Janus Film Review Presents: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

as reviewed by Dan

Format Reviewed: Blu-ray/Marvel Studios (2014)

The original Star Wars film ushered in a new cinematic paradigm, bisecting reality to the extent that we now view life as having occurred before and after Star Wars. For those of us who came afterwards it is difficult to imagine Star Wars as just a movie, revelling in its brand new, fresh-faced glory. Watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I can’t help wondering if we’ve been afforded something of an insight into those halcyon days. The essence of Star Wars’ success lay not in the technology that gave it life, or its fairytale mythology, but in the genuine heart that underpinned proceedings. It is the same with Guardians, as we once more witness a disparate gang of marauders, maidens, monsters and misfits coming together to become something greater than themselves. The fun and entertainment that ensues is organic, honest and entirely riotous.

Guardians is a film that revels in its excesses, gleefully veering into outright absurdity in both dialogue and set-piece, whilst maintaining a genuine emotional core. The stakes are melodramatically high and the action thrilling, but true joy is found in watching this bizarre bunch of characters find one another. The film is spectacular in its casting, successfully fostering a vibrant chemistry between the leads, with special mention going to Dave Bautista’s vividly oblivious Drax the Destroyer. The production is everything you’d expect from Marvel Studios: slick, epic in scale and full of confident, wisecracking panache. The use of a heavily retro soundtrack within the context of a futuristic film is a smart choice, anchoring everything esoteric to something both stylish and a bit more down-to-earth.

I’m not sure Guardians is a ‘superhero’ film in the strictest sense. This is not a criticism per se, but it is intriguing that the comparison most clearly in my mind - Star Wars - is a science fiction film. The protagonists in Guardians are not especially ‘fantastic’ even if their enemies are, and this very human vulnerability lends weight to the ensuing drama. The obvious exception to this is Groot (sweetly realised by Vin Diesel), and in this way his placement within the story is especially apt. He is the film’s true innocent, and in a moment of truth he makes a choice enabling the group to endure, emphasising the central themes of friendship and cooperation. Each character has their individual qualities and virtues, but together they are truly special.

Much like Deadpool, Guardians represents a labour of love. Simply existing is triumph enough, and this lack of hubris is utterly charming. What we behold is simply an attempt to craft the absolute best movie possible, from writing through to performance and technical execution, and there is no agenda beyond this straightforward intent. It is filmmaking at its most truthful, and finding such virtue amidst the monstrous Marvel mechanism is both thrilling and surprising in equal measure. As I watched Chris Pratt’s 21st Century Han Solo - Star-Lord - grooving away to Redbone’s Come and Get Your Love at the beginning of the film, a smile had already formed on my face. It’s a daft and unfettered introduction to the universe as viewed through a Guardians-shaped prism, and is a microcosm of the film as a whole. Superhero or science fiction; when it’s this accomplished it really doesn’t matter. There are some bloody good films in the MCU, but only one diamond, and its name is Guardians of the Galaxy.

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