Marvel’s latest summer blockbuster arrived with a somewhat strange feeling of unfamiliarity to it. Away from the Avengers characters we have grown accustomed to the titular Guardians were a bunch of rag-tag randomers that very few people outside of the die-hard comic book fans would have known about. So the hype around Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t necessarily based on what had gone before, but around what Marvel could do to take their films in a new direction. Happily, Guardians was something different, and a film that is as enjoyable as there’ll be in cinemas this year.
The initial set-up of the film may seem complex, but even for someone unfamiliar with the comics before it the premise of the film isn’t too hard to follow. The story is centred on Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), abducted as a boy from Earth just after he has to experience the death of his mother from cancer. He is now a thief, and is chasing a relic known as The Orb. However, after capturing the Orb, he is mugged by Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who is trying to retrieve it for her master Ronan. However, after being apprehended by the police and jailed along with Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, would you believe), the tree-like giant, the group work together to sell the orb and retrieve a massive sum for it. There are various twists and turns in the story, but on the whole it is a decent plot that keeps you interested. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s fun to watch.
The film has a great sense of humour in poking fun at the traditional pomp and drama of typical action films. Quill and Rocket are the chief mischief makers when it comes to breaking the mould, and it keeps you on your toes and gives you a laugh at the moments of highest tension. Sometimes it feels a little overdone, but you can’t blame them for giving audiences a bit more than just a simple thrill ride. There are a few traditional battle scenes and big set-pieces, particularly at the end of the film, but there’s nothing particularly over-aweing about them. I think the best of the three main ‘villains’ was Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s jealous sister who sets out to destroy her after she defects from Ronan and their father Thanos’ mission.
The soundtrack of the film is also weaved into the narrative very well and it definitely adds more than just background to the action. The songs all come from a mixtape given to young Quill just before his mother dies, and these songs have become ingrained in his life so much so that the old Walkman is probably his most cherished possession. Some great songs from the 70s and 80s pop-up, slightly out-of-place for the typical high-octane blockbusters, and add a bit of happiness and colour.
These elements are added to by the actors’ ability to create a general good feeling whilst watching the film, and that’s the main take-away I had from Guardians. Chris Pratt has an inherent ability to be a likeable hero in films or TV, and that definitely extends to his role as Peter Quill. Zoe Saldana is ideal for Gamora, equal parts warrior and love interest for Peter (even if that’s not quite explored to its’ fullest in this film). Drax, the muscly heavyweight played by former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista, is portrayed as the simple tough guy, but with a heart. My favourite characters are probably the double-act of Rocket Racoon and Groot, with Rocket’s wise-cracks and Groot’s subtle gestures making them both iconic. Without the big-name superheroes I wondered how interesting this film would be, but the cobbled together mix of these characters worked really well and their unique chemistry gave the film an extra level of intrigue that it probably needed.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the summer blockbuster that it promised to be, and probably one of the easiest-to-watch superhero films you’ll ever find. It’s light-hearted and has enough interesting set pieces to keep it going. There are no massively memorable moments, but it’s a solid first entry in the series with characters that have room to grow. And I think that next time a Guardians film comes to screens instead of wondering what it’ll be like and who the characters are people will be more interested in what sort of antics they get up to next.