Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Galaxy Quest Best

When the day eventually comes that harkens the end of the Marvel movie empire, and mournful fans look back on its halcyon days, people will not remember Iron Man, Captain America or even the Avengers. Instead, they will recall Guardians of the Galaxy and wonder how on Earth the comic book studio managed to pull off its greatest triumph.

It was a gamble so daring that even the nerd community gasped in disbelief. A talking raccoon, green and blue aliens straight out of Captain Kirk’s fantasies, and a bunch of heroes nobody outside of Forbidden Planet had ever heard of: could the producers, with mastermind Kevin Feige at their head, really get away with it? Apparently so, because within the ongoing glut of comic-book adaptations, this is by far the best piece of entertainment. Inspired choice or scraping the barrel of their canon? Honestly, when the results are this fun, I don’t care.

After his mother’s untimely death, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by extra-terrestrials. We join him decades later working as a high-tech thief in the outer reaches of the cosmos. During  a spell in a prison which looks too much like the one from The Chronicles of Riddick to be a coincidence, Quill A.K.A. Starlord hatches an escape plan with an assassin (Zoe Saldana), an intelligent raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a muscle man (Dave Bautista) and a humanoid tree.

For once 3D is worth having for a major blockbuster. Marvel’s artists really earned their latest pay check with some incredibly imaginative locations and character design. A complete sense of environment is rare in science-fiction but on this occasion the exteriors have countless layers of detail beyond the vague post-apocalyptic wasteland vibe. One society is ingeniously introduced through a character’s binocular lens as he voyeuristically spies on people in the street.

These visuals are matched by a cast that really gels when it comes to the quick fire banter between them. It’s an unashamedly funny script, which is probably why the sitcom regular Pratt got the nod for the starring role.

Alas, no comic-book film is perfect, Guardians of the Galaxy being guilty of the same weaknesses found in many of its predecessors. Frankly, there is no punchy jeopardy. Batman works because he is the ‘caped crusader’; his fight against crime is a personal war in which he has a dark motivation. In Quill’s case, though, he simply wants to do a good deed whilst having a laugh with his friends. It just does not have the same audience pull, even if the light relief is a pleasant aspect of the story. I want darkness, despair and the ending from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, not a jolly holiday escapade.

Then there is the pussycat villain. The scriptwriters obviously knew they had a problem with this dull baddie because they deliberately force him to do so many gruesome bad-guy things early into the film. But when his skin is blue and his personality is blander than your average Bond megalomaniac, it is hard to take him seriously. Even the hapless evil Empire from Star Wars managed to blow up Alderaan. The allegedly supreme Ronan has no such look against his foes in this 12A. Bad bad-guys are an ongoing trend in the Marvel catalogue and repeatedly hints that DC has a better array of antagonists than their great rivals. Ooh, controversial!

Otherwise, Guardians of the Galaxy is the highlight of the summer season. Get yourself down to the cinema and have some fun with it.


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