Chris Pratt leads a ragtag bunch of unlikely superheroes on a quest to save the cosmos in Marvel's witty bubblegum romp
Marvel Studios' new superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy is a smart, funny, self-aware bubblegum movie; like the recent X-Men film Days of Future Past, it features a retro playlist indicating an increasing possibility that middle youth, as well as actual youth, is an important target audience.
Chris Pratt (from TV's Parks and Recreation) plays the Han-Solo-ish intergalactic freebooter Peter Quill, whose cynicism masks an inner hurt: he was abducted from Earth as a little kid just after his mom had died of cancer – a classic touch of comic-book fantasy, alchemising pain into superheroism – and always carries around the old-fashioned Sony Walkman with a mixtape his mother made for him. (A very prominent British producer once told me pop soundtrack riches like these induce stunned awe in indie film-makers – only the big studios can pay the staggering copyright fees.)
Quill has found himself in possession of a mysterious orb that certain ruthlessly villainous parties would like to have, and this compels him to team up with a ragtag crew of space adventurers whose story takes place in surroundings made to look like classic photorealist sci-fi paperback covers. There is a huge Tolkienian creature in the shape of a tree called Groot (played in motion-capture by Vin Diesel), the enormous musclebound, oddly coloured hombre Drax (Dave Bautista), a strangely beautiful female alien with the off-puttingly biblical name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Rocket, a cunning little talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, with hints of Nathan Lane's Timon from The Lion King and the meerkat in the TV advert who says "simples".
Fate has entrusted this absurd bunch with the task of saving the galaxy, and they are hardly up to the job: in a witty satire of the traditional supercool all-abreast walk that such a cast might do, Rocket is uncomfortably pulling at his costume's crotch, Gamora yawning uncontrollably. It pulls off the difficult trick of combining sprightly self-satire combined with that operatic self-belief that superhero stories need.
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