Not three years ago, Marvel Studios attempted to capitalise on the growing interest in the science-fiction genre. It achieved this by taking the formula utilised by its other properties, and then applying it to a largely unheard-of comic strip. The result of their efforts was Guardians of the Galaxy, a space opera which doubled as a superhero movie.
Abducted from Earth as a child, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) lives the life of a bounty hunter, travelling from star-system to star-system under the alias of “Star Lord”. The most recent addition to his bounty is a mystical orb taken from an abandoned planet, an act which displeases the villainous, and brutal, Ronan (Lee Pace). Wanting the orb for himself, Ronan sends his trusted assassin – the green-skinned, sword-wielding Gamora (Zoe Saldana) – to retrieve it.
Peter, who is quite unaware of the orb’s importance, attempts to sell it on the ultramodern planet of Xandar, without much luck. Whilst there he encounters Gamora, who makes a clumsy attempt to seize the orb, as well as two other bounty hunters: Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a loud-mouthed mammal who strongly resembles a racoon, and his companion Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a living tree.
In a foolish attempt to capture Quill for a handsome payment – being a criminal, he too has a bounty on his head – Rocket and Groot end up getting themselves, Peter and Gamora arrested by Xandar’s police force, and are sent to a remote prison in outer space. In jail, the four are joined by a strongman named Drax (Dave Bautista) who reveals that his family was murdered by Ronan himself. The five band together to plan a breakout, hoping that they can reclaim their orb and split its bounty.
The most impressive element of Guardians of the Galaxy is its great cast, with the Guardians themselves putting in the best performances. All five members of the team are enjoyable to watch, each having their own unique personality, but like most people, it is Rocket and Groot that this reviewer adores the most. Despite being computer-generated characters – the effects of which, by the way, are superb – they possess a plentiful amount of persona, unlike the film’s live-action villain.
Though at first seeming like a gimmick, Guardians’ retro soundtrack aids the upbeat atmosphere, providing the film with even more character. While some may regard the pop songs as cheesy, the film’s willingness to embrace its goofy tone means that the tunes don’t sound out of place – seeing Peter romance Gamora with Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” is actually rather sweet. What’s more, the worlds inhabited by the heroes are creative and colourful, adding further life to the movie.
Sadly, Guardians is let down by its use of the same generic, formulaic approach of every other film in the Marvel Studios canon. Characters with traumatic backstories, an utterly forgettable villain, a twist in the middle, angst between team-members, two post-credits scenes at the movie’s end – the tropes are all there, folks. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but with so many imaginative characters and settings, it’s a pity that the script isn’t as inspired as it could be.
Though it may not be as innovative as one would hope, Guardians of the Galaxy has enough positives to warrant interest in the upcoming sequel. Driven by its loveable, original protagonists, it makes for a vibrant science-fiction adventure which just so happens to be a superhero movie.
This film was previously reviewed for YO Bendigo on September 3rd, 2014.