Updated: Nov 14, 2018
as reviewed by Tom
Format reviewed: DVD/Marvel Studios (2014)
In the four years since the Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared at the nearest multiplex, it’s hard to imagine that the film was ever deemed to be something of a multimillion dollar experiment. As the tenth instalment of the Marvel behemoth – with a release nestled between the sure-fire hits of stablemates Captain America and the second Avengers team up (Age of Ultron) – the MCU could arguably afford to gamble on a relatively unknown ensemble of characters. A darn good job it paid off, then. Quite literally, in fact – garnering over three quarters of a billion dollars at the box office.
In 1988, we meet a young Peter Quill as he is abducted following the death of his mother. Post-titles, 26 years later, Quill – now known as Star-Prince… sorry, Star-Lord – performs a solo dance routine across the surface of the planet Morag, to the strains of ‘Come and Get Your Love’ by Redbone, in order to purloin an orb that happens to be desired by big bad ‘Mad Titan’ Thanos Brolin. Thus, begins an adventure across the universe, fleeing from the bounty on Star-Lord’s head, against increasing insurmountable odds towards inevitable galactic catastrophe. And making Kevin Bacon a mythical action hero in the process.
That’s the overarching plot, but the key to the film’s success is ultimately the casting and characterisation. A highlight of the film occurs once Quill, Gamora (the “lackey of a genocidal maniac”), Rocket (“what the hell is that?”), Groot (the “houseplant and muscle”) and Drax (“the walking thesaurus”) have gathered the components needed to make their escape from their incarceration in the Kyln. From Drax suggesting that metaphors would not go over his head as he would catch them because of his reflexes, Gamora decrying the fact that she will die surrounded by “the biggest idiots in the galaxy”, to Rocket giggling over the fact that he thought it would be funny to relieve a man of his prosthetic leg, the dialogue and scripting completely encapsulates why the film works so well – the chemistry of the actors and the characters themselves. If Robert Downey Jr. set the Marvel template for charmingly irreverent arrogance, Chris Pratt as Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill proudly embraces that attitude and runs with it. In fact, the emotional through-line of the film is Quill’s constant running from his past, beautifully exemplified by Quill’s attachment to his Sony Walkman. His reaction to his beloved Walkman being confiscated is more than an impassioned championing of ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ – it is a poignant lament for what he has lost.
Director James Gunn seamlessly melds a variety of styles – from first-person shooter to farce, from action adventure to heist movie. There are occasions where the humour tries a little too hard, particularly in the character of Rocket, but the overall aftertaste is that of a rip-roaring sci-fi romp across the galaxy in hugely entertaining company.
Whether we meet this iteration of the Guardians crew again – following the recent controversial dismissal of writer and director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – remains to be seen. However, Pratt and company have certainly claimed their place in the MCU, and this viewer would be more than pleased if they landed in my nearest multiplex again. The box office reception proved that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could survive and exist beyond the well-trodden path of perennial favourites Iron Man and Captain America. The precedent was set that lesser known characters could hold their own against the giants of the franchise.
Not bad for the experimental filling of a Captain America sandwich.