Monday 11 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - James Gunn

Guardians of the Galaxy gets off to a pretty terrible start.  We witness a young, teary-eyed Peter Quill at his mother’s deathbed, his despair as she passes on, before he runs screaming from the hospital…and is swiftly abducted by aliens.  TITLE SCREEN. 

It’s a horrible juxtaposition that pretty much sums up a film full of jarring changes of tone.  No sooner is mum dead but she’s quickly forgotten, the only link to Earth being Quill’s Walkman that plays a mixtape of 70s and 80s soul tunes whilst he’s off guarding the galaxy.  It’s laughably anachronistic, though it does provide some unique tongue-in-cheek charm to a film in an otherwise crowded superhero genre.

The music is just one example of a film that, like Avengers Assemble before it, uses comedy to paper over the gaping cracks in the plot.  Is it too much to ask for a superhero film to provide thrilling action alongside a decent story?  With the exception of Nolan’s Batman films, it seems the two are mutually exclusive.  Fun action aside, Guardians of the Galaxy has a narrative that jumps from planet to planet with little development following a hilariously awful cast that includes Zoe Saldana making green skin look sexy as Gamora, Vin Diesel as the humanoid plant Groot (because who else is tough and wooden enough to play a walking tree?), and Bradley Cooper as a talking raccoon(!).

Moreover, the film is essentially Marvel’s attempt to copy the grandest of space operas, Star Wars.  In addition to the helmeted villain with a funny voice wishing to destroy a planet and the general look and feel of the world, specifically the relationship between Cooper’s bounty hunter raccoon Rocket and Diesel’s linguistically-challenged Groot directly parallels that of Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca.  Quill, too, is essentially riffing on the same charming, womanising mercenary character, though thank God for Chris Pratt.  Definitely the actor of the moment, he’s come a long way since his goofy role in Parks & Recreation and here provides some much needed humanity.

Most of all, Guardians of the Galaxy commits the cardinal sin of superhero movies by failing to provide a convincing nemesis.  Lee Pace’s Ronan is a weak and underdeveloped villain amongst some vapid guff about an infinity stone and his rarely seen but apparently all-powerful master, the sort of rubbish that’s been shat out by a teenage boy in his sleep.  Who exactly are the guardians guarding the galaxy against?  Too easily do they succumb to clich├ęd characterisation and unfunny one liners.  “You said it bitch, we’re the guardians of the galaxy”, spits Quill in the film’s final scene (left wide open for the inevitable sequel).

Dear [Star]Lord it’s bad.