Out of all the blockbusters coming out this summer, Guardians of the Galaxy seemed like the biggest risk. Giving a team of obscure heroes to a director who has never had a mainstream hit and started out working with Troma must have sounded insane on paper but the trailer have helped make it one of my most anticipated films of the year. The fact that I am writing this review after the second time I've seen it, and I'm planning on seeing it again in the next few days pretty much sums up what I think. I love this film and right now it's head-to-head with Avengers Assemble as being the best Marvel film.
The plot revolves around the team of Peter Quill (a human taken from Earth the day his mum died and raised by space pirates, the Ravagers), Gamora (the adopted daughter of big bad in the MCU, Thanos, and is working with Ronan, a Kree terrorist who wants to destroy the planet Xandar over a recently signed peace treaty between the Kree and Xandar), Drax (a madman whose family were killed by Ronan), Rocket and Groot (bounty hunters who wanted to find Quill, one of whom is a genetically modified raccoon, the other is a tree) and their efforts to procure an orb and try to sell it and prevent Ronan from getting his hands on it so he doesn't destroy the galaxy. In the hands of anyone other than Marvel, they would take this premise and use it to make a serious sci-fi film but, whilst there are serious elements, this is the Marvel film that plays the most like a comedy, it is laugh out loud funny all the way through, which is mainly the result of an excellent script by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. This creates a really irreverent tone all the way through that feels a lot like a big budget version of Firefly, and I doubt I'm the only one who'll make that connection. The film doesn't just rely on humour though, the characters are all really well written, the plot is highly engaging and it helps add a lot of background to the other Marvel films, especially through the introduction of Thanos and background into what the Infinity Stones are. All of this helps make this film both stand alone and be a huge part of the Marvel cinematic universe.
The cast is excellent as well. Chris Pratt has this very sly charm as Quill, showing how he was able to seduce so many women, along with a bit of a dickish quality at the start of the film. Over the course of the film, we see Quill change so that he values different people and isn't so self centered. Zoe Saldana is great as Gamora, showing her hatred of Ronan and Thanos and why she would want to rebel against them, along with this great strength that lets you know that she shouldn't be messed with. Plus, the romantic chemistry between Gamora and Quill is helped by Pratt and Saldana having great chemistry together. Dave Bautista meanwhile is hilarious as Drax, showing how literal minded he is about everything, along with having some of the funniest lines and moments in the film, but he also shows a great sense of grief and anger over the death of his wife and daughter which plays into his overall character. The standouts though are Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot, which is high praise from me since both of them usually annoy me whenever I see them in a film. Cooper's voice has this really dry, sarcastic quality which perfectly fits Rocket and the funniest moments in the film are because of Cooper. Diesel meanwhile puts a lot of heart into his single line of dialogue and the motion capture he did for Groot shows off all of the emotions of the character. When Cooper and Diesel are together some of the best moments of the film are created with Rocket and Groot having a relationship very similar to Han and Chewie in Star Wars. The villains meanwhile are pretty good, Lee Pace and Karen Gillan have this really intimidating air throughout the film, letting you know about the power that they have and why the galaxy feared them so much whilst Josh Brolin in his brief scenes as Thanos shows why he is the biggest threat in the MCU. If there is a weak link in the villains it's that Djimon Honsou is completely wasted as Korath, only having 3 small scenes in the film and getting very little to do, it feels like, if Marvel wanted to put Honsou in one of their films, they should have waited for the Black Panther film. There are also great performances from Benicio Del Toro who hams it up heavily as The Collector and Michael Rooker who is a lot of fun as Yondu, whilst also showing Yondu to be a threat, and is a lot of fun to watch whilst John C Reily, Peter Serafinowicz and Glenn Close put a lot of character into their performances despite their limited screentime.
On a technical level, the film is impressive as well. I love the use of make-up for Gamora, Drax, Ronan, Nebula and Yondu as most films now would just CG the characters with the make-up being incredibly impressive all the way through. That said, the CG in the film is excellent, with special praise having to go to the CG used to create Rocket and Groot, with the animation showing off a great deal of personality for the characters, matching up with the voices perfectly, and the quality of the CG makes me really feel that they are there throughout the film, giving them a great deal of heft. The production design is great as well, taking a lot of the stereotypical settings for sci-fi films (the outlaw planet, the prison, the highly developed city) and making them look really unique and, again, I like the use of practical sets over green-screening everything, which helped to fully immerse me into the world of the film. The action scenes are also incredibly well directed by Gunn, with the eye being on character all the way through and there being this great sense of size and heft all the way through, along with a lot of really funny moments in the film being delivered through the action scenes, with the prison break in particular being a highlight.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is the perfect blockbuster. The whole tone of the film is something that could have gone seriously wrong if it wasn't done right but in the hands of James Gunn, we have a film that perfectly mixes a highly irreverent sense of humour with great character and dramatic pieces, aided by top notch performances from the whole cast. I've already seen this film twice, I'm planning to watch it a third time and I will probably end up watching it more times before the cinema run ends. This is a film that I will never get tired of watching and is one of the best comic book films ever made.
My Rating: 5/5