“This film may not be the studios greatest achievement (that title still belongs to The Avengers) but it is by far the funniest.”

Guardians of The Galaxy Review
by Matt Allen

Certificate: 12A
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace,  Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan
Director(s): James Gunn
Screenwriter(s): James Gunn
Running Time: 121 minutes

Marvel Studios have come a long way since 2008 when they launched their ambitious multi-franchise crossover operation with Iron Man. It was a gamble. Tony Stark was not yet a household name in the same fashion as Superman or Spider-man and the comic book genre had yet to prove its resilience in the modern market. Now, six years later and nearing the end of Phase 2 of their master plan, Marvel have chosen to take that gamble once more – this time on a misfit group of outlaws known as The Guardians of the Galaxy.

When the universe is threatened by a fanatic with a big hammer, an alien-abductee/space buccaneer joins forces with a living weapon with daddy issues, a tattooed manic out for revenge, a genetically modified racoon with an affinity for firearms and a tree in order to protect the galaxy.

Perhaps ‘gamble’ is too strong a word. While it is true that any film starring a talking racoon will be difficult to sell to a general audience while still maintaining its credibility, Guardians has the advantage of being virtually unknown by your typical movie goer. Even the more obscure of Marvel’s roster such as Ant-man stir a vague sense of recognition outside of the comic fanboy circle. This means that audiences should be going in with a cleansed palette which makes the more absurd elements easier to swallow.

Additionally, unlike most of Marvel’s recent releases, Guardians is not a sequel; it is completely fresh. Not since Captain America’s initial appearance back in 2011 can the studio boast the introduction of completely new lead characters and although it has been exhilarating to watch the MCU expand and overlap over the past few years, it is a welcome chance to step away from all that and into something utterly different.

Of course, the film still clings to a lot of the established trademarks of the Marvel pictures; most notably the expert balance of humour. This film may not be the studios greatest achievement (that title still belongs to The Avengers) but it is by far the funniest. The appointment of James Gunn as writer/director (best known for his dark comedies, particularly Super and Slither) provides the perfect blend of snappy one-liners, adolescent jocularity and precision performance slapstick. Impressively, about 90% of the jokes land cleanly which is no small feat even for a traditional comedy.

Much of a comedy’s success is in the delivery which brings us to the team themselves. Their leader: former resident of earth Peter Quill (Pratt) or as he prefers to be called, Star Lord. More Han YOLO than Han Solo, Quill manages to simultaneously play the role of bumbling man-child as well as resourceful hero of daring do with a little bit of lady killer thrown into the mix.

Then there is the green-skinned lethal weapon Gamora (Saldana) theadopted daughter of cosmic tyrant Thanos (Brolin). Although she succumbs to the occasional bought of Quill-induced knee-weakness, she is otherwise a well-rounded female character with her own agenda beyond representing a reward for our main hero. Her half-sister, Nebula (Gillan) also expresses her own ambitions beyond playing lackey to the men in her life meaning both women have legitimate roles to play.

Former pro-wrestler David Bautista plays Drax the Destroyer who could have easily been neglected as the musclebound straight-man. Instead, he gets his fair share of giggles as he takes every word all too literally and faces almost certain death with joyous maniacal laughter.

And finally, there’s Rocket Racoon (Cooper) and his houseplant/bodyguard Groot (Diesel). What isn’t funny about a foul mouthed rodent with a bug gun? Voiced superbly by Bradley Cooper, the little vermin is sure to emerge as most people’s favourite character, particularly as the tender friendship between him and Groot proves to be the soft underbelly of the film.

With so much ground to cover (five main characters to introduce, a plot to exposit and a whole universe to of cultures to establish) the first act is a bit of a blur of information, names and set-ups. However, the script does well not to trip over itself and manages to get the gears turning without stalling and gently accelerates into the action with ease.

The obvious comparison to Star Wars has to be made. Yes Guardians is a ‘space-opera’. True, the influence of the classic trilogy is strongly apparent throughout.  However, Guardians has its own identity and if anything it succeeds where The Phantom Menace, for example, failed in blending action/adventure with comedy (point in case: Jar Jar Binks) as well as fabricating a whole CGI universe while still managing to retain a sense of tangibility. Whoever dares to tackle the inevitable Green Lantern sequel may want to take note…

Up there with Marvel’s best efforts and easily the most enjoyable film of the year thus far. If you’re not on the edge of your seat, then the likelihood is you’ve fallen off laughing.

Maniac Rating - 4 Stars