Guardians Of The Galaxy Review 
Posted by Terry Lewis on 08.01.2014
Marvel's takes their cinematic universe into the stars with Guardians Of The Galaxy! Can a group of relative unknown characters make an impression? Or is this a case of the hype machine getting the better of us? 411's Terry Lewis finds out!
Chris Pratt - Star-Lord / Peter Quill Zoe Saldana - Gamora Dave 'Batista' Bautista - Drax The Destroyer Vin Diesel - Groot Bradley Cooper - Rocket Raccoon Lee Pace - Ronan The Accuser Michael Rooker - Yondu Karen Gillan - Nebula Djimon Hounsou - Korath Glenn Close - Nova Prime Irani Rael John C. Reilly - Rhomann Dey Peter Serafinowicz - Denarian Saal Benicio del Toro - Taneleer Tivan / The Collector Josh Brolin - Thanos
Hey kids, are you tired of all those superhero movies Marvel keep pumping out every six months to build up their expanding Cinematic Universe? Well Marvel knows you are too, so they've got a one-way ticket to come explore the Marvel Space Universe with some anti-heroes in Guardians Of The Galaxy! Can a massive hype and marketing machine bring up a sci-fi film with relatively unknown comic characters with a non A-list cast? Actually no, because it doesn't need it at all yet the machine is still there in the background.
Kidnapped from Earth as a young boy, grown up Ravager rogue and the self-proclaimed Star-Lord, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, The Lego Movie) is on the trail of a mythical sphere with a bounty on it. After claiming it, he runs into the footsoldiers of Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace, The Hobbit), whose seeking the sphere for his own goal to destroying a planet to gain revenge for his race the Kree. Through trials and tribulations, Quill teams up with Ronan traitor Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek Into Darkness), revenge seeking warrior brute Drax The Destoryer (WWE's Dave 'Batista' Bautista) and the bounty hunting duo, genetically engineered Raccon lookalike Rocket & limited vocabulary tree-like humanoid Groot (voices of Bradley Cooper, American Hustle, & Vin Diesel, Riddick), to stop his nefarious plans.
Given a shot as a non-traditional leading man, Pratt does an ace job as the womanising near-do-well yet lovable Quill. I do like the way he has this air of Han Solo meets Marty McFly as his human ways casts him in an awkward light to the numerous alien races he meets. In a weirdly too fast character arc, Saldana is fine as Gamora but there's literally no drama in her turn on Ronan after being despatched by him in the opening sequence. At least give it half hour where we could doubt whose side she really is on. Much better was Batista. I'll give him this I was not expecting much at all but he stood out to me with some amazing comic timing on his part and he wasn't a slouch delivering emotion when needed. The best part is when he would get totally confused by Star-Lord's humanisms (a finger across the throat to signify killing someone) and taking it literally, whilst a deadpan delivery of over-intelligent words will amuse. Worth seeing to see one of the best real acting by a wrestler performances ever alone. You'd think Diesel & Cooper would be on easy street with the voice acting gigs they've landed. Well considering Diesel only has to say three words throughout, he manages to get across the total pure innocence of Groot in his motion capture performance compared to the rest of this gang of dirty space thiefs and mad aliens. Cooper has a fair enough role. There's enough energy in his voice to compliment the fact he's voicing a bloody gun wielding galaxy faring bounty hunter racoon with a troubled past after all.
It would have been nice to have seen more of Pace as Ronan because there was potential in the role. Without spoiling, we could have seen the birthing of a brand new uber badass villain but there's simply not enough to propel him from the potential to reality. Pace is fine and delivers a villainous tone throughout but through no fault of his own feels downplayed in his only chance to make an impact. I felt Karen Gillan came across as more memorable as the half robot assassin princess who keeps piecing herself back together to carry on pursuing her targets. She looks the absolute best painted blue and bald with dashes of black and silver for enhancements; you won't recognise her from Doctor Who at all. Similarly, The Walking Dead'sMichael Rooker is pretty fun and memorable as Quill's thief mentor but again you wanted to see just a bit more than the film was willing to cough up. Benicio del ToroParadise Lost actually did a better job in his role of The Collector in the post-credits scene of Thor 2. It's fine here but he comes across as an exposition dump more than anything else. John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph) & Glenn Close (Low Down) give some meaning to the Nova Corps as they're instantly recognisable face and give an air of authenticity, but nothing more than that.
In possibly western cinema's ultimate career of 'rags to riches' in filmmaking, director James Gunn has come a long way from his days at Troma to craft one of, if not, THE visually astounding big summer blockbusters of 2014 in Guardians Of The Galaxy. Not just the computer generated imagery, of which it is nine times out of 10 great looking (that Nova Corps blockade is sparkling and dandy, whilst Ronan's ship looks appropriately threatening even if it's a cross between a rubix cube and a bop-it) - there's a conscious effort to make the set dressing a priority too. The prison looks suitably worn down and trashed by it's numerous rogue occupants. Quill's spaceship is loaded with 1988 references like Al stickers and Rock Trolls that look as dusty as the day he was taken from Earth. The Nova Corps base is slickly white and futuristic looking. Throw in one kick-ass soundtrack of pre-late 80's music, tonnes of culturally out of place mentions to old pop culture and a rapid-paced yet memorable script, you will still feel right at home despite being transported to other galaxies millions of light years away. There's rapid pop-ups to remind you of what space station or ship we're being shown next to keep you in check and the clear on what's going on in eye-pleasing colourful font. In fact, Gunn does a good job of balancing neat old camera tricks like Starlord dancing along an ancient alien temple, dancing along to his walkman and using little galaxy terrors as miming microphones before cutting to a long shot with mini SL still dancing along at the bottom of the screen with a giant Guardians logo taking up the rest of the shot. He has put some thought into the whole film. Despite there being one or two moments of dodgy CG (Particularly where Rocket & Groot are speaking open mouthed) and the plot being nothing special, I can not fault the look and feel of this film at all. It's all feels enjoyably fresh for the average cinemagoer who would not usually dip their toe into a universe spanning space opera adventure such as this.
For those immediately reminded of Star Wars with rich vibrant space worlds created, shame on you as Guardians goes beyond such comparisons to that. For me, it feels more like The A-Team... in Space - and it's as radical as that sounds. They come together to stop the bad guy for the good of the universe at the end of the day, but that's wrong with a little bounty hunting and profit on the side? The fact that this film exists when you consider there's no massive A-list acting names and we're not exactly dealing with Marvel Comics top tier of characters is a creative triumph. There's so much universe creation going on for Marvel diehards to fawn over. I mean we get the Kree being mentioned, the Nova Corps get their fair share and a certain set of stones are expanded on. It's nothing new if you've been following the promotional material even but at least it's there. There's so much going on and things are mentioned in passing that in a good way you're a bit annoyed as there's stories here you want to see told in full. We see the decapitated head of a former celestial being becoming a mine for high value resources on the black market - that's worth a film in itself! The universe building alone is attractive and throw in the fact I've already stated there's some characters who leap off the screen and into your psyche straight away who don't get that one extra moment or couple minutes to launch themselves into cult status and there's so much potential for sequels and spin-offs already that I can not wait for Guardians 2. Hell I want to know how the hell Starlord's walkman batteries have survived over 20 years where double AA's can't be easy to come by!
There's a considerable effort to make this appealing to a vast majority of groups so at times Guardians Of The Galaxy feels like a mechanical character spray-painted all the colours of the rainbow to appeal to everyone by force. "Look, here's the cute racoon teaming up with the innocent tree creature. Buy their figures!" "Hey, here's Starlord's mentor. I bet you'd like to see more of him in our cartoon show huh?!" There's something for anyone to like which is fine but a little forced. Whilst there is an adult mindset with a reasonable amount of swearing and activities like space cock fighting, it clashes with the kid friendly mascots and vehicle fighting. Of course, it's a counterpoint to all those superhero films Marvel keep pumping out and it's been a long time since we've had a great space adventure movie such as this to fawn over like everyone is doing, yet it feels all part of this corporate machine to keep making merchandise and tie-ins that you maybe not the audience for it, feeling a little left out. Still I wouldn't mind some Guardians Of The Galaxy Lego so maybe I'm part of the problem.
Guardians Of The Galaxy manages to thankfully pull away from the hype machine of Avengers 2 by cleverly swerving around any noticeable ties in a successful attempt to stand on it's own two legs... before becoming bogged down in the build for Avengers 3 instead. The problem for Marvel Studios is there's a ready built audience who for the most part know where these films are going and whilst it's fun and cool to see these aspects of a niche side of comic book mythology brought to life on the big screen, there's next to no surprises anymore. I can tell you what's going to happen in Guardians 2 to set up the overarching Thanos plot later on now, instead of waiting for three years time. For the majority of the casual cinema-going population going to their first experience of such things like Infinity Gems, they'll be blissfully unaware and to be honest I wish I was as well. To be in a golden age of superhero film adaptations and feeling left out by knowing what's going to happen next is rather lacklustre.
The 411: I wanted to be in love with this, but I merely only like it alot. It feels wrong to say Guardians Of The Galaxy is a disappointment as it's an amazing 'A-Team in space' which is filled with deeply entertaining character moments, held together by a slick script. But the more successful creatively Marvel's films are, the less surprise and wonder is to be had for diehards as we rumble, admittedly happily, to the next phase or sequel in the future. An achievement to see these admittedly lower tier characters getting their own film and Gunn & his enjoyable cast all get some screen time to make an impression.