Saturday, 2 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter "Star Lord" Quill is an intergalactic thief, taking jobs from anyone with enough money. When he steals a mysterious orb, though, things start to go awry. He attracts the attention of Gamora, an assassin sent by Ronan the Accuser to retrieve the orb, as well as Rocket and Groot, bounty hunters who also happen to be a raccoon and a tree respectively. When they all end up in prison, they meet Drax the Destroyer, who's hell bent on revenge on Ronan, the man who killed his family. When they realise that the orb is worth 4 billion units, they form an alliance to get out of prison and sell the orb. However, when they meet the buyer and realise what the orb truly is, their consciences force them to protect the orb and get it into safe hands, and definitely away from Ronan...

This is where things get interesting. We've seen Iron Man and Thor and Captain America and all the sequels, all the characters are well established and came from Marvel's most iconic characters and most well-established material. Now we reach the point of expansion, the point where Phase 2 starts moving towards Phase 3, the point where we need some new blood in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Enter: The Guardians of the Galaxy. Finally, the MCU enters space, and the possibilities become endless. I mean, we've been to Asgard with Thor and Loki, but now the entire galaxy has become our oyster, and we've been left with a thief, an assassin, a tree, a raccoon and a destroyer to protect us. Shameful admission time: I've never seen Star Wars. However, if that particular space opera is anything like this one, I'm willing to give it a go, because this was good. Like, really good.

There's something refreshing about Guardians in the context of the MCU: It feels like a fresh start. The only two characters that had been established prior to this film were The Collector and Thanos, and even then both of those were only previously seen in post-credits scenes, and no-one was even sure it was Thanos at the end of Avengers Assemble (it was, but now he's here for real). There were no carried over story lines, no crossed over characters... This is where we begin, again. Saying that, it was a bold move to start adapting lesser known material. But then, it was a bold move to self-finance and create Iron Man in the first place, and to then create an entire universe, so this seems like a natural progression of Marvel's calculated risks. Phase 3 has lined up adaptations of characters completely new to the MCU: Ant Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther maybe? So, Guardians seems like a great way to begin introducing new characters, as it has a simple plot, it's a great origin story, and the calculated risk of picking an odd director paid off again. James Gunn, creator of the best anti-superhero film ever in Super, now as created a great anti-superhero superhero film. With me? They're not great people, if anything they're all awful, but collectively they work together and kind of fit together as well. Collectively, they're one good person, but separately they're pretty despicable.

Chris Pratt steps away from Parks and Recreation and becomes the leading man he was meant to be as Peter Quill. He's charming, he has a lot of female fans, he's funny and ties this entire film together. Finally, he's been given a chance to shine and he's taken it. He's ably assisted by Zoe Saldana as Gamora, who acts as Quill's female equal. Saldana's an action movie veteran now, having proven her fighting chops in Colombiana and her acting chops in Avatar (it might be a bad film, but she was one of few good points in it). Along side them, the CGI raccoon and tree and pretty good, very life like, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel fit well. Dave Bautista... He does well as a muscle-bound destroyer hell bent on revenge... But he's given a strange vocabulary to fit into his dialogue and it seems extremely unfitting of the character. But then maybe that's part of the fun? I just found it distracting. Although his quirk of taking everything literally was greatly amusing. The support cast was fantastic as well, everyone having unique characters, even the background players had some personality!

In general the entire film was funny, I'd say this is the funniest Marvel film by a long way, and that is to the credit of James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. Gunn hasn't toned down his writing style (much) and his humour definitely carries over. There's a ton of funny lines in this one, on top of the serious melodrama and explosions. Gunn definitely got the balance right, though, after a few darker Marvel films during Phase Two, we all needed a pick me up, and this was definitely it. I'll admit I missed Nathan Fillion's blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as Captain Mal, and I thought the obligatory post-credits scene was hilarious. I won't spoil it, but all I'll say is that as funny as the post-credits was, it didn't lead to anything. We're staring down the barrel of Avengers 2, a film which should be the biggest film Marvel have produced ever, and yet we know absolutely nothing going into it. It seems as if they've got their eyes fixed further down the road, finally introducing Josh Brolin as Thanos, the biggest big bad they have at their disposal. Unless they're planning a swerve in Avengers 2 and keeping him as a surprise alongside Ultron, it seems they've forgotten the merits to short term planning as well as long term planning. The soundtrack was awesome though,

Overall, this film is entertaining, but I think we've been spoilt by Marvel films past. On their own warped scale of epicness, Guardians ends up being rather tame, and the villain is evil but not absolutely unbeatable. Of course, now we know (spoilers) that this movie's villain is merely a representative of a higher power, but there should still be some threat, something which doesn't come here until very late on in the film. The film is well constructed, don't get me wrong, but there's an awful lot going on with an awful lot of characters to the point where it feels like there's a case of too many cooks. It's a shame, because I was super hyped for this one, and perhaps I over hyped it in my own head, but it's just not the great film I hoped it would be. It's really good... It's just not great. Onto Avengers 2 we go, MCU...

Rating: ****