It’s hear! The talking raccoon and his tree friend have landed!!
In their strangest, and arguably boldest, move yet, Marvel Studios have released ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ marking the studios first real foray (Thor 2 not included) into the cosmos.
So do they pull off ‘Star Wars’ as well as they nailed ‘All The Presidents Men’ with Captain America 2?
Put simply, no . . . no they don’t. But that isn’t to say Guardians is a dead loss; far from it, in fact.
The always-affable Chris Pratt yet again boosts his leading man credentials as Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star Lord), the team captain and the movie’s key link to Earth. Alongside him are the ever-reliable Zoe Saldana as ‘Gamora’, Dave Bautista’s brick shithouse ‘Drax the Destroyer’ and then the wacky CGI duo of Rocket Raccoon (voiced fabulously by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced, intermittently, by fan-favourite Vin Diesel).
But, whereas ‘The Avengers’ was all about trying to squeeze four massive pairs of feet into a single boot and the conflicts such a team-up presents, Guardians has plenty of room for everyone. Even in the comics, these five characters aren’t especially well known and, along with Nicole Perlman (writer), James Gunn (director and co-writer) has the opportunity to shape each of them to fit perfectly alongside one another.
So it’s kinda weird that they don’t. Even at the end of the movie, they feel distinctly individual. In fact, like the movie as a whole, the Guardians are less than the sum of their parts. The team is all well and good, but the real magic comes in small doses rather than one fell swoop.
But what is rather touching about Gunn’s handle on this material is that he maintains the teams ‘loser’ credentials. They’re a bunch of idiotic, gormless, and unavoidably hostile outlaws. None of these guys are heroes. There is no Cap; no bastion of moral obedience. These guys do what they want when they want, as demonstrated by the Doctor Who-esque ‘where next?’-moment at the end.
But this freedom of spirit comes at a price. It lacks the structure and the discipline of much of Marvel’s work up until now and, while that is rather charming, it’s also disappointingly hit-and-miss. I went in expecting a super-heroic laugh-fest, but the end result is mostly chuckle-free.
The ideas are there, but they lack development or any form of follow-through. The promised hilarity of Groot’s catchphrase never truly manifests itself and countless comedic opportunities seem missed, or at least miss-placed.
There’s also a serious issue with the pacing. While it’s great to see a blockbuster clocking in at two hours (no more, no less), that also leaves very little time for the movie to settle; here’s guy 1, and there’s girl 2, ooooh look, bad guy 6. And that’s not great for the whole empathy thing. While these characters are likeable (some extremely so) they could have been so much more. But before we get the chance to really know them each individually, they’re all stuck in a room together. If anything, I couldn’t keep up with Gunn’s relentless pacing. By the look of this, he isn’t one for meandering storytelling. Peter Jackson he ain't, and he charges straight to the point, or what he thinks the point is, anyway. Ideally, I would have appreciated some time to develop my own opinions about these characters, rather than being force-fed someone else’s and told to swallow it and move on. Which is funny, because if you treated any of these characters in the same way, you know you’d end up with your opinions spat back into your face.
Other than that, everything else is Marvel-manufactured through-and-through. The cast are great, the creative team are refreshing and ‘alternative’ and the whole thing looks incredible (the spaceships, especially).
Like all true losers, the Guardians aren’t the funniest people in the room, they also aren’t the most exciting and they have an unfortunate tendency to try just that bit too hard. But losers also have an undeniable charm and, whatever your thoughts on the surrounding movie, it’s fun spending time with these guys.