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Guardians of the Galaxy

By on August 6, 2014

guardians-of-the-galaxyMarvel go all out and expand upon their wider universe by taking us on an adventure far, far away …

Despite what people might say, I feel Guardians is a huge risk for Marvel that, according to recent figures has paid off quite handsomely. Firstly, Guardians of the Galaxy was never a popular comic run – in fact, I would say that unless you really knew your comics, you’d be hard pushed to find someone who knows who they are, let alone having read any of their short lived comic runs. Although, perhaps that’s a good thing. It does mean Marvel can play with the characters and story without a huge fanbase giving a strong backlash or having to meet any expectations. But either way, there’s not an established audience for this except for people who enjoy Marvel films.

Then there’s the director James Gunn. I’m a fan of his since watching his last film Super (you can read my review here) and before that his only other big film was the mediocre Slither. So to put such a huge budget on the shoulders of what is a relatively unknown director is a big step. What would help is that he is very close to the cream of the US comedy crop having been married to Jenna Fischer (Pam from The Office) and so knows all the people involved with The Office and in turn Parks and Recreation.

Which brings us onto Chris Pratt. I’ve been banging on about Parks and Rec ever since The Office started going downhill (I do strongly feel that the key writers cared less for The Office in the end and used their good material on Parks and Rec) and one of the surprise stars is lovable Andy Dwyer played by Chris Pratt. Having had bit parts in films such as Zero Dark Thirty, Her and Moneyball – Pratt was definitely on the right path to stardom and for Marvel to invest in Pratt to lead this huge film is testament not only to the director but Marvel themselves to clearly give creative freedom to those who matter. This was a role Pratt was born to play, his heroic yet silly demeanour is perfect, his roguish sensibility, handsome looks and the fact he’s extremely funny make him a perfect action hero which fits the likes of Han Solo, quite an easy comparison. But Solo never led a film and Pratt falls into the role with such ease that you forget this is the guy who can just about string a sentence together in Parks and Rec.

Pratt is also surrounded by a cast that fit perfectly into their characters. Even Vin Diesel’s subtle ‘I am Groot’ works on more layers than you’d think. Bautista follows in The Rock’s footsteps by proving he can do the macho thing with an emotional edge, Saldana plays the archetypal strong female role she’s always hired for and Bradley Cooper really exceeds at giving Rocket, a tiny raccoon, a personality that never feels ridiculous or out of place.

This gang of misfits get together initially for selfish reasons (money, revenge etc.) but soon see the bigger picture as they stop their enemy from destroying the galaxy using an Infinity stone. The inclusion of Thanos and Infinity stones is very exciting for me, having grown up reading the Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War and Infinity Crusade where Thanos is a main character in all (and an extremely deep one as well – watching him work on a farm for instance was a highlight in the comics) so it feels that Marvel might be leading to something akin to the Infinity Gauntlet that included every Marvel character you can think of. That the gauntlet is made up of 5 stones might mean it’s a long way off, but it’s definitely very exciting.

What works here is that as outrageous as the film might be, often verging on pure cartoony action, the soundtrack – representing the humanity Pratt’s character Quinn holds onto – keeps the film strangely grounded in reality. We know these songs, they exist. It reminds us Quinn is still a kid from Earth refusing to grow up and clinging to the memory of his mother, it’s his security blanket. There’s also a heart to it – the whole film could be seen merely as a fantasy by a small boy designed to cope with the passing of his mother, building himself up as a hero – and as for his father? I have a horrible feeling that’s going to be a Darth Vader moment down the line – but I hope I’m wrong.

The main appeal of the film is down to the fact that no matter how fantastical it is, no matter how dramatic  it can be, it’s actually really funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but enough to keep it as the epic sci-fi it wants to be, and succeeds in being. The plot works, the characters are interesting, the world looks fantastic, it’s colourful, playful and very fun to watch. People say it’s perhaps Marvel’s best film, which I can understand but then even though it works on a deeper level, it still verges slightly on the kids cartoon side for me to really make a lasting impression. No matter how gushing I am about this film, I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best superhero films (Dark Knight sits proudly in that place) but it is an important Marvel film and shows other studios that taking chances isn’t a bad thing, in fact it should be a necessity.

Overall, as much as I enjoyed this film, I liked Avengers better. Although the exciting pace was maintained, the directing fresh and it was great fun to watch, it didn’t put hairs on the back of my neck, or get me emotional or make any real impact then a couple of laughs and a thoroughly good time. Not incredible, but definitely worth watching.

Rating: 7.5/10

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