Guardians Of The Galaxy (3D / first-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 121 mins / Dir. James Gunn
"You realise, of course"I said to Mrs Blackout in the packed Odeon at Leicester Sq, London, "that there's no way this film can possibly live up to the expectations I'm holding it to." After a second's thought, she agreed with me that this probably would be the case. A few minutes later, the house lights went down, the film began and Marvel proved us both wrong…
So as predicted, if Thor: The Dark World was a bit 'out there' for the more civilian cinema audiences with its mythical maguffins and parallel dimension jumping, by comparison Guardians Of The Galaxy makes that film look like an insurance seminar. After a brief (and surprisingly weighty) opening scene where the only anomaly is the orange foam pads of Peter Quill's headphones, the film gears straight into a sensorially stunning spectacle, with everything turned up to ten, all of the time (except for the volume in the Odeon, which was turned up to eleven for some reason. To the point where the dialogue in some places was drowned out by anything else which was happening. I can't wait to see the film again at a decent volume so that I can appreciate the script fully).
Considering that 2012's Avengers Assemble was able to go all-out on the action because viewers were already familiar with (or had at least met) the central characters, it's no mean feat that GotG manages the same consistent level of adrenaline and excitement with an array of shiny newbies. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel click together perfectly as the film's heroic ensemble, and while the trailers have indicated that the film was going to contain Pratt's Star-Lord goofing around, the humour's distributed fairly evenly throughout the cast. It's certainly the funniest Marvel movie to date (although this isn't unwelcome after the po-faced Dark World and Winter Soldier), yet it manages to keep the audience laughing without turning into a comedy movie. The only member of The Guardians who isn't consistently funny seems to be Saldana's assassin, Gamora, and even then she gets to deliver the film's best line (no spoilers, you'll know it when you hear it).
Outside the central quintet, a large and varied supporting cast ensure there's never a dull moment. Karen Gillan demonstrates her post-Who big screen credentials once again, and feels slightly underused as Nebula, while Lee Pace is positively fascinating as Ronan The Accuser when he gets the chance to show the role off. Glenn Close, John C Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz pop up at various intervals to play themselves (it seems) as members of the Nova Corps, Michael Rooker has been hired to play Michael Rooker (although that's no bad thing) and naturally there's a nod to our Stan.
GotG's links to previous Marvel Cinematic Universe entries aren't as prominent as you might expect, although they're there for anyone with a working knowledge of the canon so far. On a more technical level, this is the first film in the timeline since Avengers to have the title-card at the front end, and the print we saw didn't have a post-credits scene, although I'm hoping that was trimmed for the press-screening I was at, just to get the audience to go and see the movie again on general release. There's certainly a conspicuous gap which could be filled by adding one. I'm also conflicted at this point about the pop-soundtrack which is used in the film; I couldn't work out if the filmmakers are over-egging that particular pudding, or if it was just the volume that the whole thing was playing at. Another watch (or two) will tell.
It's all far too much to take in on a first sitting of course, and there are too many named-characters for the film's run-time to evenly introduce. When the bursts of exposition arrive, they come thick and fast, but thankfully the plot itself takes the passenger seat next to the rip-roaring flow of the movie. This is a Summer Blockbuster™, through and through, and I can't tell you enough how awesome it is to see an audience actually applauding at the end credits. That takes me back.
Big, loud and ridiculously entertaining, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a comic-book-movie which excels at silliness, yet never becomes a cartoon*1. Director and co-writer James Gunn has brought the fun back into the MCU, and this is the second film of the year to find a tear of genuine unabashed joy rolling down my cheek as the end-credits kicked in.
If you love Marvel, this is the movie you've been waiting for.
I didn't hear one this time round, but as I said the sound was ridiculous, so there's every chance there is.
*1 Not that I have anything against cartoons, but you know what I mean.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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