[alert-announce] Verdict: 3.5 stars out of 5. An excellent ensemble cast brings the best out of their less than famous characters, resulting in a fun (if somewhat uneven) romp with lots of action and humour. The real stars here are Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket – you’ll never look at raccoons the same way again. This Guardians of the Galaxy review can conclude: Marvel’s Phase II gamble has more than paid off.  [/alert-announce]

It begins with a childhood trauma: Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) mother, lying on her deathbed, gives her young son one last parting gift. Then, he is suddenly abducted by an alien spaceship, and spirited away from hearth and home.

Fast forward almost two decades, and we find Quill on the far reaches of space, now known as the space adventurer Han Solo Indiana Jones  Starlord. Still using his childhood Walkman (one of many loving tributes to the 1980s by director James Gunn, especially the soundtrack), he plugs in and begins conducting his own performance on an abandoned planet. It’s a fitting platform for Pratt to show us all just why he is about to become a huge star.

Right from the get go, you know that this isn’t going to be your average Marvel movie. Kicking off with a stunning set piece where Quill steals an artifact and goes on the run from the people guarding it (think Raiders of the Lost Ark), we are drawn into a somewhat convoluted storyline that is the payoff to all those Marvel movie post-credit scenes (hint: think back to Thor and Thor The Dark World).

Guardians of the Galaxy
©Marvel Studios

Teasers and Easter eggs aside, the artifact is what draws our motley crew together: – the wisecracking Rocket (a hilarious Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and the talking tree Groot (Vin Diesel).  It’s a very good ensemble with very good chemistry, though Bautista’s performance is somewhat wooden. Saldana is  the weakest link here, and a strangely bland presence among the male-dominated quintet.

There are lots of laughs to be had, from the leading man (“There’s a little pee coming out of me right now”) to Rocket to the hilariously literal Drax (“Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast.”). In fact, every time things threaten to get serious, Gunn deliberately undercuts proceedings with a note of bathos. Starlord must be the only man in the known universe to successfully pick up a woman with a Footloose (1984) reference. And wait till you check out his dance routine.

©Marvel Studios
©Marvel Studios

Now we come to the perennial problem in Marvel – and superhero – movies in general: the lack of a fully fleshed out villain. Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) looks and sounds pretty badass, and…that’s it. No real explanation of his motivation or back story or Kree heritage, while fanboys eagerly awaiting his master Thanos (Josh Brolin) may be sorely disappointed, though he’s probably being held back for future movies.

Karen Gillan a.k.a. the former Amy Pond looks magnificent as Nebula, but doesn’t have very much to do besides yell at her henchmen. She’s still far more interesting than Gamora, though. 

All in all, it’s a very, very fun and funny space adventure, amplified by the 1980s soundtrack. Despite the somewhat choppy editing in lead up to the final battle, the movie is more than worth your time and money. As for the post-credit scene – all I can say is that only hardcore comics fans will get the reference.

Guardians of the Galaxy opens in Singapore today! Before you watch it, check out what happened when the GotG stars came to town last month. Tell us what you think of the movie when you’re done watching!