Guardians of the Galaxy (12A)

Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel cinematic universe into the cosmos.

It’s 1988 when we first meet our hero, Peter Quill. He treasures his Walkman and a mix tape given to him by his dying mother more than anything in the world.

When the time comes the loss of his mother is more than Quill can bear, so he runs away and is then inadvertently abducted by an extra-terrestrial spaceship.

Reared by a motley crew of space pirates after his capture, Quill (Chris Pratt) grows up to be a mercenary selling found booty. His Walkman obsession sparks a love of gadgets, and his arsenal of tech toys helps him become the saviour of the galaxy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Self-proclaimed “dude” Peter Quill (superhero name Star-Lord) introduces himself as “an A-hole but not 100 per cent a dick”. He’s a compelling character, one that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has described as “Marty McFly meets Han Solo”.

Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan (Lee Pace), a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe.

To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits: Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a gun-toting raccoon, Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree-like humanoid, the deadly and enigmatic Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista).

But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.

Director James Gunn carefully weaves the misfits’ backstories into an evolving alien world. However humour is his main weapon. Quill’s rag-tag team bicker constantly about whose galaxy-saving plan causes some chortles. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket is hilarious – he scene-steals throughout, notably whilst on the shoulders of the eight-foot humanoid tree Groot, shooting enemies. What an A-hole!

Elsewhere, there are some notable cameos from John C Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz and former Dr Who assistant Karen Gillan, who shaved her head for the role of angry warrior Nebula. It’s a pity she wasn’t as gutsy with her performance.

Guardians of the Galaxy is something of a curveball. Geeks will enjoy its hidden comic-book jokes and hints at future plot lines. There’s plenty for the uninitiated too, with a zero-gravity prison break, Star Wars-style aerial dogfights and, just when you’re expecting the hero versus villain showdown, a comedy dance-off featuring Quill’s “pelvic sorcery”.

It’s clear from the get-go that this isn’t going to be your typical Marvel movie. It opens with an alien abduction set to the brilliantly unlikely strains of 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’. It doesn’t stop there – the soundtrack consistently pairs director Gunn’s ambitious space chase with classic pop and rock. Later, David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ plays over a ramshackle ship’s journey to a place called Knowhere. You can listen to the unofficial movie soundtrack here.

I am delighted that Marvel finally dusted off their copies of the lesser-known comic originally published in 1969, and got down to business. As the credits roll, confirming that Guardians of the Galaxy will return for a sequel, Gunn’s film leaves you with the same feeling of childish wonder as seeing sci-fi for the first time.

I’m happy to say that Gunn’s directorial expertise and Pratt’s performance have rekindled my love of the Marvel franchise. And no it wasn’t Pratt’s “pelvis sorcery” that swung it for me, that was just a welcome bonus.

By Ruth Walker
★★★★★

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