I admit to having a very negative view of both Marvel and DC movie properties of late. These seem to range from the massively over-recycled fayre of Batman, Superman and Spiderman to dredging out the most marginal characters from the back of the metaphorical kitchen cupboard. I fully expected Guardians of the Galaxy to fall into the latter category, like a forgotten 1992 bottle of Five Spice. Also, with very few exceptions, these fan-boy films have been plot and character light and, in all cases, they have been so drenched in CGI and dizzyingly fast-cut fight scenes that I have lost both patience and interest in them well before their flabby running times are up. As such, I went into this film with my “1 Fad” button at the ready.
And – with that background understood – I was pleasantly surprised.
Chris Pratt (too new an actor to safely have “Movie 43” on his resume) plays Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) who is abducted from Earth by aliens as a young boy and turns up, 26 years later, as a Han Solo-style freewheeler looking to make a fast buck where he can.
The truly tortuous plot revolves around a metal orb that Quill obtains for a collector, without realising the true power of what lies within. Also wanting to possess the orb is the evil Krill warlord Ronan, who wants it for trade with the even more evil Thanos in exchange for Thanos destroying the planet of Xandar. Xandar is ruled over by Nova Prime, a dialled in performance from Glenn Close. A couple of hot girls are involved in the pursuit – Nebula (an almost unrecognisable Karen Gillan from Dr Who, below) and Gamora (a more recognisable Zoe Saldana), and one or both of them might have been daughters of Thanos: I’m really not sure, it was all very confusing!
Throw into the mix a vengeful wrestler type dude called Drax (Dave Bautista) and couple of bounty hunters (a CGI raccoon-like creature called Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper but it could have been anyone, and an Ent-like tree creature with a limited vocabulary called Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel (ditto)) and the course is set for a climactic showdown above and on the surface of Xandar.
Yes, everything IS drenched in CGI. Yes, the numerous (and often very violent) fight scenes are dizzyingly fast-cut. Yes, the laws of physics and medicine go out the window. And yes, various bodies survive a range of unsurvivable injuries. But what lifts this film into the bearable is the sense of humour it is infused with. For reasons made obvious in the opening scene, Quill is very attached to a Sony Walkman and a mix tape of ‘oldies but goodies’ pervades the soundtrack to great comic effect. The opening scene with Quill as an adult sees him stretch the neck of some alien reptile creature but then kareoke disco dance with the creature as his microphone. Very funny.
By the way, there are a few entertaining cameo performances involved: Stan Lee makes his usual Marvel appearance, as a ladies man on Xandar; Benicio del Toro makes a brief appearance as “The Collector”; John C Reilly is a Xandar security guy; and – best of all – stay for the end of the titles, where a true superhero of the past turns up, for which he should have been higher billed!
The director James Gunn (a relatively big-screen newcomer, also tarnished with “Movie 43” but also the darkly comic Kick-Ass-like “Super”) co-wrote the movie and clearly knew what mood he was trying to deliver. This is played more for the laughs than for the tension, and is a much better film as a result. The editing and special effects are excellent (“You’ll believe a raccoon can machine gun” could be the by-line) and the running time of 2 hours doesn’t make the film overly outstay its welcome. Quill makes a very likeable rogue with Chris Pratt (set to appear in next year’s Jurrassic World) clearly a name to watch.
So, in summary, its not really my cup of tea and my rating probably rather unfairly reflects that, but with a record breaking opening week of $162M (on a $170M budget!) who really cares what I think! It’s not bloody Shakespeare; but it could have been a lot worse.
Fad Rating: FFF.