Over the past 20 years comic book heroes – and thus their filmic counterparts – have become darker, more internally-conflicted and complex.
So, what a joy then for this particular bunch of the most unlikely superheroes ever, to turn that whole movement on its head and give us stroppiness, wide-eyed innocence, flippant backchat and emotional arrested development.
Guardians is a breezy, sometimes cheesy movie full of that one thing most other superhero tales don’t deliver; uncomplicated, straightforward fun-time entertainment.
Welcome to the universe of Peter Quill (an unexpectedly excellent Chris Pratt), an earthling who was abducted by pirate-like space scavengers while still a boy. Now he’s a man, but with the emotional maturity of a hormonal teenager, who has reinvented himself as ‘Star Lord’, a legend in his own imagination. Peter has been hired to retrieve a mysterious orb from a distant planet, but arrives to find he’s not the only person who is after it and he is soon in a pitched battle with rival scavengers Rocket (a fast-talking pocket-seized raccoon) and his buddy Groot (a humanoid tree voiced by Vin Diesel), and expert warrior Gamora (Zoe Saldana going from Avatar-blue to grungy green for the role) for possession of it.
Before you know it the whole bunch of them have been locked up in a high security jail for their antics where they meet muscle man Drax (Dave Bautista), destined to become the last piece of the Guardians’ jigaw as all five have to come together as a fierce, mean fighting machine in order to deny evil Ronan (Lee Prince) ownership of the orb which he wants to use to snuff out the entire universe.
So far, so uncomplicated and although there are other layers to the characters’ back stories none of it is taken very seriously. This is a shoot ‘em up in the stars action extravaganza with big set pieces, some beautifully designed hardware (the star-shaped one-man star ships that come together to form a defensive matrix are brilliant), a fantastic soundtrack that plays an important part in the storyline and plenty of great gags and one-liners.
This is a movie that is meant to make you laugh and it surely does that with expert comic timing (Chris Pratt is very good at not taking himself too seriously) and characters you really feel for. The screenplay is by director James Gunn in conjunction with Nicole Perlman and her woman’s touch really shows in the lightness and deftness of the storytelling and in two or three scenes that are genuinely emotionally affecting (when Rocket believes Groot is lost forever, he is inconsolable until man-mountain Drax tentatively reaches out a hand to gently stroke his head).
The 3D doesn’t really work during the first scene, but this only serves as a means to lay down the back story before we enter the action proper and from there on in it’s pretty impressive stuff. It certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome being one of the few films this year that leaves you wanting another instalment – which it obligingly sets up with no fuss or convoluted plotting.
Will Star Lord and Gamora get it together? Will Rocket and Groot be reunited, and will Drax reveal his feminine side? I for one can’t wait to find out!