Marvel’s latest action film franchise, set in the same universe as The Avengers, starts off as far more quirky and raggedy than their usual offerings. Action-packed and full of snappy one-liners though it may be, it is not a superhero movie as such and has a very different feel from any of the other recent releases. Director, James Gunn, has an eclectic back catalog, including writing the screenplays for the Scooby Doo movies, comedy horror Slither and the gory Dawn of the Dead remake, and this is reflected in the film’s unusual combination of a cheesy 80s soundtrack, down and dirty characters and CGI drenched action sequences.
The beginning of the film establishes Chris Pratt’s (of TV show Parks and Recreation fame) lead character, Peter Quill, as a lost and lonely human getting by however he can in a dangerous universe. We also meet Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, who is essentially a disillusioned villain turned good, and the unlikely pairing of Rocket, an animated talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, and Groot, a walking tree whose one and only line repeated over and over “I am Groot” is voiced by Vin Diesel. These characters, plus Drax, (Dave Bautista) who has no concept of metaphors, come together in a chaotic prison break. A sequence that was, in equal parts, entertaining and baffling.
In fact, entertaining and baffling is a good way to describe the whole film. Empire Magazine called it “tongue-in-cheek fun” which it most certainly was but they also pointed out that the baddies were thinly drawn and the final action sequence could have easily fitted into any previous big-budget Marvel film. Another classically Marvel trait was the convoluted plot that tried to cram too much action into one film and still try to fit in as many witty lines as possible. This left no room to develop the characters fully, particularly the villains, and their lack of motivation for their dastardly deeds is one of the things that makes the plot confusing. Karen Gillan’s (previously a Doctor Who companion) shaven-headed Nebula looked great but was completely unmemorable as a character. Likewise, Ronan, played by Lee Pace, had oodles of potential as a charismatic baddie but failed to deliver as we simply didn’t see enough of him.
The plot itself seemed to involve everyone chasing after an artifact called the Orb which Peter collected near the beginning of the film with much fighting and confusion ensues. Everyone who is after the Orb has a different reason for wanting it but as Ronan wants to destroy an entire planet with it, he becomes the man to stop and the ragtag gang becomes ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’.
All in all, no one can deny that this film is fun. It is fun: fact. There is something about it, however, that leaves the audience slightly cold. Maybe the characters are a bit thin and the plot a bit thick. Perhaps, as the Guardian newspaper pointed out, it is not as witty as it was alleged to be and the cold feeling is simple disappointment that, although it was definitely enjoyable, it did not quite live up to the hype.