Okay, soundtrack's on. Let's do this!
Who’d have thunk it? A ‘feel good’ superhero film. Marvel Cinematic Universe first came to silver screen fruition in the iron form of a “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist’ by the name of Tony Stark. Since then the Marvel Universe has expanded considerably. With Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk all making appearances in the new franchise later to become The Avengers, superhero movies have since taken the world by storm, no not Sue, at least not yet (The Fantastic Four remake is in the works). If I’m honest I was getting a little tired of Marvel’s endless individual franchises, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 yeah we get it Marvel Tony Stark is awesome. But it doesn’t stop with Iron Man. Captain America, Thor, and even The Incredible Hulk have their own stories so much so that when their characters reunite for The Avengers: Age of Ultron I’m worried I’ll be a little bored of their characters.
Dare I say it, The Avengers isn’t actually that good, but then again I don’t come from a comic book reading background so I might have missed the scope of the whole thing, maybe it was a big deal and I know Avengers fans that are probably screaming ‘blasphemy’ at their screens now but the walking tall Avengers have been put to shame by their not so ‘super’ Guardians of the Galaxy.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. Guardians of the Galaxy is not a superhero movie, which could be why I enjoyed it more. Fantastical yes, but none of the characters possess superhero characteristics that we commonly associate with the superhero universe. This definition from ‘TVTropes‘ helps.
“A series where the main character has powers and/or abilities that set him aside from other people. Usually (unless he’s Not Wearing Tights) he is a costumed do-gooder with a colourful outfit (which likely sports a Chest Insignia), a Secret Identity and often unusual and useful superpowers or equipment. Sometimes he’s a loner trying to deal with the hand that fate dealt him. Usually his reason for existence is to defeat his nemesis or arch-enemy the Supervillain.”
It’s no secret that Marvel’s comic universe dabbles outside the superhero pool but with their recent track record Guardians of the Galaxy is the only film to break from the traditional superhero flick and deliver something truly refreshing. When Iron Man debuted back in 2008 the superhero sub-genre was given a boost but it was nothing new, modern but not new. Guardians builds on the established Marvel fan base and gives them something to truly marvel at.
Set light years away in the unrecognisable present Peter Quill, after being abducted as a child in the opening scene by Yondu and his space pirates, lands on planet Morag in search of a powerful orb. With our first of many 80s pop classics filling the cinema the atmosphere is a curious blend of excitement and bemusement. As Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ leads the cinema in a chorus of unexpected laughs Guardians begins as it means to go on, with a killer soundtrack and an all-powerful orb as it’s centrepiece.
Quill’s brash try-hard charm never wears thin and his earthly mannerisms are innocently lost in translation on foreign planets and a smorgasbord of interplanetary species, most notably Drax, who I’ll get to shortly. After failing to deliver the orb to Yondu a 40,000unit bounty is placed on his head for him to be captured alive. A further party interested in the orb, one Kree fanatic by the name of Ronan sends an assassin by the name of Gamora to retrieve the orb. Ronan intends to steal the orb for Thanos so that he can destroy Xandar, but Gamora has her own agenda. It’s on Xandar, the capital of the Nova Empire that we are introuduced to two more characters of the eponymous ‘Guardians’. Rocket, a genetically modified Raccoon and his partner in crime Groot, a humanoid tree are bounty hunters and provide a wealth of comic entertainment throughout.
When the four are captured by the Nova Corps the back stories of each character are kept short and sweet during an amusing Usual Suspects type line-up which concludes with their imprisonment in the Kyln. Their plans of escape are swiftly put into action and their stay is shortlived. With Gamora’s murderous history known to every criminal inside the Kyln hostility toward the group, specifically Gamora, soon results in a close encounter with Drax the Destroyer, played by Dave Bautista. When the mismatch of criminals escape the Kyln they embark on an interstellar mission to sell the orb. When the true power of the orb is brought to their attention it is agreed it should be returned to Xandar to prevent Ronan from harnessing it’s unrelenting power.
The whistlestop tour of Benicio Del Toro’s, The Collector’s, collection of artefacts on Knowhere, a criminal outpost, provides plenty of easter eggs for Marvel fans to get excited about. Just another ‘for the fans’ moment that adds to the incredible feel good nature of James Gunn’s direction. Back aboard the ‘Milano’ Quill’s inspirational speech provides one of the more sobering moments of the film. When life gives you lemons, form an alliance of unlikely criminals and stop Ronan from destroying Xandar. It’s refreshing to see a band of outlaw heroes come to the rescue of the city in distress. Sure, The Avengers came together to save New York but only because they were asked to. In many ways Guardians is a Space Western, kind of like The Magnificent Seven but in space, and only five, and it works effortlessly.
Light years ahead of its Marvel compatriots Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (2017) is something I am looking forward to and although the trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron is visually impressive I don’t think I can bring myself to sit through another 2 hours of Tony Stark and Captain America bickering.
Guardians of the Galaxy oozes charisma beyond belief. Originally put off by the prospect of Bradley Cooper voicing a Raccoon I eventually gave in and it was the biggest surprise I’ve had this year. Stylish, well scripted, a soundtrack to challenge Tarantino, and endlessly funny Guardians of the Galaxy is a Modern Classic that I would happily watch over and over again, even just for Groot’s innocent joy at thrashing Ronan’s troops around. If you want to get a feel for the film watch the title sequence followed by Groot’s smile and you’ll get the idea.
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