Title: Guardians Of The Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Major Players: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
Out Of Five: Four
Until this year, Marvel was unexplored territory for me. That all ended with Captain America:The Winter Soldier and, even though my knowledge is still pretty scant, I was at least on more comfortable ground when it came to Guardians Of The Galaxy. More accustomed to high-octane action, marginally less averse to sci-fi (but only marginally), but still thinking that the women’s roles were below par. Not too bad a starting point.
Somewhere in a far corner of outer space, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord, steals an orb which turns out to have extraordinary powers. He doesn’t know that at the time but, as soon as he pops it in his backpack, he finds there’s an awful lot of people after him and after it – the lethal Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) for one. He teams up, mainly by chance, with a group of alien misfits to keep hold of that orb and protect the galaxy from Ronan and his cohorts.
And that’s all you need to know because there are times when the storyline hardly matters. This is all about spectacle on a massive scale and the quick fire banter between Quill and his gang. The plot makes sure it hangs together, gives plenty of opportunities for explosive action and gags but, really, it’s not the reason for seeing Guardians Of The Galaxy.
The special effects, however, are a different matter. They’re used to great effect in the action – mainly battle – sequences: the one where the massive enemy spaceship is overrun by craft defending the planet is a stunning set piece. And Groot’s ability to extend his arms and legs at will is not only impressive, but downright useful in a tight spot. More of him later.
The humour is the other reason for seeing it. As the trailers indicated, this is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously at all, which puts it fairly and squarely in contention for the most fun you’ll have in the cinema this summer. The laughs are never far away, either a one off, quick fire gag or a running joke. There are plenty of both and they hit the spot every time.
As far as the galaxy is concerned, it’s under the protection of a real rag bag. Star-Lord is flippant but likeable and still very attached to 80s music, hence the film’s great soundtrack. Although Awesome Mix is hardly an 80s title for his favourite cassette. Gamora (a green Zoe Saldana) starts out as a spy for Ronan, aiming to retrieve the orb, but soon realises she’s on the wrong side. Drax (Dave Bautista) is a muscle bound destroyer who takes everything literally. To use his own, solemn words, “Nothing goes over my head. I would catch it.” It’s no wonder that the moment when he proudly recognises a metaphor brings the house down.
But the film really belongs to the two mercenaries, Rocket Raccoon and Groot. And the fact that the best characters are actually computer generated may be the its biggest weakness. The genetically modified Rocket is snappy, trigger happy but also the gang’s tactician, swaggering around on his back legs and delivering some of the best lines in the film. As voiced by Bradley Cooper, he’s cynical, arrogant and superbly funny. Then there’s Groot. “I am Groot.” That’s all he can say, yet strangely Rocket is the only one who can understand what he’s saying – and what everybody else is missing. Groot’s ability to extend his arms isn’t just kinda handy: it’s downright hilarious when he kebabs a bunch of enemy soldiers, smashes them against the wall and then turns to the camera, wearing a very proud grin! His three words, with all their nuances, are voiced by Vin Diesel and it’s probably the best bit of acting he’s ever done. You think I’m kidding?
Word is that the budget for Guardians Of The Galaxy was around $150 million and you can see where it was spent, and spent well. Yet again, the list of credits for special effects seemed never-ending. We’re told at the end of the film that the Guardians Of The Galaxy will return and, indeed, it’s been confirmed at Comi Con that they’ll be back in 2017. They’ll be more than welcome!
Guardians Of The Galaxy opens around the UK on Thursday, 31 July.