It’s easy to be a fan of the Space Opera genre. After being exposed through childhood and adulthood with the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek one begins to wonder when the next Space Opera Adventure movie would arrive. One that isn't toned down for the kids or dumbed down for an easy cash grab.
With the arrival of James Gunn’s terrific Guardians of the Galaxy, Space Opera fans have a gigantic reason to cheer. Not only is Guardians one of the year's most exciting and entertaining movies, but is indeed the Star Wars for this generation.
Director Gunn must be one hell of a Marvel fan and comic book geek. He has followed up the half a dozen Avengers universe films and delivered a relatively unknown property with such gloriously fantastic style. A typical hack job by, say, Michael Bay, is a hollow two-hour light show pretending to be a summer blockbuster. Guardians of the Galaxy is considerably more than that.
Gunn’s film is candy for hardcore Marvel fanboys, while still managing to keep the newcomers glued to their seats. There are dozens of action sequences, all of which are kinetic and thrilling. A new creature or beautiful otherworldly space landscape is offered every five minutes, and each one is more impressive than the previous one. When the film isn't bowling you over with its awesome visuals, it serves a barrage of laughs via its extremely fun characters. Gunn had deconstructed the superhero genre in his dark comedy Super and he takes it a notch further in this film. In this day of CGI tech and glut of superhero films it's not enough to simply destroy a city at the end of the movie as a grand finale. Gunn seems fully aware of this and he treats characters more importantly than the numerous big money shots. The combination of sincere emotion, huge spectacle and a real sense of wonder and adventure is what makes Guardians so much more than a superhero movie.
We have Star Lord - a goofy but heroic human sucked into an intergalactic war; Gamora – an alien orphan assassin; Drax – a hulking badass who laughs manically; Rocket Racoon – a mean snarky raccoon with a love for firing rockets at people who piss him off; and Groot – a lovable tree like humanoid who can kick some copious amounts of ass with his branch-limbs. They’re all bizarre, completely mismatched characters, and the film milks their mismatched-ness to hilarious levels. They bicker, they fight, they punch each other in the face, but ultimately they realize that they need to stick together if they want to save their respective worlds.
The big ‘assemble’ in The Avengers was one epic scene. But in Guardians the assembly is fleshed out over the course of the movie, the conflicts between the characters timed and woven around to perfection. That gives you a chance to dive into the characters, to understand them and ultimately fall in love with them. And yet, there’s the other bonus effect of the film – The Avengers took four previous origin films to culminate into one giant spectacle, and the effect was glorious. In Guardians the starting point is on the scale of The Avengers, so good luck dousing your goosebumps.
It helps that the folks playing the heroes are so cool. Chris Pratt welds together the heroic suaveness of Indiana Jones and the goofiness of Andy Dwyer. Bradley Cooper spits sarcasm in his Rocket Raccoon – he’s pretty much the meanest superhero we’ve seen. Gamora and Drax are ruthless in their own ways. It’s so great to see these people trample over the perceived notion of superheroes having to be broody and kind hearted and overtly nice to everyone. They might be the Guardians of the Galaxy, but these guys don’t give a shit if they don’t want to. And it’s great that Marvel chose to be brave about this and offer heroes who, to quote Peter Serafinowicz in the film, are a bunch of a-holes.
The villains are equally cool - Ronan (played by Lee Pace) is pretty scary to look at, Nebula (Karen Gilan) is pure evil, and Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) also makes an appearance. The minor characters like John Reily as a corspman, Michael Rooker as a bandit and Benocio Del Toro as The Collector are all fun as well, and they’ll no doubt have bigger roles to play in the sequels.
With this huge array of characters and landscapes the universe created in Guardians is vast. Marvel continues to close the gap between the Avengers and the Guardians, and it’s insane to think of what we’ll get in the future. It’s not often that we get adrenaline, heart and humor rolled into one cohesive, iconic epic. And once the film is over, you’ll know the fun has really just begun.
(First published in Firstpost)