Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Many cinema-going patrons would have zero idea of who Star Lord is, or the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy for that matter. You may vaguely recognise the no-longer-chubby Chris Pratt from the television comedy Parks and Recreation. You may have even caught a glimpse of the trailer, where a talking raccoon stood on top of a giant walking tree while firing a machine gun wildly.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the film may be, let me break it down to you like this; Guardians of the Galaxy is essentially Marvel’s Star Wars, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The comic series itself isn’t a staple in most geek’s collections. We’re not dealing with instantly recognisable characters such as Iron Man, Spider-man or Wolverine here. But none of that matters. Marvel has done such exceptional work breathing cinematic life into their tentpole characters, that they can afford to take risks with their lesser known properties. Make no mistake about it, Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s most risky gamble to date, and boy does it pay off.

This goofy comic book adaptation is firmly aware of what it is. It follows the tried and tested Marvel formula down to its last beat, but it also pokes endless fun at itself and at the comic book movie genre in general.

The film focuses primarily on anti-hero Peter Quill (Pratt – perfect), an orphan who was kidnapped from earth to later become a wise-cracking space outlaw known (by noone) as Star Lord. Through a series of bumbling and interconnected incidents he winds up in a space prison with Gamora the Assassin (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (WWE’s Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his bodyguard – the walking tree of life – Groot (barely voiced by Vin Diesel). Together they form a motley crew who plan to take on Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who may or may not be a Sith. He also has it in for the planet Xandar.

There’s a lot of comic book/science fiction silliness, mumbo jumbo and plot points thrown around the room to give their banding together a purpose, but none of that really matters. We’ve seen this all before, but the levels of absurdity and overall silliness make the film one hell of a fun ride, that you couldn’t care less about the familiarity of everything.

The hiring of writer/director James Gunn seems to be another stroke of genius by Marvel Studios. Gunn brings a freewheeling, kinetic energy to the screen and then blasts an awesome mix-tape of 70’s disco tracks to get everyone in a happy groove. He also flips the script from the more recent trend of saturating colour, and instead, pumps his frames with an assortment of vibrant and spectacular colours.

He and co-writer Nicole Perlman’s script is also as zany as they come and is laced with great interplay between these odd but affable characters. There’s only so many ways you can say the line, “I am Groot,” but they manage to successfully milk it for all its comedic (and even dramatic) worth.

Pratt is an absolute revelation as Quill. His supremely likeable nature and his commanding presence make him the perfect leading man. Whether he’s darting across the galaxy with his blasters in hand (not unlike Han Solo), or breaking the dramatic tension by singing and dancing in the villain’s face (Footloose anyone?), Pratt proves he has superstar potential.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an unashamedly silly and free-spirited celebration of absurdity and comic book mythos. It also could prove to be the most fun you’ll have in a movie this year.

And if you find yourself doubting me, just remember, “We are Groot.”

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