A lot has already been said about Guardians of the Galaxy, and I myself have already declared it as Marvel’s lifting-the-trophy-aloft, we-can-do-whatever-we-want-now moment.
That was intended as a look at the near-unassailable position Marvel has achieved to be able to make a financial success of such an obscure property as Guardians of the Galaxy, but I think my opinion of the film snuck through nonetheless. Yep, I enjoyed this film. Actually, I loved it. It was, from start to finish, a fun, funny romp.
So rather than this being is the film good, it’s going to be why the film is good.
Guardians of the Galaxy is space opera. It follows Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord (Chris Pratt), who was abducted from Earth by aliens as a child, with only a few mementos of his homeworld, including a walkman and a mix tape of 70s pop classics. He ekes out a living as a space pirate and a thief, as part of a crew called the Ravagers led by Yondau (Michael Rooker).
Star Lord steals an orb out from under Yondau’s nose, attracting the attention of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) an alien fanatic who wants the orb as part of a convoluted plot to destroy his enemies, the Xandarians. Ronan sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the orb, as a sentient raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and tree-man with a vocabulary of three words Groot (Vin Diesel) attempt to capture Star Lord for Yondau. The four end up in prison, where they meet Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), and attempt to escape to make their fortune selling the orb.
It’s hard to get across the plot terribly well, on account of there is so much going on. This is a very busy film, which rattles along at a pretty fearsome pace. It’s also very funny. Not just the pithy one liners, but some genuinely good comedy work blended in with the action and the unmistakable, undeniable science-fiction. It passed the six laugh test with flying colours, and I suspect my laughter alone might have broken Mark Kermode’s code of conduct.
This is a franchise without the pre-existing brand recognition of some of Marvel’s previous films, so it has to work a little harder to win its payoff — but it is happy to do that. Chris Pratt is the nail it hangs on, but there is a cast of whole, well-rounded characters here. Bradley Cooper does a great job of injecting a CGI rodent with character, and I’m not sure whether to congratulate Vin Diesel’s
three five word voice acting or the CGI folks for the sterling work on Groot.
And the soundtrack — I love soundtracks. You can do a lot in a film with music. Here the music is part of the story, specifically part of Star Lord’s story. The emotional note of the opening is sustained throughout the film with the timely interventions of Star Lord’s walkman mix tape. It’s a work of beauty, and I left with the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and Blue Suede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” lodged in my brain. Earworms which I’m still trying to shake.
So why does Guardians of the Galaxy succeed? Because it’s fun. It’s a well-made film, which has been made by people who have both an obvious love of the story and characters, and who know how to make a good film. The characters are believable, the story moving and exciting, and the music perfectly judged. In what has so far been a somewhat lacklustre summer, Guardians of the Galaxy is a film I want to go back and watch again.
We are all Groot!