At this point in time in the MARVEL cinematic universe, anyone who considers new cosmic release Guardians of the Galaxy 'a risk' is frankly deluded. Seriously, stick the Marvel logo on any property and both bags of cash and budding fans clutching figurines will be charging their way, the superhero renaissance is truly in the palm of their hands. The Guardians of the galaxy is simply another step (granted a more significant one) in their ever growing franchise, heading presumably for a climactic Avengers 3 and most definitely more. Although Guardians of the Galaxy is an inexcusable stepping stone, it is one however which can be hugely enjoyed on its own, something the other solo movies lack, with its brash humour and general entertainment value making it unique.
Abducted from earth as a child Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) grows to become 'Starlord' a cosmic smuggler of all things shiny and expensive, one of which, a mysterious silver orb, is much wanted as he finds many will kill for it. Eventually he crafts a team of outlaws, including a walking/talking tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a raccoon, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) an assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and a warrior, Drax (Dave Bautista), to defend the orb and take it to safety whilst being pursued by the sinister Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Having met none of these characters before in any form of popular media, the film does a very good job in introducing each of them, doing so progressively, almost like a set of solo movies, gradually introducing them into the story once the last character has received sufficient development. Some characters did work better than others however, actually more specifically the only one which really didn't work was Gamora who is supposedly a master assassin but who often found herself in inescapable situations; her personality wasn't really fleshed out and didn't go further than 'brooding'. Each of the other characters work very well with Chris Pratt as Starlord leading the pack well with sufficient charisma giving evident heart to his character, whilst the remaining three are provide the majority of the simple entertainment and comedic moments. The film however doesn't have to try very hard to make us revel in its fun as this is simply an effortless task, as within a franchise of such saturation, forced to love the same characters over and over again, any change from the typical order is lovingly embraced, especially when that change is seen drastically in the form of a talking tree and raccoon. This mini team-up of tree and animal does quite the opposite of what one would expect, being seemingly there for childish merchandise purposes when in reality they actually provide much of the films grit and dark nature. As cute and fun as Groot is, many of his attacks are harsh and sinister, and when entwined with Rockets rather stern Chicago based persona the couple become less cute and cuddly and more disturbing yet entertaining.
Branching out from the typical story of the MARVEL universe which we know (and are beginning to rapidly get tired of), Guardians of the galaxy is certainly a breath of fresh air into the franchise being a change to the often light, cotton woolled story inserting a dose of gritty sci-fi action. This release dares to be different and feels far more like an expansion of the growing story, branching out into the cosmos onto planets which we will surely begin to know more about as the franchise continues. It is impossible to ignorable however the continued narrative formula seen in nearly all MARVEL films whereby each film follows an easily recognisable and safe route, to the point where we begin to not care about the characters as we know they will survive. The same happens at the end of this film, wasting time with meaningless sympathy for characters which we know will be fine, in this sense the Guardians of the galaxy does just feel like 'another stepping stone' as whilst it may be a new property, the story and familiar clichés remain. One of the only linking factors to the other films in the series is that of the main series villain, Thanos, barely played by Josh Brolin in his lacklustre appearance in the film. Thanos' appearance in the film is rather lacklustre, looking more like a ball of purple playdough pathetically created by a toddler than 'the universes greatest threat'. Quite the opposite was Ronan the Accuser who instead could be taken seriously with a strikingly sinister appearance, black liquid seeping from his eyes and mouth, his huge cloak and staff commanding the shot. Shame then that his character was largely boring and directionless, his actions usually unexplained or simply uninteresting.
Helped by its unique properties of characters and soundtrack, Guardians of the galaxy is MARVELS most refreshing release to date and perhaps even its best. Seeing the team interact with the Avengers is something nearly every fan is eager to see as it is clear that MARVEL has aided in reinvigorating the franchise with memorable protagonists, a unique style and established humour.
8/10- The best film of phase 2, and perhaps phase 1 too, Guardians of the Galaxy is a huge amount of fun and just what the franchise needed.