If I had opened up IMDb and found that Guardians Of The Galaxy had scored a 5.6 on the star scale, I would’ve begun this review by giving the following advice: Do not see Guardians Of The Galaxy as a Marvel movie. Instead, open your eyes and close your mind and view it as a piece of pure science-fiction entertainment. But having opened up IMDb and seen that Guardians has in fact been graced with a high 8.7, this advice is perhaps not needed.
Or is it?
Guardians is a wonderful film, and it contains this year’s takeaway line, spoken by our hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) inside his filthy spaceship: “If I had a blacklight, this would look like a Jackson Pollock painting”. If you are unfamiliar with Jackson Pollock and his paintings, or what a backlight does, Google is waiting for you. The line is not only jocular and memorable, it is a blueprint for Peter’s character. We are instantly magnetised to his humour, and we need not think very hard to determine the kind of man he is. This is so vital for a character who is intended to lead us, the audience, through what is essentially a kinetic maze of visual effects and swashbuckling science-fiction adventure.
If I had my way, I would have wanted the swashbuckling scenes to be edited in a more coherent manner. Many of them jolt in and out of consciousness and make following the action as difficult as trying to make sense of Benicio del Toro’s costume. But I’m nitpicking. Guardians is Marvel’s reinvention of Star Wars. It channels the same fearless spirit, the same extreme hunger for exploration and danger, and flips through its pages with a group of heroes who are echoes of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca. And then it delivers a third act so confounding in its complexity and so alive with imagination and energy that one can’t help but compare it to the dogfight between the Rebels and the Death Star. I say this not as criticism, but as honest opinion; Guardians places itself upon the Star Wars altar of tribute.
The plot begins on Earth, the year I was born. Young Peter has just witnessed his mother’s passing. When he runs outside to quell his grief, he is suddenly abducted by an enormous UFO, and the movie skips forward 26 years. Peter is now a Ravager, a bounty hunter whose trade is not in human lives but in the value of stolen relics. He returns to his present home-world of Xandar to pawn a new find: A metallic orb with untold powers. Xandar, I’ve read, is fashioned after Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, which is an honour for Singapore but not evidence of the Gardens’ reason for existing.
In deep space, in a ship that looks like a falcon frozen in Carbonite, the evil sorcerer Ronan (Lee Pace) sends his subordinate Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after the orb. But Gamora, as we learn, has grown up hating Ronan and her wicked family, and intends to pawn the orb off to her own buyer (the eccentric del Toro character) in exchange for 4 billion Units. This sets up a glorious sequence amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Xandar in which Peter and Gamora find themselves fighting for the orb — in the same fashion that Indiana Jones fought for the vial of poison antidote in The Temple Of Doom — while the bounty hunters Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot the living tree (voiced by Vin Diesel) attempt to apprehend them.
All four are caught by the authorities and jailed. There they befriend the enormous physical mass of Drax the Destroyer, played to perfect comedic pitch and timing by WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. The running joke with Drax is that he doesn’t get metaphors or humour, but converses in an English flowery enough to deserve its own vase. He wants to avenge the death of his family by killing Ronan, an endeavour that puts the rest of the crew in rather precarious situations. The five of them form the Guardians, and what strikes me the most about their success is the chemistry three humans are able to share with a raccoon and a tree. This is no doubt due to the talented animators who have managed to bring Rocket and Groot to life, but credit must also go to Cooper and Diesel, who are indistinguishable yet fully convincing as faceless voices.
Indeed, every fibre of Guardians’ robust body is thoroughly convincing, even if at times its tone shoots for the ultra-camp. Lee Pace is surely aware that he is a comic book villain, as is his righthand servant Nebula (Karen Gillan). They shriek and gesture as if performing stage versions of themselves, but it’s a perfect approach, because director James Gunn has pitched the rest of the movie at the same level of insanity around them. On their own they look ridiculous, but within the context of the film, they are just right. The casting is also just right. The plot is lazy in places, particularly towards the end, but it too is just right. The 1980s pop soundtrack is a little more than just right. The movie, on the whole, is just right. I went in with no expectations and came out feeling refreshed by science-fiction comedy, a feeling I last enjoyed after Star Wars. So maybe my advice still rings true — see Guardians for what it should be: A movie without the Marvel logo towering above its head.
Best Moment | Most of Drax’s lines. I had no idea Batista could be so funny.
Worst Moment | Nope.