Guardians of the Galaxy was announced seemingly out of nowhere as a Marvel movie, because they were last seen comic wise circa 2010. I am not sure anyone knew why the Guardians were picked as a Marvel film, because it was never a brand name comic, but perhaps that’s the exact reason why. Potentially the company may have even thought it filler between the bigger hero movies, I am not even sure why Ant-Man is even in production. Given my gripes about Captain America 2 and the Marvel big budget movie automaton (http://wp.me/p2DUQc-18M) I was more hopeful for this movie. I knew they were going for a change in direction and the trailers appeared far more comedic in nature. They also had a set of characters that were less established and could easily be built from scratch. This meant there was some freedom and little expectation, which counts for one of the reasons the film was actually quite impressive.
The Guardians that feature in the comic written by Bendis, are a pretty weak team and have characters with such little personality and rapports. Gamora and Drax are so dull and pointless that they feel almost unnecessary. This is quite the oddity given how much time Bendis devoted to unimportant dialogue. The film is completely different because Marvel places importance to their characters and the dynamics of the team. It is actually one of the movie hallmarks of the company. They may not develop them so well in sequential movies and they tease more than they deliver at times, but they have well constructed distinct heroes.
Peter Quill was joyously portrayed by Chris Pratt who brought fantastic comic delivery, subtle expressions and, most importantly, dancing to the role. They shirked on the background to his character but that is easily forgivable. Gamora and Drax both had the time to show us who they were, and their motivations for becoming Guardians. Dave Bautista was surprisingly tender and emotional in his role as the Destroyer, but was suitably badass when it was necessary. Most impressive of all was the beautiful friendship between Groot and Rocket. I would never have believed that Groot could have such depth for a hero that says only three words. His facial features and actions speak volumes, especially in the action sequences and as part of the intimate team moments at the finale. Rocket was so lippy and amusing throughout, but his most inspired moment was when he was inebriated and screamed his grievances with the world. All we ever see in the comics is a racoon who hates being called one, but we rarely find out why. The more I think about it the more I realised that they have been grossly mistreated in their flagship title. Even though Bradley Cooper was superb as the voice of Rocket, and I am not even sure how much of Groot was Vin Diesel, the CGI was of the highest standard and acting.
The team interactions were fervent and full of life with classic plot strategies to develop relationships and breakdown character flaws. They were performed diligently and you began to believe there was love blossoming from within. The dynamics of the group were managed ever so delicately to begin with, but towards the end it was shoved down your throat. However it doesn’t detract too much from the overall movie and allows the humour and affection to shine through. The rest of the film had the classic Marvel traits: The superb cast written to competent comic reader detail, fantastic outfits and landscapes, believable and menacing villains, an all out action sequence with everybody playing their part and a decent paced beginning, middle and end. The plot devoted time to introductions, interactions, personal tragedy and triumph as a group. It is all standard Marvel but the writing and acting was on the whole excellent. The special effects were glorious and the Kree warship crashing equates to the felling of a helicarrier. I adored seeing Knowhere come to life and the prison sequences were some of the best of the movie.
I have to mention how impressive the characters looked, especially Ronan the Accuser and Thanos. The Nova Corps were a little off key but they played the generic intergalactic space force role adequately. The exception to this was John C Reilly who gave a loveable and sweet performance as a Corps member. His dialogue with Peter was natural and uncontrived. This also applied to Michael Rooker who played Yondu, a guardian to Quill if you will. His role was more the aggressor type but still managed to express warm sentiments to his friend.
The plot is not unnecessarily complex and they don’t fill every detail, which they have certainly been guilty of in the past. There are some fantastic nods to the previous movies and the introduction of the Infinity Gems is a glorious touch. Given Thanos is a certainty in the future, it was exciting to see the sheer power of a gem and the hint of an infinity gauntlet. It always worried me how well the villains would appear as CGI compared to the heroes who were actors, but this movies alleviated my worries somewhat. The final post credit sequence is a lovely surprise and hopefully a tease to future productions.
Where this movie breaks the Marvel mould is its ability to be personable and intimate. This has never been so successful compared to the previous movies and the key to this is the character Peter Quill. Chris Pratt plays the human role so fantastically well that he genuinely does come across as caring individual, even when the writing doesn’t lend itself to it. In fact he almost fails to convince us he is a selfish, money obsessed, philanderer, but that is the beauty of his charm. He devotion to sixties/seventies music allows him to relate to his mother and uses it as a tool to develop friendships within his team. It really helps that the songs they have used are particularly well chosen for pertinent scenes of the movie, such as Hooked on a feeling and Ain’t no mountain high enough. It all builds into a movie about overcoming loss and growing together with a natural leader at the helm. Forget about appealing to the loyalists, not alienating the uninformed, the immense CGI scenes and a convoluted plot with a big twist, it is all about the characters we like and a finding a reason to love them.