss Whedon’s relatively lighthearted Avengers. But perhaps nothing is quite as strange as the eclectic crew helming the space mission.
There is Groot (Vin Diesel), a talking tree whose vocabulary is limited to three words in varying intonations. Only slightly odder is a more eloquent and angrier raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), armed with a heavy machine gun and a bullet belt of snarks. These could easily verge on ridiculous, so it comes as a rather welcome surprise that the pair makes a deeper impression with pathos, rather than their singularity.
Add to the list equally unlikely extraterrestrial heroes Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). The pair prides themselves in no less than dexterous duplicity and artful double-crossing. In no time, they reveal their softer moments and charming personalities beneath their belligerent front.
Peter ‘Starlord’ Quill holds the only ties to our familiar terrain, and the earthbound man has his own odd quirks. Stepping a little on Jim T. Kirk’s territory, the de facto leader of the pack is a womanising, aimless rebel with an authority problem.
But Parks and Rec’s resident jester Chris Pratt brings enough of his charisma to the deck, making the character a favourite in his own right. You know it, you will fall in love with the legendary outlaws and soon enough throw all your money at any available merchandise. (I mean, have you seen these?!)
Some credit goes to the massively funny script with plenty of witticisms to go around. Throwing misunderstood metaphors and a little raunch into the mix, screenwriters James Gunn (Slither!) & Nicole Perman knit consistent humour and spectacular action into a taut yarn of blockbuster delight.
They relent a little in constructing convincing motivations for its outlaw posse, as Gamora or Drax’s one-liner justifications for revenge seem barely touched on and appear flimsy at best.
Villains get the short end of the stick. Ronan (Lee Pace), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou) end up rattling off textbook bad guys quotes for the most part, bringing little menace to their battles. It is a crying shame to see great talents wasted on underwritten archetypes. The actors’ best efforts mean little, when the script pushes them aside to pave way for the third Avengers film’s big bad Thanos (Josh Brolin).
Even so, Guardians of the Galaxy is really more about introducing the lesser-known heroes in a brand new and ever expanding Marvel universe. Establishing a new and well-developed hero alongside names like Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is by no means an easy feat. James Gunn has done that for five with an obscure comic-book title like this.
More than a few familiar faces show up in the fun of things. From Nathan Fillion to a particular duck celebrity from the 80s, there are several cameos and easter eggs for the sci-fi (and horror) fans to spot.
Of course, the title of Most Striking Appearance has to be conferred to an inanimate object. As possibly the last generation to respool those pesky cassette tapes, I have never enjoyed a product placement more than Quill’s bulky Sony Walkman with his mix-tape of 70s ear worms – one is bound to be hooked on a lasting feeling of nostalgia.
You’re welcome. 😉