(Rating: 12A, 121 mins) Written by Zen Terrelonge
Starring – Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel
If you've seen the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy, you'd be within your rights to think Marvel Studio execs have been hitting the bottle hard or taking LSD.
The film revolves around a group of dysfunctional but goodhearted criminals – think Robin Hood's Merry Men of the future – comprising human thief Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Pratt), green assassin Gamora (Saldana), talking raccoon Rocket (Cooper), knife-wielding Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), and walking tree Groot (Diesel).
Like the Avengers, the Guardians get off to a false start but soon unite over a common cause, namely, the galaxy being obliterated by genocidal maniac, Ronan – not Keating – the Accuser.
Ah yes, the old, let's-exterminate-everyone-for-the-mistakes-of-their-forefathers ploy.
But unlike Avengers Assemble, Guardians of the Galaxy oozes offbeat originality and frankly, it's the most unique and delightful film Marvel has created to date.
It's a hell of an achievement given the extensive movie library the company is building up and when you consider the characters aren't household names like 'big three' Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, but Marvel seems well aware of that fact with the final production risky to say the least.
The film opens in 1988, which is when Quill is abducted from Earth, and 26 years later we see he's become a crooked intergalactic outlaw with a taste for all things shiny, valuable and not his.
Given the distinct decade in which he was taken, his cassette player and mixtape of 70s and 80s tracks are laced throughout the film, which creates a quirky yet grounded quality in the midst of all of the dazzling interstellar warfare that takes place along the way.
In addition to the soundtrack, jokes and comedy have never been more of a feature in a Marvel film – perhaps Iron Man 3 was the closest – as gags are thrown into the unlikeliest of scenarios to lessen the tension, and I would imagine, to really differentiate itself from Avengers Assemble, Star Wars and Star Trek, which by comparison are left looking very sombre.
That said, if you were going to compare Pratt's Quill to someone, the character is quite reminiscent of Chris Pine's Captain James Kirk – smart, womanising, reckless leaders, who eventually find their feet.
The editing is supreme and makes each bit of dialogue super-sharp and tight, so when the infamous five are bickering or talking generally, the repartee all feels really clean and natural without being awkward or forced.
Thor can be stubborn, Iron Man can be arrogant and Captain America is considered too stiff, but all of the Guardians bring even more wildly different qualities to the table and offer some diversity that doesn't ever grate or bore, which wouldn't have been possible without such excellent casting.
Meanwhile, the film is very much in the here and now, with Quill's backstory the only one that truly gets a look-in, which creates a sense of intrigue about his colleagues who only have their pasts hinted at, meaning sequel fodder.
There's just no way of knowing where you're going and tonally the movie delivers a piece of everything and it's done big and without hesitation.
Guardians may have been a gamble, but I'm Grooting for it to Rocket to the top.