Space LOLZ – ★★★½
Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest Marvel Studios film (finding space between Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron) and tells the story of Star Lord – better known as Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).
Quill is a pretty care-free adventurer who finds himself the object of a bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious (MacGuffin) orb. He ends up in prison and forms a ragtag posse of misfits with a talking raccoon by the name of Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a green alien gal called Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer – a big burly soul who doesn’t understand irony or subtlety played by WWE wrestler Dave Bautista – and lastly a CGI walking tree voiced by Vin Diesel who simply says “I am Groot”. This daft bunch’s purpose is to protect the orb and save the world.
Star Lord is originally from earth but after the first few moments of the film there in prologue mode, we go and spend all of our time in space in rugged old prisons and beat-up space ships. Most of these are as real physical sets and so it gives the film a wonderfully tactile feel and amps up the action to the point where you care about the characters more than you might in the average space opera.
The film is directed by James Gunn, a man whose IMDB credits include work on Scooby-Doo films, Slither, Movie 43 and Super (2010) which was the film everyone thought they’d seen when they saw Kick-Ass. He is part of the current Marvel trend of somewhat left-field choices for directors, who will presumably bow to supremo-producer Kevin Feige’s grand vision for the Marvel cinematic universe. Gunn goes almost completely for laughs with every hint of seriousness in tone thrown to the wayside in favour of as many jokes – be they cheap, quick, clever or convoluted – as is physically possible for a film of this nature.
You almost half expect the characters to turn and wink at the camera at various points, it really does think it’s that smart and knowing. Quill even gives us his own referential nod in a line about the orb… “It’s got an Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of vibe.” It traverses the line of being too clever for its own good and being the cleverest blockbuster of the year.
Pratt does well leading the line and while he doesn’t show much sense of tragedy or peril around what’s happening to his world, you start to suspect that we’re not meant to care a whole lot. There’s a strong supporting cast with comedy actors like Peter Serafinowicz and John C. Reilly probably having the most fun and being most in touch with the film’s tone.
A word of warning, the soundtrack and Peter Quill’s bloody walkman may well wreck your head by the end of the film. Yes, we get the joke, he likes the tunes that you’d normally hear on your local radio station’s golden hour.
At times it does remind you of the best moments of the Star Trek TV series of the 1980s and early 90s, and even the brief moments in the original Star Wars trilogy, where everyone is working together trying to go somewhere. But all in all, it doesn’t manage to hold a lot of weight, as Gunn manages to always going for the cheap laugh. Despite these complaints, it is all tremendous fun so Gunn should be applauded for introducing us to a brand new set of characters without getting bogged down in the usual murky waters of origin stories built around a tragedy.
Released across Ireland on July 31st 2014
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