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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Guardians of the Galaxy
Directed by James Gunn
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillian, Michael Rooker, Benicio Del Toro

Release Date: July 31st, 2014

In my humble opinion, this isn’t just the best Marvel Studios film so far.
This isn’t just one the best superhero films I’ve seen.
I’m pretty certain this film is going to end up being one of my favourite films in recent years.
Now that I’ve adequately set the hype levels for this film, here’s my review.

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Peter Quill was a child when he was abducted from Earth, and he would grow up to be a master thief. However,he ends up stealing an infinity stone, which as enough power to wipe out entire galaxies. This means he becomes a target for numerous groups, including Ronan the Accuser, a maniacal Kree warrior. Also on Peter’s trail is Gamora, an assassin raised by the mighty Thanos, the Nova Corp, an intergalactic police outfit, and bounty hunters Rocket Raccoon and the giant tree being Groot. Eventually, we are also introduced to Drax the Destroyer, a terrifying behemoth with a personal vendetta against Ronan. Soon, our anti-heroes realise that the Infinity Stone is far too powerful for anyone to use as a weapon, and it could give Ronan the power to destroy entire galaxies. They have to form an unstable partnership, and make sure that they can stop the stone getting into the wrong hands.

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So, what is it about this film that got me so excited? Well, the film is a large, epic action film in the same style as Avengers, where heroes come together and form an uneasy group. I’ve enjoyed most of the Marvel Superhero films, but this is the first time since Captain America: The First Avenger where I felt everything came together perfectly. There’s a sense of care-free fun that separates this film from the conspiracy thrills of Captain America, as well as the stoic epicness of the Thor franchise, and the cosmic setting helps this immensely. This is a film about a group of outlaws speeding through space, getting into trouble and possibly blowing stuff up. The writing is as snappy and one-liner filled as the Avengers, although over the course of the film it develops into something genuinely heart-warming. There are also plenty of secret Marvel cameos and references, especially if you pay attention to the Collector’s vast array of oddities.

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The cast are all pitch perfect, with each of them giving something unique to their roles. Chris Pratt is Peter Quill (He’d rather you call him Star Lord though), and I know him best as the lovable Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation. However, he excels in this film, and he manages to create a dashing fantasy hero that is at best a rogue, instead of just unlikable. The other members of the Guardians are also fantastic, with the CGi work on Rocket Racoon and Groot being some of the best in recent years. We even get to see Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista create some fantastic characters, with Bautista being especially note-worthy as a comedic performer. There’s a last cast outside of the Guardians, with the Nova Corp and the Villains working for Thanos being introduced as well. We have Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser, and he’s menacing and imposing in every scene he’s in. There’s also Michael Rooker as Yondu, a devious smuggler who abducted Peter and raised him. However, the most interesting supporting character is Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, who maintains an aura of mystery and deception.

Marvel's Guardians Of The GalaxyPh: Film Frame©Marvel 2014

This is the story of the beginnings of a dysfunctional pseudo-family, and that’s something that’s been done before. The obvious comparison point would be Firefly, as both that and this film share the snappy dialogue, the less than heroic main characters, as well as a reverence for the past, whether it’s in aesthetic or presentation. The soundtrack is a key aspect of this, as Peter’s last remnants of home include a mix-tape filled with hits from the 70s and 80s. This makes up a large chunk of the soundtrack, and songs such as ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ and ‘Cherry Bomb’ are especially important. Star Lord was taken from Earth on what was probably the worst day of his life, and his only connection with his home is his Walkman. As such, the nostalgic tone of the film is clearly influenced by the likes of Star Wars and Flight of the Navigator, but also the seminal Cowboy Bebop, where a similar family dynamic is evident.All of this makes it clear that there is a desire to bring back the feel of an entire generation, and it’s done through an intergalactic perspective that helps make this film unique.

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All of this adds up to a fantastic film, and the best performer in the whole thing is James Gunn. I’ve followed his work for a while, from his early days with Troma to the gory Slither and the pitch-black comedy Super, and always felt that there was potential for something that goes beyond great. With Guardians of the Galaxy, he seems to have found a natural home amongst all the oddballs and misfits, and has helped craft a world unlike anything else in film. The planet of Xandar, where the Nova Corp are based, is akin to wandering into Tommorowland, with the world having a fantastic sense of design and atmosphere. Meanwhile, the criminal outpost of Knowhere recalls Blade Runner and Firefly in it’s depiction of a large underground city. This is an introduction to Marvel’s Cosmic Universe, and I can see this being it’s own separate film series. The film’s introduction to Thanos means we will eventually have all these characters meeting up, but for now this is a great action film for both newcomers to Marvel’s line of films and veterans.

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Marvel have had a damn near impressive run of films, but I never expected this film to be this good. That’s the thing, I’ve been hyped for this all year, and I still left the cinema amazed by how good this was. Everything has come together, and the only problem I have is that Avengers 2: Age of Ultron is going to have an immense task to follow this up. I can imagine myself watching this several times in the future, and I’ve already got the soundtrack. If you haven’t already, watch this film. If you’ve already watched it, I bet you’re already planning on the next time you’re going to watch it. I know I am.

Final Score: 10/10

Note: I’ll do a separate post about the end credits sequence on Adam Likes To Watch, but just know that there’s only one of them at the very end.

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