By James Mackney @JimMackney
Six years ago Marvel set out its stall in bringing a series of high budget films initiating the world into everything Avengers based. Despite spending nearly $1 billion in the process (on that felt exhaustive and fundamentally unnecessary aside from Iron Man 1&3, Thor and the final culminating film Avengers Assemble), that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop making Avengers films…
This year it is the turn of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series to get the Marvel treatment and it may just be the best Marvel film to date. I sat in the cinema utterly enthused with what I was seeing on screen. I had no prior knowledge of the Guardians of the Galaxy characters or even knew they existed until a few months ago and I would hazard a guess that the same is true for much of the cinema going public.
The plot kicks off with Peter Quill being abducted from Earth by a group known as the Ravagers, a mercenary band of space pirates lead by Yondu (Michael Rooker). James Gunn in the director’s chair has a seemingly impossible task of introducing a whole new alien world and its residents but luckily he has Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt of Parks and Recreation fame to help. Pratt roots the film from the outset and is the guiding force that brings the films rag tag band of heroes together. Pratt in parts channels his Parks and Recreation character’s sense of child-like glee and at times seems to be living out a personal Han Solo-esque based fantasy but this is no bad thing, the film feels like an old school sci-fi film and is all the better for it.
The plot itself is very simple: a celestial orb with the capacity to destroy the entire galaxy falls into the wrong hands and a bunch of heroes need to save it.
The rag-tag bunch of heroes includes a smart mouth genetically engineered racoon called Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a tree like Humanoid called Groot (Vin Diesel) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) the assassin. The characters are superbly written, Gamora especially considering Marvel’s tendency to underwrite female characters and the film is laden with childish profanity and smart jokes that easily puts a smile on your face. In truth I found Guardians of the Galaxy to be the funniest Marvel film to date.
The galaxy they occupy is fraught with danger, as run-ins with the tyrannical Thanos and chief villain of the piece Ronan (Lee Pace) quickly establishes. Quill is also a criminal as his day job is that of a space pirate and it is he who steals the orb in the first place, before it falls in to the wrong hands. Still we root for him as he is the films only Earth-born character and his human qualities are instantly recognisable. Quill also displays a love of 70’s pop anthems and the soundtrack in which they appear adds weight and anchors several key moments superbly.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a rip-roaring treat, I imagine this is what it must have felt like to watch the original Indiana Jones films and to some extent the original Star Wars series upon their release. Guardians of the Galaxy is an old school sci-fi film jazzed up with modern day visuals. The main protagonist is flawed in undeniable ways, he is cocky, selfish and chauvinistic but this is certainly more in keeping with Original Series era than the modern day uber-chiselled and bland darlings that dominate our screens. Marvel probably felt that releasing this film was a risk but in truth it was a risk thoroughly worth taking.