Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy ★★★★★

"Do not ever call me a thesaurus." - Drax

HU-ZZAH. Marvel has finally clicked with me at 100% effectiveness. My hype for Guardians of the Galaxy was entirely justified. It was everything I ever wanted. I've never met James Gunn, but this was like an early Christmas present he'd sent to my local cinema for me, wrapped up in a big psychedelic bow and delivered to a fanfare of 'awesome' retro songs. I'm honestly struggling to find legitimate criticism about this, since the execution of Marvel's riskiest move to date was so stunningly portrayed.

A logical place to start would be with the eclectic cast. If The Avengers was a true ensemble that encompassed most things we love about this generation's mainstream, Guardians of the Galaxy gravitates around a cast that defines this generation's cult followings. Leading the cast is Chris Pratt, a man most famous for American favourite Parks & Recreation (which for some bizarre reason seems to have never made it in Britain) and supporting roles in tongue-in-cheek comfort movies. Yet here, Gunn affords him the chance to express true leading man charisma as the Han Solo-esque space outlaw, Peter Quill. Dave Bautista pops up alongside him, with his past as a WWE superstar and 'actor' in other ludicrous offerings like The Man With The Iron Fists and Riddick makes him oddly at home with other misfits like Zoe Saldana, modern sci-fis seemingly most profitable star, and the odd couple of the monotone voice of Vin Diesel and the ever-snarky Bradley Cooper. The five eponymous guardians are as ragtag a bunch as the insanely mismatched casting would suggest, but boy, does the gamble pay off.

There must be pushing a dozen of more left-field star cameos, with Karen Gillan upgrading from cute Doctor Who companion to adopted daughter of the universe's most ruthless titan and Lee Pace adding to his increasingly odd roster of fantasy scumbags with his Ronan the Accuser sitting comfortably alongside his bizarre work as Elven king Thranduil in The Hobbit franchise. It's the strangest yet most exciting cast since The Grand Budapest Hotel, and simply watching each actor converse with another is just as exciting as the actual space opera plot wants to be.

Speaking of which, it's nothing particularly special. It's your typical, 10-a-penny Marvel plot involving a MacGuffin and an evil warlord who wants to merge with an ultimate source of power or an Infinity Stone or yada-yada-yada. Oh, yeah, and there's a battle with energy weapons in the sky and stuff. YET, the expansion of universal scope invigorates the franchise and the formula simultaneously, with everything alien that Thor teased at being fully manifested in a living, breathing outer space world.

In the first 20 minutes, I was worried that Gunn couldn't build an entire galaxy in a relatively punchy 122 minutes, but he soon brushes away any such ridiculous worries by making everything thrilling to be watching. The steady unveiling of the intricacies of mining colony Knowhere is a show-stopper, while the presence of the intimidating spacecraft, The Dark Aster, is a marvel (sorry) of moody visual effects. With so many alien races to introduce fleetingly or intricately, the make-up department do wonders with fleshing out the Kree and throwing in countless other nameless species into the mix with bountiful imagination and creativity, even making Auf Wiedersehen, Pet's distinctive Moxey unrecognisable underneath some wonderfully grotesque prosthetics.

But, at the heart of Guardians lies its true trump card: the script. James Gunn is no stranger to blending firecracker comedy into different genres, but first-time screenwriter Nicole Perlman helps him along beautifully in constructing a screenplay that is safe in its narrative structure, but yet also Marvel's most risque film to date. While The Avengers toyed with the coy 'bastard', Guardians takes a leap forward in spitting out all the 'whores', 'pricks', 'dicks' and, yes, the reliable 'bastards' as the cynical, sardonic crew insult each other and send messages to upstanding corporations about penis metaphors. Raising eyebrows as well as prompting many a hearty laugh, this is Marvel becoming a teenager in a gloriously foul way.

In fact, the script doesn't just draw from carnal pleasures, but also from genuine delight too. The scenes where the Guardians chew the cud about their integral dysfunctional relationships are ofttimes the best in the entire movie, with Cooper's Rocket always having at least one vitriolic utterance to send the discourse off into gleeful mayhem. Although easily the strangest casting in the group, Bautista holds his own remarkably well, handling Drax's intentionally odd dialogue masterfully in a daze of rage and confusion at the all-too-human Quill and Rocket. Saldana's Gamora does the same, and proves that her surprising performance in Avatar was no fluke as a genuinely kick-ass heroine with substance to spare. And with dialogue this good, there's even nothing that the running joke of Vin Diesel's sole line of "I am Groot!" can derail.

With Gunn being Gunn, the soundtrack is killer, and the sheer imagination of the piece as a whole is the most vibrant space universe since Star Wars. Sure, there are some bum notes occasionally; Michael Rooker is afforded too much screentime as the distracting hick-bounty-hunter Yondu, while the awkward cuts to the eeeeeeeevil politics of Ronan and co. kill the pace a little. But when a blockbuster comes along that's this much fun, that's this risky and that's as deranged as you could want, there's not really much more you can ask for.

I've said it once, but I'll say it again: it's everything that I wanted from this.

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