"Guardians of the Galaxy" movie review - The ballad of Hollywood Dave (a/k/a WWE star Dave Bautista)
By Darren Gutteridge
You knew Marvel was taking a risk when the performance of Dave Bautista was not one of the most concerning things on my mind when going in to Guardians of the Galaxy. An outlandish concept adapted from a fairly low-level comic, starring an untested lead actor making the jump from a cult sitcom to action movies, flanked by a talking raccoon and a walking tree, sounds like the recipe for disaster. Hell, Dave was playing a muscle bound guy who talks with his fists, so he had the best chance of coming out unscathed just by doing what he's been doing in the WWE for years.
So it was with an air of trepidation that I sat down to watch Guardians. And two hours later, I damn near broke all UK etiquette by standing up and applauding out of relief that not only had they not tanked the whole Marvel brand, but they had actually put together one of the most lighthearted and funny superhero movies ever made.
I'll report on what will likely be of interest to most of us on here first. Batista plays Drax the Destroyer, and it turns out calling him a "Well built guy who talks with his fists" is actually doing the character a disservice. Drax is a psychopath, driven mad by the death of his wife and daughter, a set-up that drives him to being the focal point of most of the hand to hand battles the team have. But on the flip side, when violence is replaced by humor (a regular occurrence), he actually brings plenty of laughs too. Drax is well spoken, but is completely oblivious to metaphors and figures of speak. That may sound vague, but you'll understand why this is funny with almost his first line of dialogue.
Elsewhere, the other areas of the film that could have been a train-wreck turn into it's greatest strengths. Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is a real diamond, and I'm glad the director James Gunn fought the temptation to put him front and centre at all times, ala Jack Sparrow in the later Pirates of the Caribbean films. It means he's memorable, but not over-saturated, with is good news considering their will be a GOTG 2. The same goes for the tree creature Groot, who chips in with arguably the films biggest laughs.
Chris Pratt is a lovable tribute to Han Solo. Equal parts comedian and self-styled "outlaw", he owns the role completely. All thoughts of Parks and Recreation are pushed aside momentarily, but it never feels like Pratt is trying to distance himself from the slightly dumb humor that got him noticed in his TV work. And Zoe Saldana essentially plays the plot driving device in her role as Gamora. She holds her own in both action and comedy sections, but she's ever so slightly lost in the shuffle alongside four standout performances.
The villains are similar drown out among this origins story. Ronan (I don't believe he's referred to by his comic book name Ronan the Accuser in the film) is another example of the interchangeable villains that plague all Marvel movies. Seriously, outside of Loki and maybe the Red Skull, which film had a memorable villain? (And I mean memorable for the right reasons, unlike The Mandarin in Iron Man 3). He is a presence, and you vaguely know what his deal is, but he could have been swapped with Malekith from Thor: The Dark World and you wouldn't know. Nebula, played by Doctor Who sidekick Karen Gillan, is similarly one note.
Plot wise, this isn't new ground that Marvel is breaking in terms of story. There's a magical mcguffin, that must be kept out of enemy hands, lest it be used to blow up the world. Essentially, it's the same as The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America. But where this movie diverges is in the aforementioned interplay between funny and fighting. The action is clean cut and easy to follow, which is saying a lot in such a CGI heavy movie, and mixes things up nicely between hand to hand and space combat.
And enough can't be said about the films humor. While I'd still say Kick-Ass is the funniest comic book movie, this is certainly the funniest film either Marvel or DC have put out. Only once did I think a jump from heavy material to laughs was unnecessary.
There really is little to criticize. It's handicapped by deeper rooted Marvel Studios problems (same plot, weak villain characterization, etc.), but it combats that with humor, action presented in a way it hasn't been presented before (THIS is how you do a "cosmic" movie, Green Lantern!), and a really good '70s/'80s soundtrack. Regardless of your feelings of Dave Batista the wrestler, you owe it to yourself to go see Dave Bautista, the actor. You'll be glad you did.
And make sure you stick around for possibly the most out of left field post-credits scene in superhero movie history. Speaking of which, there is an article on my website about the Top 7 Post-Credit Scenes. Use the link below if you're interested.
Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts on this article, add me on Twitter (@DazatheG) or visit my website, Thegutteridgelog.co.uk.
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