Once you figure out the formula behind Marvel’s current run of movies, it’s awfully hard to go back to enjoying them. In that sense then, Guardians of the Galaxy is just about the smartest move they could have made at this stage of the franchise. For one thing, it seems that many of the little niggling problems with a lot of recent Marvel products vanish once you place them on a more level playing field. On Earth, being a wisecracking hero who’s never in any real danger can seem a little smug and arrogant; in a galaxy full of tough guys, being quick with a quip is the only way Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) can stand out. Quill is a swashbuckling mercenary of a kind that’s been around as long as movies – *cough Han Solo cough*.
The story involves a bunch of people racing around in circles trying to grab a magic item of almost unimaginable power – and that’s pretty much the plot of every recent Marvel movie. The cast is a team of badasses who initially are at odds with each other but right before the final battle (which involves fighting on a giant flying base that’s crashing to Earth – you know, just like the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier) someone says “we’re family”; the same scene right down to the “we’re family” line was in Hercules. But within those limitations, director James Gunn works hard to make this a lot of fun.
You can’t really go wrong with a soundtrack full of ’70s classics, and there’s even a mildly touching reason why Quill has a walkman packed with ye olde tracks. Gunn also fills the supporting cast with quality comedic performers: having Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz in your film is never a bad thing, even when they don’t have a whole lot to do. Unfortunately the bad guys don’t really get much to do either, but at least the actual “Guardians of the Galaxy” are the most likable Marvel heroes in ages.
Zoe Saldana gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as Gamora; Dave Bautista as the seemingly one-dimensional revenge-driven thug Drax is a standout. Cyborg raccoon Rocket (the voice of Bradley Cooper) and sentient tree Groot (the voice of Vin Diesel, which seems like a joke as he only says “I’m Groot” but it turns out there are a lot of ways to say those two words) are a lot of fun as well. The result is little more than a fun but forgettable romp – but anything this much fun is well worth your time.
Written by Anthony Morris