Guardians of the Galaxy review: Finally, superheroes with a goofy sense of humour
A walking tree, a talking racoon, a beefcake whose skin looks vaguely like wallpaper, a green-skinned killing machine and a man with a love for '80s' pop music — would you trust this lot to guard your galaxy? You should. Because while they may not be particularly good at preventing things from blowing up, Disney and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy make the whole business of saving the world great fun.
It's fair to say that at the moment, Hollywood is a bit like Dharavi for superheroes. With comic book adaptations crawling out of the woodworks by the dozen, there's a glut of chaps in suits whose only purpose in life is to save the planet. We've already got collectives like the Avengers and the X-Men, and there's no keeping track of heroes like Superman, Spiderman, Batman etc. Bombarded as we are by all these characters, did we need another superhero franchise? Not in the least. Fortunately, however, big studios are intent upon making hay while the trend shines, which is why we've got a superhero film that's funny, self-aware and completely unconcerned with being serious — Guardians of the Galaxy.
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human who was orphaned and abducted by aliens as a young boy, has grown up to be a Ravager, which is basically alien for "thief". He lives on the planet Nova and steals from all over the galaxy. Being ambitious and the hero of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Peter decides to go solo when the leader of the Ravagers, Yondu (Michael Rooker), sends him to find a mysterious and precious silver sphere on an abandoned planet.
Peter finds the sphere, but unfortunately, lots of people want it. Including gun-toting henchmen working for the evil Kree lord, Ronan. Kree and Nova have a tenuous peace treaty that Ronan wants to break by blowing Nova up. He needs the sphere to do this, but Peter has the sphere. So Ronan sends Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is more weapon than woman, after Peter. Meanwhile Yondu has put a bounty on Peter's head. Who should see that notice but the super intelligent and genetically modified Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his partner, the walking magical tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Next thing you know, there's a crazy chase and public property is being damaged.
Completely contrary to what we've come to expect of law enforcement in superhero films, the Nova police arrest Gamora, Rocket Racoon, Groot and Peter for their antics and throw them in prison. In prison, the four meet Drax, who initially wants to kill Gamora because she works with Ronan and Ronan had killed Drax's family. Except Gamora hates Ronan too and is planning to double-cross him by making sure he doesn't get the sphere. Eventually, this not-so-famous five settle into an uneasy alliance because they need one another to break out of prison and stay alive while Ronan and his people are trying to hunt them down. The prison break sequence is superbly conceived and executed. And it will make you giggle.
Director and writer James Gunn has packed in a treasure chest of references to everything from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars and The Maltese Falcon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Unlike most of these films, Gunn's is genuinely funny. What sets Guardians of the Galaxy apart is that in terms of tone, it's more like Pratt's last release, The Lego Movie. With most superhero movies taking themselves very seriously and weighing down protagonists with angst and gravitas, Guardians of the Galaxy has a goofy, prankster quality that is wonderfully refreshing.
There are no blues in Guardians of the Galaxy and neither is there one moment of grandeur or drama that isn't deflated with humour. Pratt, just like in The Lego Movie, shows off his superb comic timing and manages to set up moments that could be serious and emotional, only to cut them down with a funny line. He's ably aided in this task by Cooper, whose voice makes Rocket perhaps the coolest talking animal around.
For instance, when the five own up to their heroic mantles and stand in a circle — it's that tried and tested, "Here Are Your Heroes!" moment — Rocket says, "Great. We're all standing up. For no reason." Later, at the film's climax, when certain death looms before them, Peter suddenly starts dancing (badly) and invites Ronan to a dance-off. It's ridiculous enough to make Ronan ask, "What are you doing?"
Pratt and Cooper stand out in the star cast, along with Vin Diesel who somehow manages to make Groot a wonderfully endearing character even though he has just one recurring line ("I am Groot") and a few grunts. It's also good to see the one woman in the pack not be limited to being a love interest even though Saldana isn't able to match Pratt and Cooper's performances. There's no excuse for fading into the background when you have green skin, but Saldana manages this. The film's supporting cast is quite magnificent with seasoned actors like Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro and John C. Reilly popping up to play tiny roles.
In sharp contrast to the superhero films that try to create connections between onscreen and offscreen reality, Guardians of the Galaxy is 100% fantasy. There is nothing gritty or moody about this set of Marvel heroes or the worlds in which they operate. Ironically, this is probably because Disney's motto is to keep things light and frothy for its core audience. For once, Disney's insistence on being chirpy and cheerful has strengthened, rather than weakened, a film.
Go watch Guardians of the Galaxy and be prepared to come out humming "Hooked on a Feeling"
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Updated Date: Aug 07, 2014 15:41:55 IST