Guardians Of The Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
121 mins; Class 12; KRS Releasing Ltd

The Marvel Universe continues to expand even further with the guardians of the galaxy, who first featured in Marvel Comics in 1969. While they are lesser-known characters than the likes of Iron Man or Captain America, Marvel Studios are clearly hoping to cash in on their seemingly unstoppable, successful run with the big screen debut of the characters.

The self-proclaimed guardians of the galaxy are a group of misfits who (grudgingly) band together to save the galaxy.

Human adventurer Peter Quill stumbles upon a mysterious orb which the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) is searching for.

When Quill discovers the true power of the orb, he teams up with an odd assortment of rebel beings to ensure the orb does not fall into the wrong hands: Rocket, a smart-mouthed adventure-seeking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper); Groot, a tree-like humanoid (voiced, when he actually speaks, by Vin Diesel); the green-hued assassin-for-hire Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the tough-as-nails Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).

One of the film’s best quirks is Quill’s 1988 Sony Walkman, which rarely leaves his side

As acknowledged by Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, bringing Guardians of the Galaxy to the big screen posed a little bit of a risk. The guardians do not have the notoriety or popularity of other big-name Marvel Universe inhabitants; and the film does not boast an A-list cast.

And yet, while anticipation for this may not have been as high as for previous Marvel output – or for the forthcoming one, give the uber-excitement about Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – the curiosity factor alone will probably ensure solid box office.

While it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessors in the Marvel canon, Guardians of the Galaxy delivers the goods solidly, if a little unevenly.

This is clearly a film that is out to have fun, where nothing is taken too seriously. The intention is to offer a couple of hours of brainless entertainment away from the summer sun, and it succeeds in maintaining its silly, tongue-firmly-nailed-to-cheek tone throughout.

From the odd assortment of human and alien characters on display, to the heavily quip-laden dialogue, to the fast and furious action scenes which feature throughout, it is pure popcorn entertainment.

One of the film’s best quirks is Quill’s precious 1988 Sony Walkman.

The Walkman rarely leaves his side. He plays a mix tape of 1970s and 1980s over and over – giving the film an unusual soundtrack, given its tone and setting. And yet, it works.

Add to that the marvel that is the production design – pun intended – that runs the gamut of a palette of bright colours illustrating the various planetary landscapes to the dark, forbidding and imposing steel structures that make up the various space constructions and buildings on display.

The film is at its weakest narratively, the script by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman proving a little uneven. It certainly has some great moments.

There’s the prologue, where we are introduced to Peter as a young boy, that boasts some truly poignant moments. The scene that introduces the main characters to each other - during the mother of all street brawls – is truly inspired .

Yet, it feels too much like a sequence of chase scenes followed by exposition followed by another chase scene, leading to moments when the narrative drags. Conversely, some of the action scenes carry on longer than they should.

Furthermore, there are so many different characters and races of all shapes sizes and colours (pink, green, blue beings that blend in beautifully with the overall production design) that it is at times tricky keeping up with who’s who.

Given the type of tight storytelling we are used to from Marvel, Guardians feels like it could have used a little tweaking, both narratively and character-wise.

Pratt lacks the charisma of say, a Downey Jr. or a Hemsworth; and I found it a little hard to warm to him initially as the wise-cracking adventurer, but he soon settles into the role embodying the brazen if at times clueless Quill with ease.

Saldana’s Gamora is a little underused, while Diesel wrings some heart out of his wooden character.

It is Bradley Cooper who steals every scene he is in however, delivering his every line as the foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, genetically-created talking raccoon with hilarious sarcasm and snark.

This is clearly meant to be the first in a series and like all good superhero movies, the film ends on a note that leaves some questions unanswered, ripe for a sequel.

If the film-makers maintain the same sense of fun and adventure next time round and offer a tighter script, Marvel will be on to yet another winning franchise.

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