Marvel’s juggernaut of films feeding into and based around the Avengers’ universe that they’ve carved out for themselves continues its (seemingly) never ending march with the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. Set in a different part of the galaxy to the previous films, we follow Starlord, Rocket, Groot and co. as they try to stop really bad things from happening. As Paul will detail, the film has a lot in common with a certain spacefaring TV series. But how does James Gunn’s interpretation of a lesser known segment of the Marvelverse hold-up on the big screen? I went to an advanced screening to find out…
All the feels
GG starts out by pulling your heart out through your chest, playing hockey sack with it for a bit before ramming it back into your chest cavity, sewing you up, and leaving you with a box of tissues to keep on standby for the rest of the film. Gunn is out for emotional impact with this film and while it does work for some of the character motivations, there’s some old tropes that you think it manages to skirt around, just about, before falling face first into them.
Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) sets off on his interstellar journey quite early on into the film and you think he’s going to fall into one of the many bereaved avenging stereotypes (a.k.a. Batman, Spider-Man, Green Lantern and more), but Gunn manages to avoid this. I really appreciated that Peter Quill wasn’t made into some avenging, galactic vigilante. However, such characterisation niceties weren’t held back for Drax (Dave Bautista) and his past is told as something that is quite by-the-book as far as most fictional characters go. Meanwhile, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) weren’t afforded hugely detailed backstories either and neither were the film’s bad guys.
This is very much a delightful film that really lives up to the “rag-tag band” philosophy. There’s few moments when you don’t find any character endearing or completely lovable. The bad guy is suitably power-mad and overconfident, which kinda goes with the territory when it comes to Marvels big bad guys. However, much like the big Marvel bad guys, I think it’s likely that with the sequel looming, he’ll become just another villain. Thankfully there is another to take his place.
Those are two the main words I’d use to describe this film. GG really is approachable fun and I say this as someone who’s never read (don’t worry, I will be soon) any of the Guardians of the Galaxy comics. Gunn and co. have managed to produce a film that’s open enough for anyone to step on-board and have fun with, rather than what we had with Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year.
It’s also a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I haven’t heard so many people laughing (myself included) at a non-comedy film in quite a while. The balance between humour and drama is such that you don’t feel like your emotions are being flayed too thin by the on screen action. The odd moments where a funny line is said or there’s a visual gag are used really, really well to keep the film’s pacing in check. Something the last few Marvel films hadn’t quite managed.
The film’s soundtrack also helps to balance out the drama in ways that I thought I’d never hear and see. It also aided in putting Quill across as a fuller character than often happens with a lot of heroes in these kinds of films.
The plot, overall, for the film isn’t fantastically complex. I have to admit that I felt a bit disappointed when I could see where things were going to head early on in the second act. It seemed like the filmmakers were engaged in a painful balancing act with trying to make this film so approachable that the lack of a well established brand in the film wasn’t going to be hindered by any moments of confusion that could have drifted out of screenings. GG is approachable, but maybe a little too approachable.
Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely worth heading to a cinema screen to see. It’s a great introduction to how the rest of the Marvel cinemaverse is outside of Asgardian influence and it puts forward some genuinely likeable characters that you want to root for. It’s a feel good film at its core and it does its best not to take advantage of this, but still keep you pretty interested in what’s going on. Yes, please go and watch this film, and do stay until the end of the credits.
Guardians of the Galaxy is out now in the US and UK. Our reviewers bought their own tickets.