Featuring an assemble cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest superhero adventure from Marvel.
The story sees a group of mismatched smugglers, warriors and badasses brought together to take on Ronan (Lee Pace), a largely by-numbers bad guy who wants control of a mysterious orb with the power to destroy the universe.
Fans of Marvel’s Avengers range will be pleased to see the return of Benicio del Toro as ‘The Collector’, a character previously seen at the end of Thor: The Dark World, who holds the key to orb’s location.
But although the film takes place in the same narrative universe as the Avengers series, it feels a lot more comic book geek than the previous films and lacks their ‘accessible to all’ tone and feel.
A good example of this is a roll-call of characters with unfamiliar sci-fi names – Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Yondu, Korath – and the presence of a talking tree, voiced by Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, a genetically modified racoon.
This array of colourful characters look like they’ve just left the Star Wars cantina or The Search for Spock’s bar and are at odds with the relatively ordinariness of the Steve’s, Bruce’s and Tony’s which viewers know from the Avengers films.
Perhaps for this reason writers James Gunn and Nicole Perlman opt to start the story on Earth with the abduction of a young Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) on the eve of his mother’s death.
But the film then instantly skips forward 26 years and presents Quill as the self-styled Star-Lord, an Indiana Jones/Han Solo adventurer.
Whereas Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Solider place personal experience and loss at the heart of their stories, Guardians makes little effort to explain what happened to Quill in the intervening years.
The audience is expected simply to accept that the small child learned to adapt and carved himself a role in a world completely different to the one he spent his formative years on.
Introducing Quill and his team in a single two-hour film inevitably robs them of the more detailed backgrounds of the Avengers and what explanation there is takes a distant second place behind the noisy and well executed action sequences.
As a consequence the film’s characters are fairly broad-brush ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys – there’s little attempt to add mystery and no room for the sides-swapping scheming of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.
I’ve always maintained that one of the strengths of the Avengers films is the ability of audiences to enter the franchise at any point and enjoy the action with almost no pre-knowledge.
But with Guardians of the Galaxy I felt that I was watching a surface level introduction to the characters and repeatedly suspected that I was supposed to ‘get’ little nods and glances to a comic range I’ve never read which would fill in the gaps.
The new film looks good, has plenty of laughs, a decent ensemble cast and is a very enjoyable action flick, but it ultimately feels thinner and less satisfying than Marvel’s earlier films and far less sophisticated than recent entries such as The Winter Soldier.