Starring: Chris Pratt (The LEGO Movie), Zoe Saldana (Avatar), Dave Bautista (Riddick), Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious 6), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Lee Pace (The Hobbit trilogy), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator), John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights), Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)

Director: James Gunn (Slither)

Writers: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Runtime: 2 hours 1 minute

Release Date: 31 July (UK), 1 August (US)

Guardians of the Galaxy has always been a humungous gamble since the word go. Its obscurity to the general audience, its irreverent tone, its odd assortment of characters, the fact it is so far removed from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is being helmed by such a bizarre and relatively untested director. Why risk millions of dollars on such a wild idea? Well, as Marvel Studios constantly manages to do, it takes that challenge and surmounts it, only this time they do so in a manner deserving of a standing ovation and a victory dance. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t just a good movie. It is outstanding.

Guardians’ story at its core is relatively simple: big bad wants thing to destroy things, so a bunch of people who don’t like each other have to learn to like each other to stop the big bad using the thing to destroy things. It’s hardly an original story, but on top of that familiar centre is so much more. The pacing is energetic and bouncy, the comedy consistently hits all the right notes, and the film even manages to pack a sweet and powerful heart. The dialogue especially sparkles, with plenty of quotable lines and whip-smart quips. It does everything a great movie needs to do and then some, blending that familiar Marvel flavour with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Firefly and James Gunn’s own wicked imagination. In terms of connectivity to the other films, it’s pretty loose though I’m sure certain elements may become important down the line, and of course stay through the end credits for something that will certainly have the fanboys reacting wildly in some manner.

But what ultimately makes Guardians such an enjoyable ride is its characters. The Guardians themselves are incredibly well defined and performed, so much so that it is hard to pick a favourite. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill oozes with charisma and wit, mixing Han Solo’s swagger with his own brand of humour; with this and The LEGO Movie under his belt, it is certainly his year to shine. Zoe Saldana is tough but endearing as the cutthroat Gamora, whilst Dave Bautista is a deadpan revelation as the team’s muscle Drax; he also has the distinction of delivering some of the film’s best lines, which I won’t spoil for you here. Vin Diesel does a phenomenal job voicing Groot, especially considering he can only say three words, but Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is certainly bound to be the film’s breakout star. He’s rude, he’s angry, but there’s a surprising amount of depth to his character that is only hinted at and I hope this gets delved into more in the already confirmed sequel. All of the actors have fantastic chemistry with each other, both when arguing and working together; their camaraderie often even rivals the bonds between Joss Whedon’s characters. The rest of the supporting cast don’t get quite as much focus, but they all have their memorable qualities, with particular stand-outs being Karen Gillan’s deliciously villainous turn as Nebula and Michael Rooker doing what he does best as the scoundrel Yondu. If there’s anything a bit lacking in the film, I’d say Lee Pace’s Ronan isn’t exactly that compelling an antagonist. He’s certainly an imposing threat, but most of his scenes lack the sense of humour that permeates the rest of the movie and it would have been welcome if his overt seriousness were at least called upon.

On top of all that, Guardians is certainly Marvel’s prettiest looking film. The attention to detail on all the sets, costumes and props is astounding and really sells these outlandish locales. The action sequences are fantastically well choreographed, filled with the same amount of effort and ingenuity that has gone into the dialogue; most memorable being an early four-way bout on Xandar and a fantastic prison break sequence. The film’s cinematography is colourful and well staged, the editing moves at a perfect clip, the music is packed with both a well composed score and fantastic use of 70’s and 80’s classics, and even the 3-D is worth it. See this movie on the biggest and best screen you can; I saw it in IMAX and the experience was worth every extra penny.

I don’t know how much more I can gush about Guardians of the Galaxy, but this is not one you want to pass up. Even removed from the rest of Marvel’s film catalogue it would still stand as one of the most fun and entertaining blockbusters not just this year but of the past several years. James Gunn has crafted a motion picture packs all of the wonder and heart of the films it is inspired by, and may indeed inspire the young generation in much the same way Star Wars did. It’s my favourite Marvel film so far, my favourite film of this summer as it comes to a close (honestly, I doubt anything in August will top this), and it certainly is vying for that highest of honours: favourite film of the year. What else do I need to say? Go see Guardians of the Galaxy. As the film’s tagline says: you’re welcome.


Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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