Guardians of the Galaxy

WRITTEN BY: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, 
Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker 
RATING: 4.5 stars

In Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn delivers an imaginative and fresh take on the Marvel universe, with stunning visual effects, costumes and make-up. The use of 70's and 80's music in the most unusual situations is also very effective. Any film with a soundtrack that makes you want to dance and references Kevin Bacon and/or Footloose gets two thumbs up from me. But there is a lot more to Guardians of the Galaxy than that. In the latest Marvel film, there are no Avengers - this is all about new characters in space. There are a few nods to the Avengers, particularly Thor, but this film seems to be the start of a new wave of Marvel films - and it is very exciting.

Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, (Chris Pratt) is abducted from Earth as a child after his mother dies and becomes an adventurous thief in space. When he steals a mysterious silver orb wanted by the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace), Quill finds himself being hunted by several people. Quill joins forces with an unlikely team of misfits including a raccoon named Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). When they learn the true power of the orb, Quill and his team decide to work together to save the galaxy.

I never would have thought of casting Pratt as a superhero, but he is a wonderful addition to the Marvel films. As a comedian, he brings some great laughs to the role and, as has been widely reported, he lost a lot of fat and built up muscle for the role. Saldana is likeable and a good romantic match for Pratt. Cooper actually gives one of his best performances ever, while Diesel is surprisingly sympathetic and Bautista is convincing with his gruff presence. Pace is also a worthy villain. Small, but important, roles have been given to seasoned actors including Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector. It will be exciting to see where the next film takes the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) character.

Die hard fans will notice some differences between the comics and the film, especially for characters like the thieving Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) but they should not be too disappointed. Guardians of the Galaxy is a thrilling and fun film, and worth seeing at the cinema in 3D.