Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Even though this movie just came out in Australian cinemas officially, I feel so behind the times right now. So many of my friends got advanced screening tickets…

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Starring:
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista
Director:
James Gunn (Slither, Super)
Rating: M
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I often talk about how important expectation is to how you perceive a movie (or anything, really), but I didn’t really know what to expect quality-wise from Guardians of the Galaxy. I mean sure, the trailers and interviews sold it as a wild west-style sci-fi action comedy, and that is thus far a different and exciting direction for Marvel Studios, but it was also billed as another team-up movie “from the studio that brought you The Avengers“, which arguably made it a more ambitious project because none of the five members of the titular Guardians had enjoyed any prior screen time, while each of the four main Avengers got his own movie. And yet the Hollywood studio with the longest hot streak at the moment has once again married a promising small-time director (Super‘s James Gunn this time) with a big budget and a clear sense of fun to create a real winner. Obscure subject matter it may be, but Guardians of the Galaxy is great.

The plot of Guardians of the Galaxy is rather simplistic, for better or for worse. Much like The Avengers it is the characters and their interactions, rather than their context, that is in sharp focus throughout the movie. If the narrative occasionally seems like it has a few too many obscure outside references or supplementary characters, they don’t concern the main cast and therefore they won’t concern most viewers. The real show is all about seeing five outlaws of varying species, backgrounds, quirks and motivations forming a shaky alliance to escape from a high-tech prison and then going through the growing pains of becoming a cohesive unit in the name of heroism(ish). Their MO just happens to involve laughs, and a lot of them at that.

The de facto “leader” of said unit turns out to be Peter Quill a.k.a Star-Lord (the excellent Chris Pratt), a human abducted by alien mercenaries whose attachment to a mix tape made by his terminally ill mother provides an excuse for one of the best non-original movie soundtracks assembled since Garden StateThe entirely-1970s mix pops up regularly throughout the film to accompany a distinctly weird science fiction/fantasy aesthetic, which is a design decision that has no right to work as well as it does. Maybe it’s the action’s resemblance to the Star Wars saga that helps. You can get the whole thing on iTunes if it tickles your fancy, as it certainly did mine.

Star-Lord is accompanied by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a vicious green alien woman with a hateful reputation, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a ridiculously resourceful mutated raccoon bounty hunter, Groot (Vin Diesel), Rocket’s powerful and vocabulary-challenged tree-like partner, and Drax the Destroyer (ex-WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), a vengeful behemoth with rage issues and an inability to comprehend the concept of figurative speech. If anything is a marker of the outrageous scope of Marvel Studios’ success, it’s the fact that such a cast not only headlines a huge blockbuster movie, but also works really, really well.

Ask five different people who their favourite Guardian is based on this movie and you’ll likely get five different answers. There just isn’t a weak link here. Groot’s childish charm is infectious, Saldana finds a relatable side to Gamora, Quill’s reactive wit anchors the group and Drax is quite simply one of the funniest characters to appear on a big screen this year. The emotional fulcrum of the group, and the movie as a result, is perhaps surprisingly Rocket, the most unlikely movie hero in recent memory. Though he definitely has his fair share of memorable punchlines, he’s also the most emotionally vulnerable character and the driving force behind several crucial plot points. Though less prominent, the supporting cast has its own highlights, with Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Lee Pace and Karen Gillan giving their all as the film’s villainous and/or ambivalent characters, while Glenn Close and John C. Reilly are fun to watch as members of the Marvel-famous Nova Corps.

Guardians of the Galaxy may start slowly, with a poor opening scene that barely serves its single purpose and a lot of exposition to chew through before things find a good rhythm, but after that it becomes quite simply one of the most enjoyable action comedies I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. James Gunn‘s trademark light-hearted tone permeates the movie, balancing fantastical sci-fi action, laughs and heart to make Marvel’s second-last representation of 2014 a very easy recommendation. But please, don’t leave during the credits. Don’t be that guy.

 

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Very funny, sweet sci-fi action, surprisingly strong characterisation, kickass soundtrack
Bad:
Takes a few scenes to hit its stride
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

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