Reviewed by Drew Ninnis
Director: James Gunn
Screenplay: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman. Comic by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
Runtime: 121 minutes.
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista.
Plot: Interplanetary scavenger Peter Quill finds himself a wanted man, after recovering an artefact coveted by genocidal villain Ronan. Pulling together a rag tag team of an alien and alienated step-daughter slash assassin, a super-intelligent racoon (or something), a sci-fi Ent, and a hulking widow bent on revenge, Peter embarks on a quest to save the galaxy. The results are fantastic.
Review: Years of Michael Bay blockbusters and uninspired Spiderman reboots have conditioned us to think of the next inevitable franchise film or studio tentpole as a CGI-ed chore; one that is likely to have all of the originality and fun focused-grouped and hyper-marketed out of it, until its soul is as threadbare as Leia’s slave outfit. Who can say who’s fault that is? Well, I can – it’s George Lucas’s fault, although he is yet to be strangled to death like his Tatooine doppelgänger. Ok, sorry, now that the US Congress is less popular than Jar Jar Binks, perhaps it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. Actually, no it isn’t – fuck you, George Lucas, you ruined cinema.
The cure to all of this is Guardians of the Galaxy, based on the Marvel comic books, and a shitload of fun. That’s the bottom line to this review, which you didn’t really need to read anyway as every critic has pretty much agreed it is a great and enjoyable film. Set your mind at ease, and get your kids in the car for the first film experience that can rival the carefree enjoyment of the original Star Wars. [Ok, George, I’m sorry. I got a bit carried away. Just get Disney to re-release the original trilogy untampered with – you know what I’m talking about, don’t shake your head – and we’ll be cool.]
Guardians of the Galaxy begins its first instalment, of what promises to be many, with the childhood of Peter Quill. Left with only an awesome mix tape to comfort him during his mother’s illness, Peter is surreptitiously abducted by scavengers from another planet. Jump to now, and Peter is a full blown rogue, rescuing a mysterious artefact for an unnamed buyer from a ruined planet. But all is not well, as the orb is also sought by a blue-skinned Thor with a chip on his shoulder, and a multicultural attitude worse than a newly elected Greek politician. Cue the manhunt, which unfolds with a satisfying number of unexpected twists and turns on the way to solidifying our beloved team as guardians of the galaxy.
What should be praised most about this film is its balance and ambition; launching itself into full space opera territory, but never taking itself too seriously. Obviously, the big action formula is being followed here – MacGuffin found/lost/found, choice to put good before profit and resulting clear mission, bumps in the road but triumph, no wait reversal, no wait triumph using concept foreshadowed several times throughout the film. Happy ending, credits roll, we’ll be back, teaser. It ain’t rocket science; but when it is done right, with some tongue firmly in cheek, it’s satisfying – and that is the case here.
Chris Pratt continues to build on his popular appeal here, playing a lovable rogue with a thirst for profit and a taste for the ladies (I assume, I’m not good on xenobiology). Failing Harrison Ford with a time machine and a good ankle, Pratt is an excellent choice – although the confidence of his performance is a bit shaky to begin with. Zoe Saldana is again deft in what is becoming a typecast role of sexy coloured lady, but I have confidence that she’s just following the Matthew McConaughey path to success and after a few of these roles will have an equivalent rebirth (Salightenment? Sorry.). Bradley Cooper, voicing Rocket, continues to demonstrate his versatility and adds another wing to the manor. Another minor revelation is Dave Bautista, who proves not only that he can act but that the right role makes his WWE/F background a boon.
But the film belongs to Vin Diesel, who sets aside his driving gloves (which I assume he wears when his hands are at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock while driving in those car racing films; I don’t know, I’ve never viewed a film from that franchise) to give the performance of a career as a Tolkien space-Ent named Groot. Delivering an infinite tonal variation on the phrase “I am Groot,” Diesel becomes a Phillip Glass of the theatre – demonstrating that all you need are three words to transcend the limitations of conventional performance. Yes, blessedly, all we hear of Diesel is his voice – as the director surmises, wisely, that a large piece of wood can more effectively communicate non-verbally on screen – but the range of that voice places him up there with the great Marlon Brando or Orson Wells. Sorry, I should clarify – Marlon Brando voicing The Godfather video game or Orson Welles voicing Unicron in The Transformers: The Movie. Sadly, both ended their careers and lives voicing animated characters; let’s hope this isn’t a rule of threes deal.
The CGI is great – not too much, just enough. And the script is suitably adult at points to keep older audiences interested; although parents be warned, you will have to explain to your children who Jackson Pollock is. So have a handy lie prepared, like “oh, blue light because of his famous painting Blue Poles, which looks awesome under different lighting.” Yeah, that ought to do it.
So go see Guardians of the Galaxy; the first film franchise in a while that you’ll look forward to seeing the next instalment of.
Rating: Four stars.