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Guardians of the Galaxy - Review

Guardians of the Galaxy

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

JUST when you thought the superhero genre was beginning to run out of steam along comes James Gunn and blasts some fresh air into proceedings with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Inspired by the comics of Arnold Drake and Gene Colan (which first appeared in 1969) and considered a risk by many due to its largely unknown bunch of anti-heroes (which include a talking tree and a bad-ass raccoon among their number), the film that results is a genuine romp: a gleefully subversive, endlessly inventive, consistently feel-good ride that expertly balances action, adventure and excitement with memorable characters that are worth investing time in.

Gunn, who co-wrote the script with Nicole Perlman and who directs with gusto, deserves most of the credit for creating a film that feels fresh and unique, while also echoing those classic films of yesteryear that informed a generation’s youth, whether it’s the devil-may-care sense of adventure that accompanied Raiders of the Lost Ark or the anarchic spirit of Joss Whedon’s Serenity or even the space Western design of Star Wars.

But Marvel deserve credit, too, for recognising Gunn’s potential to deliver the goods and giving him the freedom to let his imagination run riot. Make no mistake, this is something special.

The plot finds a bunch of no-hopers, led by Earth-born space adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) – and including kick-ass green alien assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), bad attitude Raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his talking tree side-kick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and the revenge driven warrior Drax (former wrestler Dave Bautista) – as they form an unlikely alliance to protect the galaxy from a power-craving alien, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), and his super-powered orb.

En route, there’s much bickering, plenty of imaginative set pieces, innumerable colourful characters and worlds and a kick-ass mix-tape soundtrack (fuelled by ’70s and ’80s gems) that keep viewers delighted no matter how indulgent and/or familiar (ie, the exploding bomb countdown scenario) things sometimes become.

Gunn, just as he did with the subversive horror movie Slither or the genre-bending Super, knows how to honour genre convention while simultaneously poking fun at it, ensuring that his film remains suitably reverential to some aspects of the Marvel universe while freshening things up in the process.

As a result, his film is the surprise package of the summer – a blockbuster that’s as smart as it feels care-free and one that disarms from start to finish with several touches that border on the genius. If you don’t come out with a big, goofy smile on your face and uttering the line “I am Groot” on repeat, then you might want to check your pulse.

Guardians of the Galaxy is an exhilarating tour-de-force from all concerned, from Gunn to Pratt to Diesel, Cooper and Bautista, all of whom take it un turns to upstage each other at various points, but in a good way. What’s more, it makes you fall in love with blockbusters again, inspiring the same kind of child-like wonder that you may have felt when watching Star Wars or Indiana Jones for the first time. It’s that great.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 121mins
UK Release Date: July 31, 2014