Let’s talk about things that shouldn’t work, but they do: apple slices & cheese, rum & raisin ice-cream and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is the rare film where the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. Marvel took a gigantic risk putting it’s weight behind a film where the principal characters are largely unknown to the masses, outside of deeply involved comic book nerds. To their credit, this is probably the main reason it worked. For years, people have been asking Hollywood to take the stick out and give us something original. While the beats are familiar, the way this cake has been mixed is not.
More issues than a newsstand.
From the very first frame, we know we are in for something different. Here we have Peter Quill, a young boy being removed from the most traumatic moment in his life and shunt into a life of off-planet crime. To which he has adjusted with flying colours, going so far as to be a bit of a man-whore, in an obvious nod to Cap’n Kirk’s exploits.
Quill, played with brilliant wit by Chris Pratt, finds himself, through a series of facepalm worthy circumstances, thrown in with a motley crew picked by bingo. We have Gamora, an assassin trained by Thanos, Groot and Rocket, a pair of bounty hunters that just happen to be a tree and raccoon with astounding anger issues. Finally, Drax, the straight-man with no sense of metaphors. If that sounds hilarious, when you see their onscreen chemistry, you’ll have a ball.
“Should we leave them out there? If he dies, I call dibs on his gun.”
Director James Gunn, assisted by the wicked pen of Nicole Perlman, understood that these estranged ingredients are not to be thrown haphazardly in a tin and baked at 350° for 122mins. Instead he chose to highlight each characters motivations, all against the backdrop of a religious nut’s crusade on an entire planet. This gives them their own moment to shine and give a little of their back-story. He then adds to the flavour by mismatch pairing the characters. Again, the tactic pays off in spades, as we see Drax’s vengeance craving peeled back against Rockets intense loneliness. We also see Quill’s heartbreaking Mommy complex juxtaposed against Gamora’s overwhelming step-daddy issues.
“I swear to Thanos I met him dead.”
The acting and chemistry in the film is a major highpoint, since the characters are all such strangers to each other, yet they gel so flawlessly, you wonder if they’ve been childhood friends the whole time. Dave Bautista could have easily chosen to just play the mindless strongman, but his delivery had a special comic timing that fell right in place. His and Zoe Saldana‘s often clueless interpretation of sarcasm and metaphors is a constant source of comedy, yet it’s always hit, never miss. Bradley Cooper‘s vocal rendition of Rocket carries enough weight that when we see him exposed for who he really is, our hearts ache. Vin Diesel’s is able to deliver a surprising amount of pathos into only 3 words, and Lee Pace’s zealous portrayal of Ronan the Accuser is nothing short of intimidating. Also, Thanos.
Quiver, for nobody can sit quite as menacingly as The Mad Titan.
Thanos’ throne room. The cosmic equivalent of the principal’s office.
The mix of action and comedy in Guardians of the Galaxy is a love-letter to all of the great action flicks of old. There are echoes of Indiana Jones and its ilk in the heroes getting knocked on their backsides and making it up as they go along. If you’re a child of the 70’s and 80’s you will absolutely adore the music choices. The whole future retro playlist, all of which are tracks on Quill’s ‘Awesome Mix Vol. 1’ never feels out of place and by the time the credits roll, you will be jamming and singing right along. Totally worth the weird looks from other moviegoers who, to quote Rocket, “Want to suck the joy out of everything.”
Like this guy.
Speaking of Rocket & Groot: CGI effects regularly get bashed from film-goers who feel that a films reliance on them has cheapened the experience. Not so with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. The VFX powerhouses of Framestore and MFC have done the impossible in giving a raccoon and a sentient tree soul. They feel real, never once out of place in the complex set-pieces and interact with the cast in ways that most films would bungle. (I’m looking at you, TRANSFORMERS).
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is positively loaded with Easter eggs and if you are sharp eyed (and eared) you will spot a few, including the Nathan Fillion cameo that everyone has been talking about. (Hint: He’s a bit blue). Word of advice, don’t duck out on the credits. Gems abound in the Cosmo.
In short, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is as awesome as it’s soundtrack suggests, never taking itself too seriously yet loaded with emotional gravitas. Second helpings are definitely recommended.