Bold risk taking it may be but Marvel Studios have once again given reigns to an exciting director with an original vision to make the latest Marvel outing. Iron Man 3 benefited from the sharp tongue of Shane Black and now Guardians of the Galaxy has been successfully brought to the screen by the subversive irreverence of Slither director James Gunn. Striving relentlessly for fun adventuring, Gunn makes every effort to make Guardians of the Galaxy the most entertaining and downright enjoyable Marvel film to date. He succeeds at this with help from whip-smart dialogue, engaging performances and terrific action.
Leading the Guardian pack is Peter Quill or Star Lord as his egotistic personality would have you believe. Chris Pratt delivers a charming and funny performance, playing Star Lord like an alternative Han Solo for a new generation, balancing humour, heroics and emotion to great effect. Pratt packs plenty of charisma to the role but he's joined by solid support from a great ensemble cast. Firstly, Dave Batista surprises as Drax. The WWE star shows some surprising talent at deadpan humour along with the obligatory tough guy persona. Zoe Saldana's Gamora is finally a strong female character who isn't regarded as mere eye candy which plagues Scarlett Johanson's Black Widow. And then we have the animated duo Rocket and Groot, both voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively. Both CG creations are brought vividly to life - their characters almost as three dimensional as their human counterparts. What impresses most with the characters is how they are all given sufficient screen time and a backstory so that we care for them.
Visually, Guardians of the Galaxy is a stunner. Colours positively burst from the screen as if from a Pixar movie. The rather saturated Captain America Winter Soldier is positively bland and lifeless compared to the astonishingly vibrant world brought to life in Guardians. Outstanding artistic design and expansive, highly detailed vistas also impress. The colourful visuals also represent the true look of a comic book movie. Iconic characters have always been well adapted from page to screen but Guardians manages to nail the exaggerated colour scheme without feeling like overkill.
Plot-wise we aren't treated to anything groundbreaking. It's typical ancient artifact chasing between good people and one very bad person who wants to use said artifact to destroy the universe. Despite this, the engaging characters and terrific action sequences more than compensate a deliberately simplistic storyline. One weakness which applies to all Marvel films in my opinion are the villains. Our villain Ronan (Lee Pace) commits to plenty of cold blooded murdering and evil stares but there's no personality behind his cold eyes.
Guardians of the Galaxy excels on so many levels. It was a breath of fresh air to have so much fun in the company of cool new characters in a fresh new world brought to life with love and care from everyone involved. James Gunn adapts his eccentricities into some well constructed set pieces involving a prison break and Star Wars inspired dog-fighting. There's no evidence of studio intervention tarnishing Gunn's vision. This is through and through a James Gunn movie from its subversive tone to the regular actors that pop up who feature in the director's other works. I hope, despite the resignation of Edgar Wright that Marvel can continue to employ directors who have their own unique style and vision to bring adaptations to life just like James Gunn has done with his beginning to a new cinematic franchise.
Verdict - JJ Abrams has a tough task ahead if he is to make his new Star Wars adventure as much fun as James Gunn's brilliant new entry to the Marvel franchise.