We first meet Peter Quill in 1988 as a young, frightened boy. He clutches a portable tape player loaded with a cassette labelled “Awesome Mix Tape 1,” as he is ushered in to see his mother, who is dying of cancer. Although the heartbreak is soon interrupted when the distraught boy runs from the hospital and is prompted abducted by an alien spaceship.
Guardians Of The Galaxy then jumps forward 26 years and we meet Quill (Chris Pratt) again as a grown man. He is a rogue, a thief, something of a clown and he still carries that same portable cassette player.
In fact, the songs on “Awesome Mix Tape 1,” an eclectic mix of mostly 70s hits, is perhaps the star of this film. Making up much of the soundtrack, the songs (which includes Hooked on a Feeling, Cherry Bomb and Escape: The Piña Colada Song) are used in an amusing, incongruous way that sets the tone for what is a thoroughly entertaining, fast paced and fantastical tale.
Quill soon finds himself leading a misfit group of rogues that includes Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a genetically enhanced and emotionally conflicted assassin, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) a sociopathic raccoon (yes, you read that correctly), a giant, amazingly versatile walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel) and a rage filled, vengeful warrior called Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).
Drax does have a limitation though, he has little in the way of a sense of humour and no capacity to understand metaphor or other subtleties of language. He is, at almost every turn, a literal straight-man to everyone else’s mirth-making – and in Guardians Of The Galaxy, there is plenty of mirth to be made.
James Gunn (Slither, Super) directed and co-wrote (along with Nicole Perlman) Guardians. However, the feel of the film, as a raffish ensemble comedy fits very well with the kind of banter and reluctant camaraderie that Joss Whedon created with The Avengers.
When Guardians Of The Galaxy was first announced, I was more than a little skeptical. It felt like Marvel might be reaching too far, trying to extend the franchise out into the quirkier, less appealing realms of the comic universe (with too many weird superpowers and bizarre objects & not enough fun & emotional depth). It felt like a film that could easily get bogged down with a bloated, overly detailed story.
But, those concerns were totally unfounded. Guardians Of The Galaxy is a solid, hilarious and well-paced experience, lithe and funny, never dragging or apologising for what is, quite frankly, an absurd and incredible storyline. It’s not only easily to accept the conventions of the universe in which this film is set – it’s fun as well!
How good is Guardians Of The Galaxy? Well, imagine if someone made a Star Wars sequel that was actually good; as thrilling, swashbuckling and full of campy fun as the original. Yes, yes indeed!
Guardians Of The Galaxy hits all its marks. The surprising number of laughs, the killer soundtrack and just enough emotional depth in two or three key moments round out the experience. For me, Guardians Of The Galaxy is easily the most entertaining of the 2014 summer blockbusters and the only one I can realistically imagine watching again. Essential viewing.