Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy L to R: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) Ph: Film Frame ©Marvel 2014


DIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldahna, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Glen Close, Djimoun Hounsou


RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

RATING: ****



YOU KNOW how critics sometimes say a film is just like a comic book? Well, this one totally is a comic book, literally. It is not a series of animated strips, though there are computer generated images aplenty.

Nor is it the hyperstylised, seriously kinetic images from Frank Miller’s Sin City. It is also not quite Marvel’s Avengers as envisioned by Joss Whedon (dry, self-referential and a very natural look).

This is real people moving through realistic space. Outer space that is, so there is a huge fantastical element to it. And a walking tree. And a gun-toting raccoon.

What makes you think comic though is not the tree or the raccoon, but that wide-eyed sense of glee that you get right from the opening sequence. Director James Gunn has recreated that feeling you experienced as a 10-year-old when you read your first comic book set in outer space, your sister playing a mix tape of The Runaways, David Bowie and the Pina Colada song in the next room: Sort of a thrilling kick to the gut which led to this happy little glow in the head, while your brain slowly leaked out the top of your now expanded and opened mind.

There are bright, sharp visuals plus zany jokes and a heartfelt message about finding yourself through community (see, that is not so much a Joss Whedon trait as a message often found in comic books).

The huge dollop of smug self-awareness to be found in this movie is balanced by the sheer fun of a story set in a place that does not exist, in a wholly different reality so it can be anything and work just fine.

It entails a puny human and his rag tag band of friends in a tiny little ship out in the huge, lurid coloured outer space, standing up against some big bad guy with extreme super powers.

It is a fairly obvious storyline, so do not expect any clever underlying political shenanigans or serious expansion of your know- ledge of how physics actually works. (Things just work in comic books, regardless of Bose-Einstein Condensation or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle).

The fun lies in how the storyline plays out – equal measures of splendid special effects, charm and surprisingly well-grounded characters.

Chris Pratt mixes up equal measures of insouciance and endearing vulnerability as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord – he is a smart aleck, but we like this plucky little human standing up to all these weird aliens, with his helmet that makes Boba Fett look like a loser, and a walkman on his belt.

He is a scavenger, kidnapped from Earth as a child, but there is something deeper at work here.

While he may show off a lot (seriously, who dances his way across an environmentally unsound planet on his way to steal stuff?), this is actually one emotionally damaged human, who will provide some meaty characterisation in the next film.

And there will be one.

This time Zoe Saldahna is green and not blue, but she still has the killer moves as Gamora, who pricks Star-Lord’s self-important bubble any time she can with a total deadpan look. And who knew that Dave Bautista would be able to credibly act past multiple tattoos and blue skin? He does.

Bradley Cooper makes a great irritable-because-he’s-so-smart raccoon and Vin Diesel may only have a few words but what words. Such style, such grace under pressure…

You do not have to be a fan that can explain the nuts and bolts of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe to get what is going on here, or to like it. But, if you think comic books are a waste of time, then this might not be quite your tribble.

If you liked Star Trek or Avengers, you will like this.