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Film Talk: Looking Back – WE are Groot with Guardians of the Galaxy

Can a fantastic comic-book flick also stand up as a bona fide comedy gem? Yes it can, and here is where such a magnificent specimen finally arrived...

Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy
Zoe Saldana and Chris Pratt in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by James Gunn, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy brought the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) firmly into the world of grown-up humour, and stands as one of the greatest entries in the series to date.

Based on the Marvel superhero team of the same name that were – prior to the movie – largely unknown to the masses, the flick features an ensemble cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper as the titular Guardians, along with Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro in supporting roles.

Work reportedly began on the screenplay back in 2009, with Marvel Studios big wig Kevin Feige first publicly mentioning Guardians of the Galaxy as a potential film in 2010. Marvel Studios announced it was in active development at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, and from then on, the buzz was firmly set around how this collection of fan-boy favourite Marvel misfits would translate to the big screen.

With a talented team on the books, the potential for success was always there. But in focussing on a less-than-mainstream segment of its character pantheon, would Marvel Studios exceed the grasp of the magic it had churned out so far?..

Nearly three decades after an alien encounter whisked him away from planet Earth, haphazard intergalactic outlaw Peter Quill (Pratt) steals a precious artefact, intent on selling it for a huge chunk of proverbial ‘cheddar cheese’.

However, the happy-go-lucky scavenger may have bitten off much more than he can chew, as the artefact is also of great interest to intergalactic warlord Ronan the Accuser (Pace), who will stop at nothing to get hold of it.

Soon finding himself at the sharp end of the law and locked in an ‘inescapable’ prison, Quill is forced to form a shaky alliance with his fellow inmates: highly-trained assassin Gamora (Saldana); former criminal Drax the Destroyer (Bautista); genetically enhanced raccoon Rocket (Cooper), and a tree-like creature whose bark is certainly worse than his bite, Groot (Diesel).

With his new rag-tag allies in tow, will Quill be able to escape his fate and thwart Ronan’s evil plans, or will his nature as a universally-renowned slacker prevent him from being the galaxy’s last hope?..

Released as part of Phase Two of the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy became a critical and commercial success, grossing $772.8 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014, as well as the third-highest-grossing film of that year.

The flick was highly praised for its screenplay, direction, acting, humour, soundtrack, visual effects, and action sequences, and at the Oscars it received nominations for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

With fantastic performances particularly from Pratt, Saldana, Bautista and Cooper, Guardians of the Galaxy featured a kind of chemistry between its cast that is essential for any great comedy film to work, and the kind that is rarely seen in comic-book flicks. Somewhat atypical of the movies of the MCU, this one requires absolutely zero pre-knowledge of the characters or prior enthusiasm for the Marvel world to be appreciated, and stands alone in its own right as one of the funniest flicks of the last 20 years.

Its sequel – the equally hilarious Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – partners it perfectly for a double-feature of comedic brilliance, and I wait with bated breath for the third in the series, due with us next year. Awesome from start to finish, Guardians is a modern classic of no mistaking and almost Marvel Studios’ finest effort so far.

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