Guardians of the Galaxy marks the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the best. Big words, I know, but this is Marvel at its most audacious. Guardians is an original space opera-esque story in the vein of something like Star Wars and Star Trek, but it dials down the pathos and ups the fun with a terrific, whirlwind sense of adventure and a memorable ensemble of characters.
Marry that with a self-contained story set in Marvel’s well-realised silver screen universe as well as frankly phenomenal production values, and you have a film that’s now being hailed as the best Star Wars movie since the 80s – how can any self-respecting sci-fi fan possibly pass that up?
Don’t assume that Guardians is merely ripping on the genre classics however, as writer-director James Gunn (Super, Slither) infuses the film with its own rambunctious, hilarious tone while still qualifying it as an epic sci-fi action spectacle – and oh my, the balance is glorious!
Chris Pratt is Peter Quill, a human who was abducted from Earth by aliens when he was a young boy. Quill now goes by his self-styled nickname ‘Star-Lord’, and is somewhat of an intergalactic treasure hunter – imagine a less world-weary Han Solo who lives life to the track of his favourite hits from the 70s and 80s.
Indeed, Quill was abducted with a mixtape on his person which he keeps as his most prized and personal possession. Featuring such classics as ‘Come and Get Your Love’, ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ and ‘I Want You Back’ among others, Guardians has one of the best licensed soundtracks in memory which also provides a nostalgic connection to the rather out-there scenes being shown on screen.
But I digress, the movie opens with Quill discovering a mysterious Orb that serves as the story’s MacGuffin – the object that everyone is after. We learn that the Orb is one of the six Infinity Stones, which formally introduces a concept that has been hinted at in the MCU – both the Tesseract and Aether from previous instalments were Infinity Stones (and some theorise that the gem in Loki’s staff is another one).
For those not in the know, the Infinity Stones feature in the Infinity Gauntlet storyline which is rumoured to be the focus of the third Avengers movie. These stones are sought by the Mad Titan Thanos, who has here his first appearance in the MCU since the credits stinger in The Avengers. Thanos (Josh Brolin) is a Palpatine-like figure who charges his zealous enforcer, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), with recovering the world-destroying Orb.
And so Quill is put through the wringer, ending up in a prison where he is forced to team up with his not-as-yet Guardians: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). Gamora is an assassin seeking revenge on her adoptive father Thanos, Drax is a madman who doesn’t understand metaphors and who is seeking revenge on Ronan for murdering his family, Rocket is a genetically modified racoon and bounty hunter (yes, you read that right) and Groot is a walking, talking tree (you also read that right).
This motley crew of madcap lunatics band together in unlikely circumstances to save the galaxy from Ronan and Thanos because they’re ‘the idiots living in it’. That each character has a time to shine and feels rounded is a testament to Gunn’s ability as director. The Avengers had five movies prior to it to introduce and develop its cast, whereas Guardians does it all in one without feeling cramped – and I’d rather hang with the Guardians.
The interplay is incredible and the humour is out of this world – this is by far the funniest MCU movie to date and had the entire audience in stitches throughout. I won’t spoil the surprises save to say that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the year’s best blockbuster and one of the best space adventures around, be it from this year or any other. I’m hooked.