It’s rare to see a director successfully balance comedy and action, but James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an irreverent and exciting take on the genre.
Chris Pratt (The O.C, Zero Dark Thirty) plays Peter Quill, a young boy abducted from Earth and raised by interstellar mercenaries. Growing up as a thief and scavenger, Quill becomes a reluctant hero when he assembles a gang of miscreants to save the Galaxy from ominous hammer-wielding villain Ronan the Accuser.
Building on the rich world of the original Marvel comic, Guardians attempts to shoehorn as much of the back story as possible into the show’s two hour runtime, yet audience members unfamiliar with the comics may well be left scratching their heads at the continued references to empires, peace treaties and alien races which have no direct bearing on the story.
But the colourful central characters are the what really hold Guardians together. Quill’s A-team like ensemble includes a genetically modified racoon Rocket ( Bradley Cooper), hulking former prisoner Drax (Dave Bautista), Blade-wielding Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and a walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel). It is obvious the cast genuinely enjoyed themselves and their at-times abrasive relationships are extremely funny, bringing some much-needed comedy to what would otherwise be some very dark set-pieces.
But Quill is a real highlight, with his vainglorious attempts to act like a hero continually undermined by his own irreverent sense of humour. Prett manages to give the rogue plenty of emotional depth, and one moment, where Quill opens a present given to him by his mother on the day of her death, is particularly touching.
If the heroes are colourful and compelling, Ronan himself is little more than a cardboard cutout. Guardians reveals little of his motives and his past, which makes the final confrontation, while exciting and satisfying, just a little stale. Not that this will bother most sci-fi buffs, who will lap up the big-budget special effects and excellent soundtrack.
Epic space opera on a staggering scale, Marvel Studio’s Guardians of the Galaxy does not disappoint.