Writer/director James Gunn’s version of Marvel comics’ GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is terrifically entertaining.
Star Lord, Drax, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora. Quite a roll-call of names and they’re quite a team, the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY as they call themselves when they do finally assemble in James Gunn’s new movie. With only a passing nod to Joss Whedon’s phenomenon that was The Avengers, in terms of a slightly rag-tag gang taking on some pretty nasty baddies, GUARDIANS… is a little more off-centre. There’s similar humour in it but it’s a little wackier, a little more out there (as it’s set in space) than we’ve seen before from the Marvel comic adaptations. The closest movie I connected it with was Green Lantern, DC Comics not very successful feature (I liked it!) but even that was set mostly on Earth, with a couple of portions on the planet Oa.
Here, apart from a brief opening section on good old planet Earth, where we’re introduced to the character that we’ll really follow throughout this, Peter Quill (only later to call himself the snazzier ‘Star Lord’) this story takes us to the far reaches of space, to places like Xandar, Morag and Knowhere. An awful event that takes place in Peter’s life when he’s eight years old defines him and we find him 26 years later as a kind of adventurer in the Han Solo mould – quick-witted, resourceful and with just the right amount of snappy lines – finding a rather dangerous orb that will put him in a lot of trouble.
It will also allow him to meet up with Gamora, a rather striking green assassin (played with a caustic but vulnerable edge by Zoe Saldana) and the terribly effective duo of a raccoon called Rocket with anger management issues (voiced brilliantly by Bradley Cooper) and a very tall, tree-like creature Groot (who’s three-word vocabulary is provided fabulously by Vin Diesel). Once Peter’s made their acquaintance, Drax an anciently tattooed muscleman (played with a wonderful earnestness by Dave Bautista) follows soon after, with an agenda of his own. He’s seeking revenge from a truly sinister piece of work, a face-painted devil called Ronan the Accuser, who wants the orb but who Drax is after because Ronan (a wonderfully malevolent Lee Pace) murdered his family.
Throw in the always-excellent John C. Reilly and Glenn Close as two galaxy protectors, whose desire is to also get their hands on the orb and the stage is set for an almighty showdown between our heroes and Ronan and his lethal sidekick Nebula (a feisty and almost unrecognisable Amy Pond from Doctor Who, Karen Gillan). You also have an adventure that’s not exactly what you expect. It’s that wacky quality I mentioned, that throws you at points but there’s nothing wrong with that, as you’re watching something a bit more out of the ordinary. Wait to see Peter’s dance-off and you’ll know what I mean.
What really makes the movie though is Chris Pratt. He is the out-and-out star (good choice of the name ‘Star Lord’) of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY who wows you at every turn and whose performance is completely winning. He’s funny, heroic, dashing and just an all-around good guy and you root for Peter Quill at every turn. I’m so glad someone (well done Mr Gunn!) has finally had the foresight to cast him as a lead, because I’ve thought Pratt was pretty darn brilliant in the supporting roles I’ve seen him in – as the washed-up catcher who becomes the hero of the hour in Moneyball, his tremendous contribution to Zero Dark Thirty as one of the Navy SEALS and more recently, as the harassed dad and not-quite-yet a lawyer friend of Vince Vaughn in Delivery Man. Drama, comedy, hero stuff – he can do it all.
Kudos to James Gunn too for putting this terrifically entertaining movie together. I’ve not caught Gunn’s other feature, the quasi-superhero tale Super but he’s got the chops to pull off an impressive big film on the strength of this and it’s certainly a fine way to spend a couple of hours when you’re in the company of this very jolly crew.