Just got back from watching a very early screening at my local Cineworld, of Marvel’s newest “big thing” , a film that has already been confirmed to have a sequel in 2017, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Directed and written by James Gunn, the hype around this film has just been huge with preview showings getting the highest reaction and review scores of 2014 so far. For me this is very much the ‘Watchmen’ tone for Marvel films as it is not as main stream as say the Avengers characters and this will both service their introduction to the audience as well as the Marvel Universe as laid out on the big screen. I had high hopes for the film, did it deliver?
I wont go into the story as I do not want to spoil anything that happens in the film so will just give my impressions overall outside of that. There are a number of elements to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ that for me make it the most balanced, well written, directed and performance by the cast of any Marvel film to date. That is a big statement to make but Guardians deserves it. James Gunn has really delivered something new and fresh to the Marvel universe on the big screen and its the little touches as well as the big action moments that make it all possible.
Going to start with the cast. Guardians has a very mixed bag when it comes to its characters. Taken it away from the Earth focused foundation of the Avengers, and yes that includes Asgard and Thor and Loki, Guardians takes Marvel right up into space but uses the character of Peter ‘Star Lord’ Quill, the only human in the story as the centre for the story. Played by Chris Pratt, this role was literally written for this actor. Those who watch the TV show ‘Parks and Recreation’ will be familiar with his style of comedy and it just blends with the character of Peter Quill just superbly. It has to be said, he has had the full on superhero work out plan to get him looking just great for this part, but it is how he delivers the dialogue that both helps drive the humour in the film but also the glue that helps put the group of characters together without him ever really overpowering them on-screen.
Many will recognise Zoey Saldana from playing the role of Uhura in the rebooted Star Trek films. Cast as the dangerous and green character Gamora. Saldana is no stranger to playing iconic and strong female characters on the big screen and as Gamora she has succeeded once again. Gamora has her own agenda when she is first introduced to the story but her interaction with Quill and the other characters really enthuse the ensemble group in every scene as you try to understand why she is doing what she is doing. Gramora has a ‘sister’ in nebula, played by the beautifully bald and blue Karen Gillan, fresh from her role as Amelia Pond in Doctor Who. It is fair to say this is perhaps her biggest role since leaving the BBC show and her first time as an outright villain but oh does Karen deliver on being evil. Both Gamora and Nebula are trained and raised by the big bad guy behind the scenes, Thanos to be deadly assassin’s and their strained relationship leads to one of the big fights during the film. Both are just superb in bringing their characters to life.
The rest of the characters that will form the group, Groot voiced by Vin Diesel, Rocket Raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and Drax the Destroyer played by WWE wrestling star Dave Bautista. Groot is just such a wonderful character. He can only communicate by saying “I am Groot” and only Rocket is able to understand what he means when he speaks. Their relationship is so loveable despite Rocket being a willing violent on occasion bounty hunter with Groot as his muscle, but by the time the film ends you will leave the cinema and immediately want to hug a tree. The animation for Groot is so key and the CGI is just so well used with him that the lack of real dialogue is not a handicap as the emotion in his face says all that needs to be said. For Rocket the opposite is true. Bradley Cooper’s voice acting really gives Rocket his presence on-screen, as well as his ability to use and build big guns. Rocket alongside Peter Quill, brings much of the humour in the film and its a partnership that works so well despite knowing that Cooper gave his performance without having worked alongside any of the other actors.
As for Drax, well he is a big muscle-bound warrior, perfect for Bautista to play. Drax can only speak in literal terms, so he will literally say exactly what he thinks which Bautista can deliver the lines with great impact. Another character with a tragic back story which brings him to the group, and the interactions in the big action moments as well as in the comedy all adds to the formula of just why the film works on so many levels.
The music really is something that has to be given special mention to. Part of Peter Quill’s character is how he uses his “Awesome Mixed Tape Vol 1” in an old school Walkman player to keep a connection to both his own back story and earth but the way in which James Gunn uses it to keep the flow of the story going by using it as the constant in the background no matter how “alien” the characters or locations get. It serves in the humour and also in connecting the characters as Quill often has to explain what it is as well as playing it in his ship. The songs are all 70s hits that his mother wanted to share with him, and being so far away from home in Earth and his family, it is a lovely way to give a soundtrack to the story and the film. Loved it so much that I picked it up after leaving the cinema and am enjoying it once more as I type.
The special effects and the big action sequences really pack a big punch for this first time on-screen group of mismatched almost unwilling heroes. I watched it in standard 2D as I am not a fan of 3D but the big moments would look amazing in 3D but you can tell, even in just 2D, that this really was a film made to be seen in IMAX and I will watch it again this way. The CGI for Groot and Rocket are spot on considering what the other actors would have had to imagine whilst giving their performances. As much as this film serves as a stand alone story which introduces these characters it also connects it with the Avengers universe in how the main big bad Thanos is used. Folks may remember that the after credits scene for ‘Avengers Assemble’ revealed him as the figure in the shadows who had assisted Loki in his invasion of Earth. Well he was due to be the main villain for the sequel but plans were changed to have him for Guardians once Ultron was chosen to be the villain in the Avengers Sequel, ‘Age of Ultron’ due out next summer. As well as Thanos, the character seen in the after credits scene of ‘Thor: The Dark World”, The Collector plays a role in Guardians. Played by Benicio del Toro once again, it is the bridge needed to connect this film to the world of Avengers which just doubles the size of an already big Marvel Universe. None of this feels forced in what is already for me, the most balanced and well executed Marvel film so far.
Guardians of the Galaxy is for me the most enjoyable of any of the Marvel films so far. The comedy is well used and feels natural unlike its overuse in ‘Thor: The Dark World’ which spoiled that for me. Each character gets their moment to shine and unlike the Avengers where each character had a stand alone film for the audience to learn all about them before they were put together in the Avengers, James Gunn does a sublime job to do the same in just one film. Each performance enables the audience to not just learn who these characters are but you do connect with each one by the time the film ends, especially with Groot which was a surprise for me. I just loved this film a great deal. It will appeal to both those fans who know the original Guardians comic books or newcomers both adult and kids. I would say that the humor and tone of the film is more for a grown up audience though, but a younger one will just fall for the action as well as Rocket and Groot, with Rocket not exactly being the all Disney talking animal cute they might expect.
For me, Guardians is the film of the summer, the most fun and best delivered Marvel film yet and it was a joy to watch it from beginning to end. Make sure you stay for the post credit scene, it is definitely worth it and also a tip, when the film looks as though its ended before the credits role, don’t move from your seat and make sure no one around you does either ! Already looking forward to its follow-up in 2017, how they may crossover into the Avenger universe and later this year on Bluray at home!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!