It has a talking Raccoon.... the end
In a world where D.C appear to be struggling with Batman and Superman, Marvel have the audacity to make a film about a talking raccoon, a tree creature capable of saying only three words and a truckload of other characters that even the most devoted of fanboys would shrug their shoulders at, and incidentally they happen to make one of the biggest successes of the year. It would be easy to dismiss the unlikely success, arguing that, at this stage, Marvel could make a whole film about cereal and audiences would flock in droves to see it, but credit where it is due, it takes confidence to sink this much time and money into this much of a gamble.
The film has three USPs. 1: It expands the marvel universe to a cosmic level, broadening the possible scope for the rest of the films yet to come. 2: It capitalizes on its lesser known characters and has fun with them, creating an edgier band of heroes to follow than other comic book adaptations offer and 3: it has one of the coolest damn soundtracks in cinema history.
Perhaps the funniest film of the year as well, Guardians of the Galaxy outshines 2014’s comedies in the laughs department (yes, even 22 Jump Street) thanks to sharp writing and lively direction from James Gunn (who finally gets the big break he deserves) and excellent performances, from Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper in particular. There’s the odd moment where the gags do come across a bit forced, but these are few and far between.
Paradoxically however, when it tries to be more sincere it loses a lot of its mojo, not all the time (the ending is quite affecting) but it works best when its at its most irreverent. This causes some issues in that: you want it to be fun and snappy all the time, but want it to feel effortlessly so, which is to be fair, asking quite a lot. Still on more than one occasion the film oozes unforced charm and cool (Peter Quill dancing anyone?)
Ban Davis’ cinematography is striking and vibrant, he seems to have a knack for translating the essence of comic-books to the screen and blending it with a cool punky aesthetic (as he did in Kick-Ass), not enough blockbusters are bright and colourful these days. Action sequences are all good but lack originality, even the final spectacle feels like a bit like déjà vu, perhaps a consequence of the over-reliance of Marvel’s on the last act bonanza’s in recent times.But an early jail break is sparky and fun in a way that really evidences the best qualities of the film.
Unfortunately almost all of that energy disappears whenever the film leaves the central team itself. The rest of the supporting cast leave absolutely no impression of their own (except for Michael Rooker’s Yondu), and whenever we’re asked to spend some time with them it brings down the mood drastically. The villains are especially lame, Ronan the Accuser’s only defining characteristics seem to be that he’s a bit moody all the time and has a deep voice. Meanwhile arch evil Thanos, who remains mostly in the background here, shows up only once in the flesh – and it is embarrassing. Floating on a throne presiding over an entire kingdom consisting of a rock, he looks confused and little helpless.
Still, when the titular Guardians are together everything clicks much more convincingly. The dynamics between the team are all so perfect and there’s a clear affection that’s gone into its construction. This is a tent-pole movie that relies on its offbeat personality more than anything else, and it has tons of it to spare, and it either deserves an extra star, or a star taken away, for getting hooked on a feeling stuck in our heads for the rest of the foreseeable future.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), directed by James Gunn, is released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Certificate 12.