Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Posted in Reviews by - August 07, 2014
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

A glorious, brave sci-fi film which is equal parts Star Wars and Serenity (think George Lucas but with Joss Whedon’s sense of humour), which is both smart and smart-ass and sails just on the right side of irksome. There are starship chases, space battles, prosthetic monsters, CGI beasties, red and green skinned peoples and costumes, hair and make up from The Fifth Element school of interstellar fashion. But there is also a heavy dose of physical, grounded action, much in keeping with other Marvel fantasies of the era (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Wolverine are good examples of comic book adaptations with a similar emphasis on fight choreography). Dave Bautista provides the muscle-heavy ground and pound from his WWE background in the form of simplistic heavy Drax, who has a brilliantly comic lack of lateral thinking and turns his brutish streak into something almost lovable. He is far better utilised here than by RZA in The Man with the Iron Fists and really shines. Then there’s Zoe Saldana (Uhura from the new Star Trek films) who plays one of Marvel’s archetypal kung fu super vixens, here called Gamora, although it could easily be Elektra or Black Widow, who gets to kick and chop her way towards an ultimate set-to with an almost unrecognisable Amy Pond from Dr. Who (a robotic, knife-wielding, shaven headed Karen Gillan).

Gamora is tasked by the powerful overlord Ronan to retrieve a stolen orb holding enough power to destroy the galaxy, which is now in the possession of abducted human man-boy Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – a sort of Captain Kirk if played by Jack Black – who makes a living as a marauding petty thief. The space police arrest him and Gamora after a brawl involving a talking raccoon called Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his stocky bounty hunter partner Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), an endearingly simple animated tree. The four end up in an anti-gravity slammer where they befriend Drax on his own personal quest for revenge. Here we learn about their idiosyncrasies via a well constructed prison break and some zesty dialogue which sees the group unite, fracture, and eventually unite again to take on Ronan.

For a Marvel film, this fun new universe is unashamedly brash in its adoption of alien planets and cultures and never once tries to legitimise the film’s events in a real world context. The only link to some semblance of normality is the film’s only human, Peter, abducted from Earth as a boy but with a profound respect for 70s rock music and pop culture references. But he is still a self-conscious outsider in a universe full of abstraction. The adventure narrative, group camaraderie and warm heart shows director and writer James Gunn aiming for the sort of fantasy film which Hollywood hasn’t attempted successfully since the 1980s, and overlooking the film’s knowing sensibility he pretty much nails it. Plus, there is enough mileage in these characters to want to spend more time in their company.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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