Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Watcher - Guardians of the Galaxy

by Stefan Harkins

A lot of people were concerned about Marvel’s next venture, a talking racoon and a tree... in space? Well not me! Ever since the first trailer blasted Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, I’ve been psyched!

The movie starts in 1988 with a young Peter Quill helplessly watching as his dying mother passes away. Doing what any child would do at this point he runs away, and in the midst of his grief he’s abducted by a massive spaceship!

We then jump forward 26 years and the now adult Quill (Chris Pratt) has settled into his space life, calling himself Star-Lord. He explores the galaxy, stealing and selling anything he can get his hands on. On a desolate planet while exploring a forgotten tomb, he pulls out an Eighties Walkman including foam headphones and pops in his ‘Awesome Mix Vol.1’ cassette tape. All of a sudden we’re filled with nostalgia as pop power ballads fill the air (it makes an awesome soundtrack!) and Quill dances his way around in order to find a shiny orb to steal. I feel this scene sets the tone of the movie, have fun while you're here and enjoy the ride!

Everyone seems to be after Quill, the orb or both and thats how the rest of our protagonists meet and end up in jail. This isn’t the type of movie which spends half its time explaining itself, and thats a good thing. There’s no unnecessary backstory, but each character gets a moment to define themselves. It's in prison that the group really get to know each other and so do we. 

Chris Pratt is perfect as Star-Lord; arrogant, cocky and libido driven but at the same time the heart of the story. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the adopted daughter of arch-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), kicks ass beautifully and balances wonderfully against the buffoonery of Quill. Now Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista) was a bit of a surprise - vengeful and determined, but with dry wit and a deadpan delivery that gave a lot of his lines some huge laughs. 

Fans are going to fall in love with the two CGI characters, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). One's a wisecracking, massive gun-toting, cybernetically-enhanced raccoon and the other a sentient tree-being who's vocabulary is limited to ‘I am Groot’. They share a unique bond, in part because Rocket seems to be the only one who can understand Groot. The detail in the CGI expression is impressive and really sells their emotions. Some may think the casting of these two is a stunt to help sell the movie, but I found that you never hear the ‘celebrity’ voices instead just the characters. A lot of laughs, with Groot particularly providing the warm and sweet ‘Hulk’ of this movie with some great moments.

It turns out there is more to the orb of course, it’s the McGuffin of the film - even Quill refers to it as having a “Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of vibe.” Of course inside it is another Infinity Gem, which means darker forces have their evil eyes on it. Thanos to be precise, who sends Lee Pace’s menacing Ronan the Accuser to get it along with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and his other daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), who has a ruthless rivalry and jealous relationship with Gamora to say the least. 

What with his cameo in Thor The Dark World stinger, I was a little concerned with Benicio Del Toro as The Collector being overly camp and out of place, but thats not the case here. He has some good exposition about the Infinity Gems and their beginnings which we’ve not had up until now.

If I had to say something negative about Guardians of the Galaxy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole it would be the relatively bland villains - they do have a hard time finding ones that can contend with the Marvel heroes (aside from Loki)! For me however, it’s all about the unlikely group of heroes who are more compelling and the real focus of the movie. There are however some standout supporting roles which are greatly written; Michael Rooker’s Yondu whose space pirate who took a shine to Quill; John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz as Nova Corps officers; and Glenn Close as Nova Prime (what a hairdo!).

Written and directed by James Gunn along with co-writer Nicole Perlman, they keep things upbeat and fun. Mimicking the witty banter of The Avengers in a sci-fi setting, which almost makes it reminiscent of Firefly. The visuals are staggering and the jokes all hit their marks perfectly. Gunn obviously had a lot of fun creating the soundtrack, which is pretty much Quill’s Awesome Mix Vol.1 brought to life - an Eighties DJ's ‘best of’ dream!

Dismiss any doubts you had this is definitely one of the best Marvel films so far..

Stefan Harkins is doing a Kevin Bacon and indeed hooked on that Marvel feeling!

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