Retro Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Thor:Ragnarok releasing, and having such a cosmic vibe to it, here’s my review from another cosmic powered Marvel film.  This review was originally published on an external site.

Back in 1985 I was introduced to one of the most bizarre characters that Marvel have thrown out through the years, Rocket Raccoon. In the span of a four part mini-series I was captivated by this creation, a roguish genetically altered Raccoon with a fetish for technology and weapons. Over the years the character cropped up again once or twice in comics such as Quasar and Exiles, but it was in the 2008 revamp of the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book that really brought the character back as a key member of the ragtag team of miscreants of the title. This comic series is the inspiration for this new entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the plans were announced to venture out to the Cosmic Universe in the Marvel films, I was sceptical. Yes, as a fan of the source material I knew I would be able to accept a talking raccoon, walking tree, and alien overlords battling for cosmic stones, but would the general public be as accepting? The trailers and marketing strategy showed a confidence that Disney and Marvel had in delivering a film for all, and the past few months have been a long wait to see the end product. With high expectations, could the film deliver for me as a fan, and for the general audience?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”


The film sees Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), taken from Earth in the late ’80s, who grows to become a roguish thief for hire as an adult, using the moniker ‘Starlord’. Using an array of gadgets and weapons, he is on a job to retrieve an ancient orb, when he finds himself with a bounty on his head, and a variety of characters after him. Among them are a genetically engineered Raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a living tree named Groot (Vin Diesel), and the daughter of Thanos (the overlord we glimpsed briefly at the end of Avengers), Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The ragtag group are thrown together, along with a warrior named Drax (Dave Bautista), and somehow end up becoming the last hope the galaxy has to prevent a Kree warlord named Ronan (Lee Pace) from destroying everything.
This is not your typical band of heroes. They are all criminals, and they not only bicker, but in some cases have total animosity toward each other. But rest assured, as the film progresses you will not only accept them, but will come to love them. Quill gets an early start to this thanks to a fantastically fun swaggering dance over the opening credits, Pratt delivering roguish charm that would leave Han Solo in the shade. This opening sequence sets the laid back, fun tone that the rest of the film follows, and whilst there is peril and danger, you are never too far from a sly joke to break the tension. At the core of the team stand Rocket and Groot, who despite being CGI characters actually feel more real at times than the rest of the cast. Groot has a childlike charm to him, which he manages to convey via the use of just three words, and Rocket, despite all his bravado, is the driving force behind keeping the team together.
Director James Gunn seemed like a curious choice for a Marvel film, given his previous works Slither and Super being dark humoured, and very adult films. Then again, Marvel have made a routine of picking curious choices to direct – from Favreau and Whedon, to Brannagh and The Russo Brothers – so why should Gunn be any different. Whilst he ditches his darker tone, he retains his flair for comic timing and character building, meaning that in among the explosions and effects (and there are many), we never lose focus on the heart of the story – the creation of this team of Guardians.


Visually the film is a stunning compilation of battles, thrills, and space-set excitement, and the film borrows heavily from old school sci-fi adventures, giving a vibrant, colourful look to the locations. Planets hang in swirling clouds of cosmic gases, and twin suns rotate around each other, whilst brightly painted ships swoop around in poetic motion. This film is a visual treat, and harkens back to the excitement of films such as those in the Star Wars franchise.
Throw in a mix-tape soundtrack, presented as an actual mix-tape that young Peter Quill had on him when he was abducted from Earth all those years ago, which is packed with genuine catchy hits, and a smattering of cheese, and all the elements combine to deliver one of the finest summertime blockbusters that we have had in years – in fact, since Avengers.

Fans of the comics will have plenty to watch out for, and will take delight in cameos and references to the wider scope of the setting. Those who don’t know the source material needn’t worry as the film rides along with such joyful abandon that you will simply be swept along with it, and before you know you are exiting the screen, dancing along to the Jackson Five with a beaming smile on your face.
Guardians of the Galaxy may have been a risky outing for Marvel Studios, but the film they have delivered has just raised the bar in the comic-book movie world. Where DC failed to go cosmic with Green Lantern, Marvel have succeeded.

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