Guardians Of The Galaxy - Cinema Review

'Whilst Gunn clearly wants to emulate Joss Whedon's success, his film neither manages - nor is ever given a fair chance - to do so'.

Comparisons between Marvel's latest, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and the studio's first comic book team movie Avengers Assemble, not only feel apt but are also invited by much of what writer and director James Gunn offers up. And therein lies Guardians Of The Galaxy's fundamental problem: whilst Gunn clearly wants to emulate Joss Whedon's success, his film neither manages - nor is ever given a fair chance - to do so.

Avengers Assemble worked so well, at least in part, thanks to forming the end of Phase 1 of Marvel's establishment of their Cinematic Universe. Whedon's film essentially had five previous films to build up a great deal of its content and ideas, with every Avenger receiving a franchise of their own to establish and develop their character and background. This is the first time we've met any of the Guardians, and yet Gunn expects us to buy into each member in the same way as we did the Avengers without giving us much of a reason to do so. Tony Stark enjoyed two films' worth of set-up before joining Earth's mightiest heroes; Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) gets a short pre-titles sequence, and the rest of the Guardians get considerably less than that.

What this means is that each of the heroes of Guardians Of The Galaxy never manages to become much more than a one-note character. Quill is the main focus here, but fails to achieve the impact needed to give the film the substantial core required. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) both have harrowing back stories that are referred to here and there, but never fleshed out properly; Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) past gets a solitary mention; and Groot (Vin Diesel) remains a complete mystery - which, coupled with the scattered moments of inspiration he gets to genuinely surprise and impress, ironically makes him the most intriguing of the lot.

Gunn clearly aims for a somewhat similar tone to Whedon's film throughout, but again continually falls short. Guardians Of The Galaxy is at times funny, but nowhere near as sharp or witty as the writer and director clearly wants it to be. When the humour does work, it's largely thanks to the performers: Cooper and Pratt unsurprisingly vie throughout for the position of chief sarcastic wisecracker, but are actually outdone in landing the laughs on several occasions by WWE wrestler Bautista, who delivers Drax's literal view of the world pleasingly well.

Unfortunately, the plot is where Guardians Of The Galaxy feels least inspired of all. Gunn's screenplay follows what can now be called the "Marvel Formula", based around the pursuit of a mysterious, powerful and conveniently small MacGuffin which the bad guy - here vanilla foe Ronan (Lee Pace) - wants to make himself incredibly powerful. Admittedly, in comparison to the likes of Thor: The Dark World (the last time we saw Marvel use this basic premise), Guardians Of The Galaxy does manage to keep things somewhat light and agreeable even when you can easily work out what the next couple of steps will be. Gunn attempts to distract from the uninspired nature of his story through regularly setting the action to the hip '70s music from Quill's "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" cassette which, whilst forming arguably the most catchy soundtrack to a comic book movie yet, jars more often than it fits with what's on screen.

Both Marvel Studios and Gunn deserve credit for trying something different within Phase 2 of the MCU, bringing some of the publishing house's more obscure and offbeat characters to the big screen when they could easily have stuck with their now well-established roster of superheroes. But with Guardians Of The Galaxy, the studio shows a remarkable lack of awareness of the lessons they should have learned by now. The film is crammed with new information - planets, civilisations, military organisations - the likes of which Marvel have previously taken several cinematic installments to establish. The majority of what is presented here feels rushed and underdeveloped, only ever allowing us to get a vague sense of what's being presented before moving onto the next hastily introduced element. Guardians Of The Galaxy is never a genuinely bad film, but it is an overwhelmingly generic one. Considering the potential of the unorthodox and fantastical premise Gunn had to work with, his final product must ultimately be considered a disappointment.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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