Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Djimon Honsou, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, Peter Serafinowicz, Josh Brolin, Stan Lee
Is it hyperbole to claim that the only reason for the existence of this universe of ours was to ensure that Guardians of the Galaxy be filmed, and enjoyed, and that the world would be lessened in its absence? Probably. Possibly. Perhaps. But it's a statement I stand by nonetheless.
Guardians is the first Marvel movie to be truly galactic, introducing us to the eponymous heroes – the Terran vagabond Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star Lord), assassin Gamora, bounty-hunting Rocket Raccoon and his tree-like compatriot Groot, and Drax the Destroyer. We're first introduced to the young Peter in 1988, distraught at the loss of his terminally-ill mother. It's this loss he is attempting to run away from when he is beamed aboard a spaceship and whisked off into a galaxy filled with unsavoury characters – thieves, scavengers, killers, and worse.
We next see Quill 26 years on, during the utterly inspired opening credits. The scale of the world he's exploring - and the cocksure, carefree attitude with which he interacts with it – tells you everything you need to know about the man he has become. It's a fantastic performance from Chris Pratt, who nails every line and knocks every joke right out of the park. And the jokes. Oh the jokes. There are so many, and not a one falls flat. Every character gets their fair share, though Rocket and Star Lord really steal the show. So, after salvaging a mysterious orb, Quill (and the audience) are pitched into a plot that would function perfectly well as a straight space-opera, with bounties, super-weapons, space battles, prison-breaks, zealous and megalomaniacal villains, and alliances of convenience between our mismatched protagonists, who must work together to save the day (and hopefully get paid).
It's not just the Chris Pratt show, though. All of the actors and actresses do an amazing job of bringing to life some of Marvel's stranger heroes and villains. Dave Bautista pleasantly surprised me in the role of Drax with the competency of his acting, while Zoe Saldana was as terrific as ever as a beautiful femme fatale. Bradley Cooper's Rocket was sardonic and acerbic, while Vin Diesel brought a surprising amount of character to Groot, despite having only five different words to speak throughout the movie. That's not a joke – through inflection and tone, he really did do a great job of conveying the big bush's emotions.
As you've no doubt come to expect from Marvel by now, the visuals are stunning. The CGI really is top-notch, whether we're talking about motion-capture anthropomorphised trees or rodents, or very cool, retro looking spaceships. There's plenty of space for good old-fashioned body paint too, mind, with plenty of red, pink, yellow, blue, and little green men (or women!). I really recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D where possible – it's well worth shelling out the few extra quid! There are plenty of little nods and winks to keep an eye out for. I was only half paying attention during the scenes in the Collector's quarters, so determined was I to spot some half-hidden easter egg!
In case you haven't guessed already, I freaking loved Guardians of the Galaxy. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry, it'll make you believe a tree can dance... a witty, action-packed, rip-roaring romp of a sci-fi adventure, and a fantastic new entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that's more than capable of standing up to the big boys!
Liam Salt (@SaltLiam)