Writer: Casey Chong
Overall: 4.0 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 4.0 Out of 5
Effects: 5.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 5.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: “Star Wars”, “Serenity” and “The Avengers”
It's Marvel Studios' biggest gamble yet since the then-risky big screen adaptation of "Iron Man" back in 2008 and it's easy to see why: the comic book existence of "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is practically unheard of for mainstream viewers and even for some die-hard comic book fans as well. Still it's always interesting to see a prominent movie studio willing to shell out lots of money (reportedly US$170 million) to risk such a big budget production that has zero-to-little fanbase - at least judging from a mainstream perspective. But thankfully Marvel Studios or more appropriately, director James Gunn along with his dedicated cast and crew has manage to defy the odds and silence the naysayers (or skeptics, that is) by turning a little-known property like "Guardians Of The Galaxy" into a vibrant and exciting sci-fi adventure worthy of a 'summer movie blockbuster' title.
"Guardians Of The Galaxy" begins with a prologue explaining how a 9-year-old kid Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleff) gets sucked into a spacecraft from planet Earth. Now as an adult, Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) becomes a space outlaw-for-hire working for Yondu (Michael Rooker), the leader of the Ravagers who raised him all these years. The story proper takes place when he is tasked to retrieve a mysterious orb from an abandoned planet and later finds himself facing all sorts of enemies - including green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou) who both work for Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and giant walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). After their first encounter, the four main characters - Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot - get arrested and thrown into prison where they meet a vengeful convict named Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who desperately wants to kill Ronan for murdering his family. Nevertheless, these five mismatched individuals eventually agree to help each other out and work together as an unlikely team to settle the score against Ronan.
Prior to "Guardians Of The Galaxy", James Gunn is hardly known as a mainstream Hollywood filmmaker at all. However, his geeky knowledge of B-movie fun - seen in genre movies such as "Slither" (horror) or "Super" (superhero) - and his trademark blend of self-aware comedy, suits him well for this brand of movie. Also for a first timer handling a large-scale production, Gunn's direction is savvy enough on delivering a near-perfect mix of razzle-dazzle action, colourful but compelling characters and an engaging sense of humour that puts the "fun" back into the comic book genre. It's almost as if Gunn is channeling director Joss Whedon from "The Avengers", and that's a compliment.
The plot, in the meantime, is actually simple but what makes "Guardians Of The Galaxy" so compulsively watchable is the efficient way of Gunn and Nicole Perlman's storytelling method. In fact, it also helps when the movie is paced fast enough to make its two-hour running time feel like a breeze.
Chris Pratt is both funny and dramatic as Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord. His spirited performance reminds this reviewer of a young and energetic Harrison Ford when he did "Star Wars" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" back in his heydays. No doubt this is a fantastic year for Chris Pratt, who already made a great impression voicing Emmet for "The Lego Movie". Equally captivating as well is Zoe Saldana, who delivers a charismatic performance as Gamora while looking swell showing off her amazing fighting skill. WWE champion and MMA fighter-turned-actor Dave Bautista gives a better-than-expected performance as Drax the Destroyer where his character is particularly amusing for his lack of understanding in 'metaphor language'. But the biggest highlight of all is the eccentric but wonderful chemistry between Rocket and Groot. Bradley Cooper delivers a perfectly sarcastic and funny voice performance as Rocket, while Vin Diesel surprises a lot with his good-natured but deadly performance as Groot - this reviewer really enjoys the way he says "I am Groot".- Supporting cast; including Djimon Hounsou, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro (reprising his role as The Collector after appearing briefly in "Thor: The Dark World"), are equally competent.
Special effects are top notch here and especially spectacular if you happen to watch this on IMAX 3D. The expansive production values are simply eye-catching. Kudos also goes to the brilliant selection of feel-good soundtracks such as Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love", Blue Swede's "Hooked On A Feeling" (which is featured prominently in the trailer), The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" as well as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" that really does a great job of keeping you in a jovial spirit throughout the movie.
The downside of this movie is Lee Pace's lackluster performance as the main villain, Ronan the Accuser. Not only that, those who are expecting an all-out great battle in the finale will be mostly left disappointed.
Still, if you can get over some of the little flaws here and there, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" remains a splendid entertainment worth watching on the big screen.
Cinema Online, 30 July 2014