Guardians of the Galaxy opens up a whole new chapter in the Marvel cinematic universe. It manages to wedge a plethora of new faces, places and relationships into its two hour run time, and in doing so achieves highly. However, this is also where Guardians stumbles. The amount of new information leaves some points underdeveloped and others undervalued. These occasions aren’t very frequent and in achieving that, James Gunn’s confident blast into a new corner of the ‘Galaxy’ succeeds.
Rarely do the characters, total unknowns to all but die-hard comic book fans, feel at all alien. I mean most of them are alien beings, but they don’t feel too foreign. It is the likability and originality of the new faces that have translated into both critical and commercial success.
The real star of the show, in my opinion, is the WWE‘s Animal. Dave Bautista proves here that he is a very credible action man as Drax the Destroyer. Bautista is menacing, vicious, funny and most surprisingly, a very original creation. Addressing the fact that extra-terrestrial beings would not understand Star-Lord’s Americanisms was a freshly executed concept. Bautista’s ability to charm and destroy makes Drax the shining star in this Galaxy.
Those who will take most credit however are Rocket Raccoon and Groot. A sci-fi buddy cop comedy in the making, this little’n’large pairing does much more than simply contrast. Rocket takes all the charm of Bradley Cooper and fits it into a miniature package with a tiny mouth. Rocket could have easily become just a target for unrelenting ‘hamster’ jokes, but he wasn’t. Though there was comedy at his expense, Rocket had some great character development. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was damn happy that Rocket had solid emotion.
His grassy grunt Groot also could have been very one-dimensional. Thankfully he was also crafted expertly; this gently giant was one of the most lovable characters Marvel has ever produced. Full of love, I doubt anyone could leave Guardians without falling trunk over roots for that big lump.
Disappointingly, their co-leads were not as exceptional. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora was a strong female addition to the travelling troupe, yet never excelled. She kicked ass well enough and had a reasonable story but, for me, felt all too similar to Marvel’s other female heroes.
Chris Pratt was also a slight disappointment. Normal, cheeky and mischievous, I couldn’t help feeling that I’d seen his best in the trailer. Star-Lord’s opening excursion was great viewing, but he failed to stand out in any area. Star-Lord was good; it is just the case that some are more good than others.
So the Guardians are generally great, but on the other side, their adversaries were simply up to the job. Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser was a solid one-film villain (in the same bracket as Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith from Thor: The Dark World), but nothing more. His evil is flanked by his associates Nebula and Korath. Nebula was a good contrast to Gamora, playing another agile assassin and will be a success in the future, whilst Korath, played by the Oscar-nominated Djimon Hounsou, was disappointingly underused. These two aren’t major features of the film, probably due to the amount of characters the film must juggle, but it would have been nice to see their potentials fulfilled to slightly higher levels.
The best of the non-Guardians however, was Yondu. Performed by The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker, Yondu was cocky, conniving and very, very country. The perfect role for Rooker and a performance that left me smiling after every sentence. (And his weapon: very badass.)
This great, extensive cast fills the holes in the average storyline. With all the new faces and places, the story was never going to be the main focus of the film, but it is just another basic, predictable Marvel story. The new places also are visually stunning, especially ‘Knowhere’ which is much more impressive than it sounds, but these locations can only help cover up the film’s weaknesses, rather than curing them.
Yet, as you can tell, I really feel that it is the characters that make Guardians a top notch movie. With a better story, this could have been one of the best films of the year in all areas, but unfortunately, it lacks one. A brilliant cast however will make this a very successful franchise, and makes Guardians a very good film. ★ ★ ★ ★