Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: James Gunn

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, John C Reilly, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro.

A quirky, big budget sci-fi fantasy set in the near future, Guardians Of The Galaxy sees a band of misfits on a quest to find a mysterious but powerful orb and save the world from destruction. The Guardians Of The Galaxy may be one of the lesser known franchises from the Marvel back catalogue, but it makes for one of the better films from the studio that is kicking goals at the box office with Iron Man 3 and The Avengers in particular. It has a lot more humour than many of the other Marvel films, and is a lot of fun.

The leader of this band of misfits is the human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, from popular tv sitcom Parks And Recreation, etc), who was abducted from Earth by an alien spacecraft 26 years earlier. All he had in his possession was an old cassette walkman containing a mixtape of 70s and 80s rock compiled by his mother, who was dying of cancer. Quill has become a bit of a bounty hunter and treasure seeker, a futuristic Indiana Jones type. When the film opens he is on the trail of something called the Infinity Stone, a powerful orb that can destroy planets. The device falls into the hands of the villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) who is on a mission to ethnically cleanse the universe.

Quill is joined on his quest by the green skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the muscle bound Drax the Destroyer (wrestler Dave Bautista), and the wise cracking genetically engineered raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot, a walking, talking tree trunk (voiced in gravelly fashion by Vin Diesel).

The film climaxes in cliched fashion with a giant spacecraft threatening to crash into a city, which has almost become a staple of the genre, and which shows the only real lack of imagination in the film, which has been scripted by director James Gunn in collaboration with Nicole Perlman and uncredited Marvel regulars Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito. Gunn remains faithful to the spirit of the original comic book created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

Director Gunn (Super, Slither, etc) cut his teeth on low budget horror films with the low rent Troma studio, but he makes the leap to big budget filmmaking with confidence here. The reputed $170 million budget can be seen on the screen, with the superb visual effects and CGI created sets, and lots of pyrotechnics on display in the key action sequences. There are even a couple of digitally created characters, with Groot, a walking, talking tree trunk voiced in monosyllabic fashion by Diesel, and Cooper’s smart talking raccoon Rocket, who gets most of the best lines and effortlessly steals many scenes here.

Pratt has lost weight and worked out to play the convincing action hero and tortured loner looking for redemption here, and he makes Quill a loveable rogue, a sort of Hans Solo for the new millennium. He brings an irreverent quality to his role as the anti-hero.

Saldana (who was a blue skinned alien in Avatar) must now read her scripts and wonder what colour she will be in the next film. Pro wrestler Bautista is also well cast as the muscle bound Drax, although his delivery of his dialogue is fairly stiff. And, dare one say it, but Diesel also delivers a fairly wooden performance. There is a great rapport between many of the cast here that suggests we will see more of them in the future.

The cast also includes Glenn Close, almost unrecogniseable as Nova Prime, the leader of Xandar; John C Reilly as her chief lieutenant Dey; Michael Rooker (from The Walking Dead, etc) as Quill’s partner in larceny, the treacherous Yonda Udonta; and Djimon Hounsou as Korath, a mysterious bounty hunter. Pace unfortunately makes for a rather dull and cliched villain.

Guardians Of The Galaxy is so unlike anything that Marvel has created before, but it is such a deft and fast paced blend of sci-fi, humour and action with some inventive and well staged action sequences that it will be a real crowd pleaser. It is such fun that it will also spawn a couple of sequels.



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