Reviews, Science Fiction

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Copyright © 2014 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

After his mother’s death, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted into space by the Ravagers and nurtured to be one of them. 26 years later, Quill steals an orb from Morag and tries to sell it on Xandar but is arrested by the Nova Corps when a three-way fight ensues involving Quill, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and mercenaries Rocket (Bradley Cooper) alongside partner Groot (Vin Diesel). Learning of its deadly content, Gamora convinces the rest that the orb should best be sold to Taneleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro) to prevent it from falling into the hands of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who has set his sights on destroying the Xandarians.

What a way to jolt some life back into the box office after seven consecutive weeks of declining profits as compared to the same period in 2013. No surprise there that the biggest hits of the year have been contributed from Marvel Mania; all three properties prior average a gross of more than $700 million each worldwide but the ‘X-Men’ and ‘Spider-Man’ series are not fully owned by Marvel and the quality can be slightly erratic (the semi reboots for Professor X and co are applauded to thundering effect for crafting incredibly meticulous ensemble pieces while our web slinger’s revived fandom has been met with less enthusiasm).

One thing is for certain, if Pixar is synonymous to quality film making in the world of animation (though their record is tainted by anthropomorphic cars) then Marvel Studios is the equivalent to crowd-pleasing fantasy action from the superhero genre. It has already succeeded with the intelligently scripted ‘The Winter Soldier’ and now caps off via a new franchise-making gamble to a record-breaking opener for the month of August. Take that skeptics for ever doubting the company’s future line up! Looks like upcoming adaptations in Phase Three i.e. ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Doctor Strange’ are in good hands.

How did ‘Guardians’ silenced the cynics and win by such a huge margin? You will have to thank James Gunn for that. Just like the previous crop of unexpected directors who did good (Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston), Gunn’s knack for juggling the fairly large cast, diverse cultural practices and political establishment set to some of the most scenic locales ever being put on celluloid is held together by a zippy script resulting in a well-oiled space romp which evokes memories from the original ‘Star Wars’, ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Flash Gordon’ classics.

Hard to believe that this is the same guy who wrote the live action ‘Scooby-Doo’ travesty in the early 2000s. There is no sign of a novice here, only a confident and buoyant auteur at work. His inclusion of a Walkman (relic by today’s standards) to drive the plot forward is moving, funny and humanises the unearthly premise. The last time a rock legend that was featured so prominently in a movie was Elvis Presley in ‘Lilo & Stitch’. In this action comedy, a chockfull of timeless songs in the 1970s and 1980s vocalised by Blue Swede, David Bowie, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye are used for added dimension to reveal Quill’s unpolished but no less heroic ‘a-hole’, as coined by a Nova Corps officer.

Coming off from the mega-loved ‘The Lego Movie’, Pratt is unassuming and his guy-next-door appeal easily outweighs Quill’s brash and conniving side. While Ronan’s motivations could have benefitted with edgier writing, Pace at least looks the part and is totally unrecognisable as a vengeful Kree. A feat not to be dismissed lightly when the competition is not even human. Diesel and Cooper emerge as the show’s zaniest pairing since…uh Matthew Lillard and Neil Fanning took on the roles of Shaggy Rogers and Scooby-Doo respectively (not everything in it was a disaster).

Though the talking tree only utters the now infamous ‘I am Groot’ line, what makes him so endearing is Diesel’s ability to distinguish each line tonally through his one-of-a-kind instrument while Cooper seems to be just relishing the opportunity of voicing a wise-cracking raccoon. If you cannot get enough of these bounty hunters, be sure to stay until the very end for a special appearance of another cult ‘favourite’ who made his big screen debut in 1986. Oh yeah, DC Comics, be kind of afraid, the lords of the stars have got us hooked on a feeling and it is a nice one to be in. Oversaturation? I think not. I am already gearing up for next year’s ‘Age of Ultron’.

Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language