Thursday, 31 July 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy - review

Ten films in and approaching the end of Phase 2, Marvel Studios are showing no signs of fatigue or the inevitable bursting of the comic book bubble because Guardians Of The Galaxy might be one of their very best films, perhaps for the very reason that it doesn't feel like a Marvel film.

In fact beyond the appearances of previously established characters Thanos and The Collector, and the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, there is nothing to link it to the Marvel Universe and refreshingly director James Gunn is left to create his own universe, albeit one that will eventually tie into the bigger picture come Phase 3 once Thanos gets his hand into that pesky Infinity Gauntlet.

It is strange not to see any involvement from Joss Whedon in this particular slice of Marvel as it is the one that is most similar to his previous work.

This feels like Marvel's very own Serenity/Firefly with a rag-tag group of misfits flying round the galaxy occasionally saving the world but mostly arguing with each other and getting into trouble.

With Whedon busy on Avenger detail, he probably hand a hand in bringing in James Gunn who has similar traits (writer-director, comfortable working with ensembles, has strong relationships with actors and uses them regularly e.g. Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry and Whedon's lucky charm Nathan Fillion all make appearances here).

Gunn very quickly and effectively sets up Peter Quill's backstory in a moving segment where he loses his mother to cancer before being transported off Earth in a spaceship a la Flight Of The Navigator, before bringing together this thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac through the MacGuffin of a mysterious Orb which Quill himself calls "An Ark Of The Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of deal".

Yes, this movie features more 80's pop culture references than Marvel Universe references which leads to some inspired gags and hilarious moments including one that I will not spoil beyond the fact it revolves around the plot to a particular film from 1984.

It is certainly the funniest Marvel film with Chris Pratt channeling the perfect amount of Noughties funny man and Eighties Harrison Ford action star, Cooper and Diesel providing terrific vocal performances that generate a lot of laughs and Bautista showing some great comic timing to steal some scenes.
If Guardians falters slightly it is in the Marvel trend of CGI-heavy, world threatening third act battle led by an underdeveloped main bad guy.

Really, apart from Loki in Thor and Avengers and to a certain extent The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, the villains have not really generated the level of evil and danger that say The Joker provided in The Dark Knight.

Having said that the climax is a vast improvement on the space battles that featured in the Star Wars prequels and being our introduction to the Guardians simply our first step into a larger world and there is no doubt that now this particular Marvel universe is established that the recently announced Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 will follow in the footsteps of X2, Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a superior sequel.

How good is Guardians Of The Galaxy? It can be expressed in just three words. I Am Groot... Rocket knows what it means!

4 stars

P.S. Still amazed at the number of people who leave before the end of the credits. Come on guys, this is Marvel movie. There have been nine others so far, all with a scene at the end! So stay in your seats for a VERY unexpected cameo!

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