Directed by: James Gunn
When will Marvel stumble?
If I was a betting man a year or so ago I would have said that ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ should’ve been that moment – A Marvel movie which finally falters critically and at the box office. Look at the evidence that would lead me to make that assumption. One of Marvel’s lesser known comic’s gets adapted; it features characters that only avid comic book readers would recognize, two of which are a rambunctious talking raccoon and a seemingly dim witted walking tree who only utters “I am Groot”. The initial trailers for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ made me curious, but confused. I thought to myself why on earth is the soundtrack powered by half-forgotten seventies easy listening tunes? Is Chris Pratt charismatic enough to carry a film as a leading man? Oh, great I’ve just spotted the wrestler Batista, a man ridiculed by wrestling fans for being wooden and humourless. I just felt, this is never going to work.
But what did I know? ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ turned out to be a brilliant film. I’d argue that it is better than the original ‘Star Wars’, and one of the best sci-fi adventure movies I’ve ever seen.
The story is ‘Starman’ in reverse, a little boy loses his Mother to cancer; he is unable to hold her hand as she experiences her last few breaths, The boy runs out of the hospital crying and is then abducted by an extra-terrestrial force. Several years later this boy becomes a man. He becomes a relic hunter who travels through space looking for valuable objects. One of the few reminders the man has of his time on earth is a Walkman which plays a cassette tape of seventies Americana that was given to him by his late Mother, a mix of easy listening and bubble-gum pop. This man is named Peter Quill, he calls himself Star Lord. The moniker hasn’t caught on with the rest of the universe.
Chris Pratt is able to channel his fun side, a schtick perfected in ‘Parks and Recreation’ in his role as Quill. He is charming, tough and above all else a reluctant hero worth rooting for. His performance fits into the mood of a film which is chock full of one-liners and comedic arguing, the kind of bickering humour you might’ve seen in a eighties action movie like ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, ‘Lethal Weapon’ or ‘Beverly Hills Cop’.
And what about the rest of the Guardians? ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ channels ‘The A Team’ and ‘The Dirty Dozen’, in the sense that a band of rogues, rejects, misfits and losers are thrown together under unusual circumstances. The Guardians have no obvious super powers. They’re good, but not in the same league as a Norse God, a Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist or a War Hero who’s legend transcends time. They’re certainly not fit to lick the green feet of the Incredible Hulk.
The Guardians initially distrust and despise each other, and every Guardian bar Groot is a loathsome selfish arsehole. You have Rocket and Groot, a bounty hunter raccoon and his loyal sidekick, who when wandering through the Nova Empire city happen to bump into Star Lord, a wanted man with a significant bounty on his head. A warrior named Gamora (Zoe Saldana) also has a run in with Star Lord, and the ensuing street fight lands all four of them in a space jail. When in jail the group decide reluctantly to stick together, and are joined by Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who learns the Guardians will be going up against the villain who killed his family.
Some critics have argued that the film’s villain Ronan the Accuser is one-dimensional, but I think he’s a more believable evil force than Malekith or the Red Skull. He’s also a character who bridges the gap to future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by reintroducing us to Thanos. Ronan bargains with the devil, in the shape of Thanos, who I think is firmly established in this film as a malevolent being who could ruin the entire Universe. Ronan retrieves the valuable object found by Star Lord in exchange for Thanos destroying his enemies. The film picks up when Ronan discovers the true power of this object and turns his back to Thanos.
One of the many strengths of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ that is worth highlighting is the fleshed out supporting cast. Michael Rooker is superb as Yondu Udonta as is Karen Gillan who plays the jealous Nebula, Thanos’ disgruntled second favourite adopted daughter. You also have fine actors like Glenn Close and John C. Reilly occupying minor yet important supporting roles.
Marvel in the last few months have laid out their blueprint for cinematic domination, they’ve left DC comics floundering, and now DC needs to play catch-up. Certainly DC has a few aces up their sleeve. There will be a willing worldwide audience for ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, but I think in the next couple of years DC will try and rush release films to grow their cinematic universe and try and get a slice of the box office pie. In doing so I fear a backlash against comic book adaptations.
‘Guardians of Galaxy’ is proof that the Marvel brand is becoming unstoppable, but we all know that in comic book folklore that when a force becomes unstoppable, a hero usually rises from nowhere to issue a challenge.