FILMS: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ review

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista in Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Poster Art
Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Poster Art
  •  Directed by James Gunn
  • Written by James Gunn & Nicole Perlman
  • Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel

You might think it’s been a busy year for Marvel with ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past‘ and now ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ gracing our cinema screens but only two of those are direct Marvel Studio’s releases. ‘Guardians‘ is one of them… can you guess the other?

Whilst Joss Whedon and his crew are hard at work on ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron‘ here on Earth we’re taken on a massive interstellar journey with Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket in this brilliant action comedy.

For those, like me, who haven’t read much of the Guardians before this film brought them in to the public eye the basic premise is that Peter Quill (Pratt) is abducted from Earth at a young age and raised by a group called the Ravagers eventually taking on the name Star-Lord; meanwhile Gamora (Saldana) has her family and her people taken away from her by Thanos and is raised by him to be an assassin along with Nebula (Karen Gillan, Doctor Who).

Eventually the adult Quill is thrown together with Gamora, Groot (the voice of Vin Diesel), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Drax (Bautista) to become the Guardians of the Galaxy where in the movie they face off against Ronan (Lee Pace, The Hobbit) a radical from the Kree planet who aligns with Thanos to wipe out the Nova Corps by collecting the infinity stones.

First off: this film is hilarious, I had expected a level of humour in line with what we have seen in the trailers (you can find an example at the bottom of the page) but actually it goes far beyond that. The audience was laughing throughout the film and not in an awkward ‘this is supposed to be serious so why am I laughing?’ sort of way. The script is full of one-liners and a lot of the action sequences although bring forth a lot of laughs from the crowd.

Pratt naturally exudes humour and was a brilliant choice to play Quill, after the flashback to his disappearance from Earth the first sequence in the present day is a perfect example of what to expect from the film both in terms of soundtrack but also in terms of visuals. This is not a film that takes itself too seriously but at the same time there’s a great (Disney-esque) message of family values.

Standing opposite Pratt is Saldana whose character, Gamora, is serious throughout. Her humour comes from her lack of understanding of Quill’s human nature. In particular the scene in which he describes the movie ‘Footloose‘ got a lot of laughs. The two characters balance each other out well in the story and there’s a good chemistry between the actors.  There are moments where the film feels as though it may follow a generic path and make this two dance around each other romantically but each time you get that feeling the film will do something to flip the situation on its head which was great to see.

Groot and Rocket are a brilliant comedy duo. Some of the laughs around the character of Groot are a little obviously, keep an eye on him during the end credits, but there is only so much that can be done with a CGI tree-creature who can only say ‘I am Groot’ but that being said towards the end of the film his character brings about a huge emotional moment which is integral to the formation of the Guardians.

Rocket is an angry creature who is funny mainly due to his intense aggression, Bradley Cooper has invented a brilliant voice for him which is so far removed from his normal voice he is nearly impossible to recognise. This character goes through a big emotional arc throughout the film that almost makes him the most human of all the characters in the film.

Both are animated brilliantly and integrate well with the live action characters.

The extended cast including Pace, Gillan, Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Benicio del Toro plus cameos from Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof and Josh Brolin is just ridiculous. There are so many recognisable faces in this film, even for ‘Hollyoaks‘ fans, that it’s just a who’s who of actors that haven’t yet appeared in the Marvel universe. All are brilliantly cast and share screen time in a very organic way. There’s no ‘Avengers‘ style battle to even out screen time which is a great testament to the skills of Gunn as writer/director.

Pace and Rooker stand out from the crowd as Ronan and Yondu with Pace almost unrecognisable under all the makeup. Yondu will hopefully turn up in future sequels as there’s a lot more to his character than we’ve seen here and it only takes one throwaway line about Quill’s father to know there’s more to come.

Close, Reilly and del Toro are only in the film for short bursts but all make their mark on the ‘Guardians‘ universe in their own way. Close has some great one liners and del Toro headlines the post-credit sequence which will leave you scratching your head.

It’s great to see Gillan graduate from ‘Doctor Who‘ to the Marvel Universe but her character is under used and there’s not a huge amount of time for her to show what she’s capable of when given a challenge. She does get to go toe-to-toe with Saldana in a fight which is also far too short-lived on screen.

The special effects are top-notch even for a Marvel movie which had to be the case with so many different landscapes and planets on show here. Marvel, more so than DC, have a huge amount of other planets to visit each with their own weird and wonderful faces so it was key for this film to work that these all be done well and they are. Makeup on the inmates in the prison are varied, weird and wacky and will have your eyes darting around the screen to see how much is actually going on in the background and whilst on the planet of Xandar those of you with a good knowledge of the London landscape will be amazed to see how much of it is built in to the film.

The soundtrack is split between 70s-80s pop songs which help to tie Quill to his own humanity, also good for a laugh here and there plus a bit of nostalgia, and Tyler Bates score. I have to say the score didn’t stand out for me massively over the pop songs which are really on show but I’m hoping after a second watch the magic of the music will begin to stand out for me as I like what he did with his score for ‘300‘.

The film runs to approx. 122mins but feels a lot shorter. The pace is well set from start to finish and there were no lagging moments of intense dialogue. The film does spend much of it’s opening act setting up the characters but it feels entirely necessary for characters who are not in the public eye as much as the Marvel A-list. This also isn’t a film which lurches from set-piece to set-piece. Yes there are big sets and big action sequences but there’s a natural flow to the film which makes it feel more like a fully contained story with a start, middle and end which is a genuine rarity with summer tent-pole.

There’s no need to discuss the possibilities of whether ‘Guardians‘ will get the sequel treatment as Marvel announced during SDCC that ‘Guardians 2‘ will be released on July 28th 2017.

A great, fun summer movie and brilliant entrant to Marvel’s Phase 2.

4 stars

4 stars

Checkout the trailer below:

By Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & TV and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG