It’s immediately clear that Guardians Of The Galaxy isn’t a typical Marvel superhero story. The film opens with an alien abduction set to the brilliantly unlikely strains of 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’. It doesn’t stop there – the soundtrack consistently pairs director James Gunn’s ambitious space chase with classic pop and rock. Later, David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’ plays over a ramshackle ship’s journey to a place called Knowhere.
The film is based on one of Marvel’s lesser-known comics, originally published in 1969. The story concerns a disparate bunch of heroes who join forces against baddie Ronan The Accuser and his quest for galaxial power. There’s a machine gun-toting raccoon called Rocket, a Vin Diesel-voiced tree whose catchphrase is “I am Groot”, WWE wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax The Destroyer, and Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned Gamora. Self-proclaimed “dude” Peter Quill (superhero name Star-Lord), played by Chris Pratt, is their leader. Introducing himself as “an a-hole but not 100 per cent a dick”, he’s a compelling character, one that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has described as “Marty McFly meets Han Solo”.
It’s 1988 when we meet the young Quill, who treasures his Walkman and a mixtape given to him by his dying mother. Reared by a motley crew of space pirates after her death, he grows up a mercenary selling found booty. His Walkman obsession sparks a love of gadgets, and his arsenal of tech toys helps him become the saviour of the galaxy.
Director Gunn, who impressed with 2010 alt-hero flick Super, rips up the blueprint of the Marvel movies that first introduced Iron Man, Captain America and the Avengers. His screenplay carefully weaves their backstories into an evolving alien world. Humour is his main weapon. Peter Quill’s rag-tag team bicker constantly about whose galaxy-saving plan is best. Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon is hilarious – he scene-steals throughout, notably while on the shoulders of Vin Diesel’s eight-foot humanoid tree, shooting enemies. Elsewhere, there are cameos from John C Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz and former Dr Who assistant Karen Gillan, who shaved her head for the role of angry warrior Nebula.
Overall, Guardians Of The Galaxy is something of a curveball. Geeks will enjoy its hidden comic-book jokes and hints at future plot lines. There’s plenty for the uninitiated too, with a zero-gravity prison break, Star Wars-style aerial dogfights and, just when you’re expecting the hero versus villain showdown, a comedy dance-off featuring Quill’s “pelvic sorcery”.
As the credits roll – confirming that Guardians Of The Galaxy will return for a sequel – Gunn’s film leaves you with the same feeling of childish wonder as seeing sci-fi for the first time.