Sunday 10 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

I review Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

After I came out of Winter Soldier earlier this year, I thought it was the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet. Its dark conspiracy/spy thriller, Jason Bourne-esque take on superheroes made it superior to any film that had come before, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect it to be topped by the very next film that Marvel put out, especially when they have a track record for releasing one good movie and one bad movie per year. I liked Iron Man Three but wasn’t the greatest fan of Thor: The Dark World for example. The same goes with Captain America: The First Avenger and the first Thor – I preferred the former a lot. However, with Guardians of the Galaxy I simply didn’t have that problem, because the movie looked excellent from the very first trailer that I saw and never failed to disappoint.

Marvel succeeds when they try the more original approach, straying from your standard superhero movie formula. Guardians of the Galaxy feels more like The Magnificent Seven meets Star Wars than it does a superhero film, and although there’s the inevitable world-saving involved that comes with the majority of the MCU movies nowadays, the fact that it was so fun didn’t make this a bad thing.

We first meet Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill following the death of his mother from cancer as a child. Shortly after, he’s kidnapped from Earth by a bunch of alien space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Quill is after an orb that he intends to sell, but finds himself soon the target of multiple assassins and mercenaries. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), daughter of Thanos and servant of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), and the teamup of Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), and a humanoid tree called Groot, with the ability to only say three words – “I am Groot” (Vin Diesel). However, the plan to get Quill isn’t pulled off perfectly and the four soon find themselves imprisoned, where they have to team up with a certain Drax the Destroyer (Dave Batista) in order to escape from the custody of the Nova Corps.

The quality of this film is so good. Chris Pratt feels like he was born to play Star-Lord (the name that Quill calls himself), injecting some great humour into the role and carrying the movie with a great performance Zoe Saldana’s Gamora also impresses, and Dave Batista’s Drax is a surprising highlight, with him taking all metaphors literally allowing for some great one-liners. Both Vin Diesel’s Groot and Cooper’s Rocket also shine in the way that they avoid becoming a Jar Jar Binks of the Marvel Universe, and are welcome additions to an awesome ensemble cast.

The villains aren’t as developed as they need to be with Doctor Who alum Karen Gillan playing Nebula, the other Daughter of Thanos. Like Lee Pace’s Ronan, they do play a role in the film but nothing worth noticing, and they both could have been switched out by others and we wouldn’t have noticed the difference. Marvel also had this problem with Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) which was a shame because Eccleston is such a good actor. Pace is also good (see my recent review of Halt and Catch Fire Season 1) and whilst I wasn’t a fan of Gillan’s role in Doctor Who – I was hoping that Guardians would win me over.

The soundtrack is superb, with a use of ‘70s pop music – Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling is the most notable inclusion due to its use in the trailers, but there’s also appearances from The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb and O-O-H Child from The Five Stairsteps. They fit the theme of the movie so well and it’s great to see such an excellent use of songs.

The humour is perfect, and if you see this movie, you will laugh. I watched this film when I went up to London earlier in the week, and pretty much everyone in the theatre laughed more than once. It was a great experience that really paid off, and to make things more interesting – the 3D in this film actually worked, making that a total of 3 films that I’ve seen where it’s paid off. (Gravity and Avatar being the other two, but Avatar was boring.)

On the whole, Guardians of the Galaxy is quite possibly the best film you’ll see this year. I haven’t yet seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Interstellar, but in my view, they’re probably the only two films that stand a chance of matching this film in terms of sheer quality. Guardians of the Galaxy is a must watch for pretty much everyone and comes with my highest recommendation, so go see it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


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