Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
I think it’s safe to say that the eagerly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel Studio’s most outlandish effort to date, exploring the cosmic side of the MCU in greater detail than any of its previous entries. The question on everyone’s minds since its announcement though has been will it work? While it’s certainly not the MCU’s best installment to date, the answer is largely yes. Guardians of the Galaxy is an entertaining cinematic romp and overall is good, but not quite excellent.
The proceedings get off to an interesting start by focusing on the origins of Peter Quill, aka Star Lord. The pacing from start to finish is well maintained, with the plot progressing at a rate that feels neither rushed nor overly drawn out. There’s plenty of action and set pieces and the special effects and visuals are stunningly vivid. The script showcases everything from fist fights to aerial dog fights and the story rarely lags between them.
However, Guardians of the Galaxy somehow lacks the emotional punch of other MCU entries. I found it much harder to connect with the characters here as opposed to with the likes of Cap or Iron Man. That’s not to say the primary characters are poorly developed, they’re just not particularly sympathetic or identifiable. This meant that a lot of the action, while visually spectacular, lacked any major sense of suspense or tension.
Perhaps the biggest problem was that we are given very little reason to care about the world which the Guardians are attempting to save. Nor do they seem to have any real attachment to it themselves, beyond the fact that they’re the good guys and as such, they’re not prepared to let the bad guys kill a planet of innocents.
All of the lead characters were given their time to shine though. As with The Avengers, Marvel did a good job of balancing the screen time of each member of the team and making sure they each had a part to play. That being said, Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill is the clear protagonist of the piece.
Unfortunately, Quill is also the most irksome character of the movie. He is the fast talking, joke spouting, renegade team leader and the main problem in this regard is the extent to which he plays up the comedy. It’s very rare that he opens his mouth to do anything other than utter a sarcastic comment or make a quip, which results in his character feeling tiresome at times. He could still have been the roguish outlaw without making a joke every two minutes. Having said that, love him or hate him, there is an admirable effort to develop Quill as a character in the movie.
Rocket works surprisingly well for a talking, wise cracking raccoon, but with Quill already playing up the humour, it can unfortunately make Rocket seem a bit redundant when he acts the same way. Bradley Cooper has been perfectly cast as his voice here though. Cooper’s performance really brings the character to life and is the main reason that a talking raccoon doesn’t seem ridiculous in a live action movie.
There’s really not much I can say about Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. There’s nothing particularly monumental about Gamora as a character or Saldana’s performance, but there’s also nothing particularly bad about either one. However, her romance with Quill fails to have any real depth. It seemed as if they simply got together because he’s the leading man and she’s the leading lady.
Dave Bautista gives an impressive performance as Drax the Destroyer. While Quill and Rocket are presented as comedic characters, it’s Drax who has the most genuinely amusing moments due to his deadpan personality. He is an individual who takes everything at face value and Bautista plays this very well. His role as Drax is much more than merely serving as muscle and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
Groot is another character who manages to be surprisingly entertaining, despite only being able to speak three words. He has an innocent and childlike nature about him but at the same time succeeds in being intimidating and formidable when the occasion calls for it. Vin Diesel may not have been given much to do vocally, but his voice suits the character completely.
Outside of the Guardians themselves, the best performances come from Lee Pace and Michael Rooker. Pace plays the villain of the piece, Ronan the Accuser, and has created one of the MCU’s best villains to date. Ronan has a genuinely menacing aura and the only criticism I can lay upon him is that he could have been given more screen time.
Michael Rooker on the other hand portrays blue skinned crook, Yondu. Yondu is characteristic of Rooker’s usual characters; a morally ambiguous outlaw who’s not completely villainous but also certainly not virtuous or heroic. Rooker plays the role well and is fun to watch whenever he’s on screen.
Unfortunately the rest of the cast are largely underutilised, which is a shame because there are some talented actors who are featured in minor roles. Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro as Nova Prime and The Collector, respectively, play parts that amount to little more than cameos. John C. Reilly’s Rhomann Dey and Djimon Hounsou’s Korath receive more attention but are again largely left in the background.
While this is undoubtedly the most standalone Marvel Studios movie to date, it still very obviously takes place within the Marvel cinematic universe with which we have become familiar. There is an admirable amount of continuity with previous MCU entries for the more initiated fans to appreciate. I won’t spoil things by giving examples, but there are elements of the MCU that have been alluded to in other films that are expanded upon here. Also, as is customary by now, there is a post credits tag featuring something unexpected.
Overall, this is an entertaining movie. It has plenty of action, impressive special effects and marches along at a steady pace. Its main problems lie in its overuse of humour and the lack of dramatic tension as a result of there being no great sense of emotional investment in the world that’s under immediate threat. Despite its overly comedic tone and characters that can at times be a little too irksome, Guardians of the Galaxy serves as an above average and easily accessible sci-fi adventure.
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