Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
With the Russo Brothers righting the ship in spectacular fashion just four months earlier with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, perhaps saving the entire trajectory of the MCU moving forwards in the process, the baton was passed to James Gunn in July 2014 to try and make a compelling movie out of a mish-mash group of “a-holes” that 90% of the moviegoing public had no prior knowledge of.
However, from the “ooga-chakka” awesomeness of the very first trailer to the irreverent style of the Guardians themselves, it was pretty obvious from the get-go that Gunn was onto an absolute winner here.
I mean, Andy Dwyer as Han Solo was always going to be a winning concept, but what perhaps impressed most about Guardians of the Galaxy was the efficiency with which Gunn introduced the different members of the team. Granted, it doesn’t hurt when you have such an instantly intriguing group of characters, including a talking Raccoon and a giant plant, but Gunn deserves all the credit in the world for not only giving us enough information to understand the motivations of these newcomers, but for making us actually care about them as well.
Guardians also proved to be perhaps the most light-hearted Marvel movie to date, with full-on gags and silliness from start to finish and a booming retro soundtrack that would fast become the franchise’s calling card. Stylistically, it took the MCU into a whole new arena with the wild cosmic eccentricity of distant galaxies and their strange, alien inhabitants. It also provided us with our first (and, to date, only) look at the Mad Titan Thanos in action, laying some major groundwork for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War by giving us a brief glimpse at Josh Brolin’s striking performance as the man himself.
For all the awesomeness on display here though, Guardians isn’t without its flaws. Case in point: I literally just finished watching the movie 30 minutes or so ago and I still can’t remember what the point of Ronan the Accuser is. Terrible on every level, Lee Pace’s cardboard cut-out villain almost feels like an inside joke about just how awful the vast majority of Marvel’s villains have been to this point. He wants to destroy a planet because of reasons, and while there are a few attempts to make him seem like a legitimate threat, there’s no escaping the fact that he’s an unbearably dull antagonist that actually does very little aside from giving our heroes somebody to guard the galaxy against.
There are also some fairly cringe-worthy moments along the way, and I still can’t watching the “lol, look how unorthodox we are” finale with Peter Quill challenging Ronan to a dance-off and the Guardians holding hands to absorb the destructive power of an Infinity Stone without thinking that it all feels a bit like a SNL skit about how silly comicbook movies are.
That said, Gunn does manage to insert some genuinely powerful character-based moments inserted along the way (Rocket’s drunken outburst about not asking to be made in the first place, Quill saving Gamora by sacrificing himself, “we are Groot”, etc.) although they do feel little at odds with established tone of gags and silliness, and, as a result, don’t resonate quite as much as they should.
On the plus side, the story remains noticeably detached from the rest of the MCU, giving Gunn ample opportunity to stamp his own unique mark on not only this movie, but on the entire cosmic side of the Marvel Universe. The director’s personality shines through in almost every scene, and he manages to coax impressive performances out of a lot of the supporting characters, with Dave Bautista’s gloriously deadpan and metaphor-free Drax providing to be a lot of people’s highlights, instantly allaying anyone’s fears about a (gasp!) wrestler trying to act.
These minor niggles aside, Guardians of the Galaxy ends up being undoubtedly one of the most flat-out enjoyable movies in the entire MCU back catalogue. The charm and likeability of the leads, the irreverent humour and the perfectly-chosen soundtrack all make for a loud, bombastic two hours of fun. And even if some of the movie’s heart is sacrificed in favour of a massive CGI dog-fight and silly space-net conclusion, Guardians proves once again that Marvel have an incredible knack for introducing new characters in a thoroughly engaging way.
You can check out the rest of our Road To Infinity War reviews by CLICKING HERE.