Guardians of the Galaxy Review

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When James Gunn was announced as director of a Marvel movie, some people were confused, some were excited. Having made R-rated flicks like Slither, and Super, as well as working on stuff for Troma, Gunn wasn’t exactly a name one would consider as a potential herald of a slice of the Marvel universe.

Then again, Marvel have also employed people like Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, and even Shane Black in the past. (Not forgetting, sadly not to completion, Edgar Wright)

So really, James Gunn was just another left field choice that actually makes sense in the bigger picture. Kinda.

This is the writer of Scooby-Doo, after all. “Really?” you say. Yes. From that, to this, and it’s a universe apart.

Or at least, a galaxy.

And a galaxy that’s the home to the Guardians of the Galaxy, a rag-tag band of scoundrels brought together under crazy awesome and hilarious circumstances, with the closest thing to a leader being Peter Quill, or “Star-Lord” as he keeps trying to make happen (played by the always outstanding Chris Pratt). With this film being the inevitable origin story for the titular heroes, it does a great job telling us everything we need to know without heavily boring pieces of exposition. James Gunn does away with all the fat, and when it gets even a little close to that happening, well, he shifts gears perfectly.

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Guardians of the Galaxy is without a doubt the funniest Marvel movie to date. A good case could be made that it’s the best Marvel movie in general to date. Gunn has written and directed a film that knows exactly what it is: An intense comic-book adventure fused with 1980s pop culture and music, complete with jokes and violence that pushes the boundaries of Marvel Studios further into something that’s full of risk and it completely pays off.

But that isn’t hard with the cast and the writing. Pratt is joined by Zoe Saldana (deadly and beautiful) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (yes, the wrestler, in a wonderful turn) as Drax, Bradley Cooper (sadly not with accent, but still with all the scene stealing) as Rocket, and Vin Diesel (giving three little words the most range ever) as Groot. Gunn manages, much like Joss Whedon did with The Avengers, to make a well-balanced script full of characters that all mean something and are worthwhile and entertaining. There’s no fat and there’s no bore here. Guardians of the Galaxy is a true ensemble piece.

The villains, however, bring about the only real problems with this flick. Lee Pace, who has had a splendid turn in cinema recently as booming voice antagonists, is a gloriously violent (for a 12A) Ronan The Accuser, though he is both overpowered and underutilised as a bad guy. A bald and blue Karen Gillan plays Nebula, a secondary antagonist that plays well into the hand of one of the big laughs in the third act, but generally is also rather underutilised.

In essence, the conflict with evil in this film is a bit undercooked, but really, that’s not what this film is about. That’s just misdirection, much like The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. It’s not about the bad guy, or who the bad guy is, it’s about the story. The characters. Their developments.

It’s a film that brings together the oddest cast of characters in a Marvel movie (and this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe with gods and super-soldiers and such), and it just works. So many elements come together to make a tasty meal. The awesome mix-tape soundtrack, the 1980s pop culture references, the sense of humour that somehow Marvel let by, the clear influences of Indiana Jones and Star Wars and pretty much any Harrison Ford role back when he cared.

By the time the title card for this movie comes onto the screen, you’re in love. Then for the next couple of hours, you’re in for the time of your life. James Gunn has somehow gone from low-budget hyper-violence to high-budget comic-book movie without losing a slice of his integrity. Sure, just like Iron Man 3 this could easily be upped to a 15 with some more content in line with the writer/director, but it works as a summer blockbuster.

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It’s good to have a year when both Marvel Studios movies are amazing. Next year looks to be more of the same, but Captain America had the greatest action and Guardians of the Galaxy certainly is the funniest and more epic so far… so it’s a tough year to beat.

Then again, it’s the rise of Whedon once again…

But until then, see this movie. SEE THIS MOVIE. See it multiple times because it will definitely reward repeat viewings. A wonderful blockbuster that is absolutely fun and enjoyable, and the best thing out this summer. In terms of fun, at least. Nowhere else this summer are you going to see such brilliant practical make-up, Star Wars parallels, and a freaking dance-battle at one point, all in the same movie.

James Gunn, I salute you. You’ve taken a premise and a cast of characters most people have never heard of and have made it a must-see movie. Marvel, I salute you too, because boy, some of those jokes… well, it takes the whole “jokes kids can enjoy and jokes adults can enjoy” mantra to another level.

Guardians of the Galaxy is out in the UK 31st July. It stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper. James Gunn directs, and co-writes the script with Nicole Perlman.

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