Reviewed: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, James Gunn)

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Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Karen Gillan and Vin Diesel

Released: 1st August 2014

Studio: Marvel Studios

Given responsibility for Marvel’s biggest cinematic gamble (since their merger with Disney), director James Gunn could have struggled with bringing the exploits of an unknown rebellious group to the interest of cinema-goers, while remaining consistent to the wider MCU. However, these struggles never materialise and instead the film is left feeling smart, different and entertaining throughout. On its conclusion the film  leaves the viewer with a bout of 80s nostalgia and pop rhythm anthems lingering in the mind. With a strong cast, brilliant soundtrack and high octane action sequences, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is quite simply a joyful watch – which further expands the franchise into new and exciting territories.

With a sense of fun throughout, Chris Pratt excels within the role of Star Lord. Part lovable rogue, part charismatic leader, his performance is once again a testament to the casting directors at Marvel Studios. Easily watchable, entirely engrossing and with a flair for the witty traits that resonate his performance as great, the one time ‘Parks and Recreation’ actor is on fine form within this movie, bringing a new dynamic to the already established MCU hero types. With supporting roles filled by the likes of Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (impeccable as the three-word linguist Groot), ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ brings a heightened amount of chemistry to the exploits of its lead group. Unlike the more somber comic book adaptations that have released from competing studios over the past few years, Marvel has always succeeded in bringing a level of humour to their cinematic visions. This is easily seen in their adaptation of this less known series, with Gunn allowing the comic timings of his characters to full develop within the cosmic narrative.

With less prevalent turns from the likes of Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Michael Rooker, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ holds an exciting and star studded cast that delivers high quality entertainment in spades. With such brilliant performances found throughout, the film struggles to deliver a worthy antagonist that serves as an appropriate foil for the narrative to build upon. Lee Pace, as Kree radical Ronan and Karen Gillan as Thanos’ daughter Nebula, attempt to build tension in their roles – only to be outclassed by the entirety of the films contingent. Not that the two villains are poorly conceived, just that they seem outnumbered as well as outclassed to the films lead protagonists.

With fast-paced space battles, multiple different narrative locations, with each set brilliantly designed (as well expertly shot by DOP Ben Davies), ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ brings a high level of filmmaking craft to the science-fiction universe depicted throughout its engrossing narrative. With a multitude of different species, and a universe of distinct planetary landscapes, the design department have succeeding in bringing a grandeur to the aged MCU. Whether the sequel adapts on these planets, adds its own, or contains itself in one location is still to be determined, but based on what has been crafted for this film – Gunn has expert eye in developing on something that is simply cinematic brilliance.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is an entertaining romp throughout its enthralling narrative. A bold move by Marvel Studios that pays dividend upon reflection with one of the most rollicking films within their franchise. Not only does the film succeed in developing unique feeling characters (each personified onscreen expertly) but also in broadening the horizons of the cinematic universe. Carried with charm by Chris Pratt – and supported by a roster of likeable heroes – Gunn’s film breathes a new direction into the larger cinematic project, while also delivering context to aspects hinted at in previous instalments.

Plot – 4

Acting – 4.5

Direction – 5

Retrospect – 4

Overall – 5

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