Friday, 15 August 2014


A space epic with charm, wit – and a raccoon played by Bradley Cooper

Written by Kat Brown
kat brown1-BWI wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of this. I rather wanted to stay at home, where I am entirely free of films based on obscure comic books in which a raccoon is best friends with a tree. But there are lots of things I don’t particularly want to do that turn out to be highly satisfactory, and this funny, moving space adventure proved to be one of them.

For this film, Marvel Studios has plundered a lesser-known comic series, and despite the misgivings of boringly singleminded X-Men fans like me, it’s the right choice. Guardians is a wonderful flashback to the space cartoons that peppered Saturdaymorning TV in the 1980s – colourful, funny, filled with good music. And it’s the only Marvel film to date that’s made me cry.

In 1988, young Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by space pirates, just moments after he has seen his mother die in hospital. All he has with him are his tape player and her cassette tape. Years later he has become a charismatic outlaw, with the same cassette tape: an early scene shows him dancing across an alien planet before pulling a fast one on his teammates and pinching a mystical orb to take to a collector. It’s all done brilliantly, and a taster of the all-round enjoyment that director and co-writer James Gunn brings to his first Marvel film.

Both Quill’s space-pirate boss, Yondu, and a fanatical alien called Ronan want the orb, and while Yondu issues a bounty for Quill’s capture, Ronan sends his assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana, working her way through Hollywood’s body-paint palette as a green killer), much to the annoyance of her sister Nebula (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan, stealing more body paint as a wonderfully sulky blue cyborg).

The bounty attracts Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon, and his tree-like accomplice Groot (Vin Diesel), and after they join in a battle between Quill and Gamora, the four of them are shipped off to prison, where they form an alliance with vengeful prisoner Drax, and plan an escape to sell the orb to someone else entirely. But there’s always someone who ruins it for everyone, and Ronan wants to use the orb to blow up a planet.

I haven’t been this charmed by an ensemble cast since Star Trek. A smart script offers plenty of room to get to know these characters, led by Chris Pratt’s ridiculous Quill. Gamora, at first sight your typical humourless space chick, has a wonderful line describing Quill’s attempt to dance with her as ‘pelvic sorcery’. Cooper’s Rocket has a blast as a machine-gun-wielding raccoon, while Vin Diesel makes a walking tree adorable.

The only niggles are villains that verge on the implausible and an awful clanger of a line when Drax, who is entirely literal, calls Gamora a ‘whore’. In an earlier version she apparently had an excellent comeback. This inexplicable omission scratches the paintwork on an otherwise wonderfully entertaining film.

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