Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Aug 14, 2014

To get a feel for what it’s like to watch Marvel’s latest sugar-high of a superhero movie, pretend that the lead story from today’s InDaily started exactly halfway through, was full of explosions and auto-played the greatest hits of the ’80s.

It’d be weird, right? But also amazing.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest film from Marvel studios, following a formula that will be familiar to fans of the genre. It is 1987, and an unremarkable boy suffers childhood tragedy before being abducted and raised by marauding alien hordes. The only possessions he keeps from his former life are an unopened present from his mother, and a mix-tape of songs of the day.

Enter Chris Pratt as that boy – Peter Quill – all grown up. Quill is a bounty- and booty-chasing outlaw flying through space on commission to steal, pilfer and break kneecaps. Pratt is perfect in this role – he’s charming, handsome and a complete brat while remaining likeable and relatable.

Quill steals an extremely valuable object from an abandoned world, and is hunted for it by various factions through a politically complex universe that the film doesn’t do a lot to set up. Its superpowers and villains are sorted fairly quickly into Good and Bad using familiar codes. This is disconcerting in a genre usually obsessed with backstory, context and nuance, but the meat of the individual stories is strong enough to keep the film compelling.

I couldn’t possibly explain why and keep to a word limit, but because of Reasons, Quill hooks up with a sentient tree with a three-word vocabulary (Vin Diesel, in a blatant show of typecasting), an angry space racoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, and Zoe Saldana, coloured in green instead of blue, to ensure the object he stole doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and thus destroy the galaxy.

Unfortunately, the limited time spent on backstory does leave the emotional impact with all the power of a tired mop. There aren’t enough stirring strings or dead mums in the world to overcome such a haphazard race to the first fight scene. But if you’re willing to switch off your brain a bit and just accept the film as it comes, well-paced action, stunning visuals and some truly funny lines will keep you more than satisfied throughout the feature.

Indeed, some of the film seems to be actively parodying the political sanctimony that abounds in sci-fi. The pressed-starch lawmakers of the Novacorps, led in a fun performance by Glenn Close as Nova Prime, are analogous to the Federation of Star Trek, except that their own preciousness nearly costs them their empire. In this, the film carries echoes of Joss Whedon’s Firefly mixed with some Douglas Adams, without quite rising to the lofty heights of either.

While not perfect, the film also demonstrates remarkably progressive politics for one in the nerd canon, maintaining Marvel’s reputation as a studio capable of making great films without pandering so hard to sexism, gay jokes and boring old tropes. The female characters are compelling, and not used solely as walking cleavage or motivation for the masc-as hero.

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Guardians of the Galaxy will delight younger audiences, and provides enough substance to prove enjoyable for adults willing to go along for the ride. The 3D takes a little getting used to, but is not as nauseating as some from the genre, and wouldn’t be pivotal to appreciating the film.

It’s a romp that’s a little too obviously designed as the first in a franchise, but remains funny, entertaining and worth seeing.


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