For a studio that didn’t exist ten years ago, Marvel have turned themselves into a sure-fire hit machine. Even though they don’t have the rights to Spider-Man and The X-Men (unarguably the most popular characters in the history of Marvel Comics), they’ve managed to create a stable of highly successful films. In a few short years, they’ve turned 2nd tier characters like Iron Man and Thor into household names!
The story, set in a far-away system, involves a disparate group of who are brought together for reasons that are mostly money-based. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an Earth-born outlaw who styles himself as ‘Star Lord’. When he steals a mysterious orb, he inadvertently becomes the target of other characters. His mentor (Michael Rooker) sees this as a betrayal and puts a bounty on him — a bounty that’s picked up by Rocket (a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his talking tree-friend Groot (Vin Diesel).
Meanwhile, a blue-skinned megalomaniac (Lee Pace) is looking to get his hands on the orb and dispatches a sexy assassin (Zoe Saldana) who may have an agenda of her own. Add to that a vengeful convict called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and you have yourself an unlikely team of heroes.
On the face of it, this all looks pretty silly. After all, there’a wise-cracking raccoon with a machine gun and a walking tree who can dispatch dozens of enemies at once. But in truth, the film revels in its joyful, 80s-inspired anarchy. Unlike so many space epics these days, it looks as though most of Guardians was shot on a set – one that looks intentionally shonky at times, recalling the lovely hand-made feel of Star Trek. Writer/director James Gunn has no desire to explain why Michael Rooker’s alien character speaks like a good ol’ boy from the Deep South. He just does.
But where Guardians succeeds where so many other blockbusters fail is in it’s well written characters. We’re not saying that everyone in this movie is Hamlet; but as an audience, we know what each character wants and what drives them. So when it comes to the point in the movie where they all agree to work together, it doesn’t feel like a screenwriter’s contrivance. Possibly our favourite running gag in the movie has to do with Drax, a behemoth who sadly doesn’t understand figurative speech.
And did we mention the soundtrack? Star Lord’s most prized possession is a 1988 Sony Walkman with a single mix-tape from that era. As a result, we’re treated to a killer list of music cues from 10cc, Blue Swede, Bowie and The Runaways.
This is a rousing space adventure with great characters, a fantastic retro soundtrack, lots of humour and a surprising amount of heart. It might be just because it’s still fresh in the mind, but Guardians of the Galaxy might be Marvel’s best movie yet. We can’t wait for the sequel.
Rating: A solid four and a half stars.