Do we really need another comic book adaptation? Screens nowadays are positively saturated with what was until recent years considered a risky proposition. However, given the booming business of Marvel and DC's cinematic stock in recent times, who cares what I think – billions in box office recipients sound a resounding "YES!"
So, this week sees The Guardians Of The Galaxy seeking to separate you from your hard-earned cash at your local multiplex. But how is this different to every other "origin story + villain = satisfied audience" trip we have already taken? And how to top Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the comic book adaptation to beat in 2014?
Well, here goes: after the mood-setting 3D Marvel logo welcomes us to their world once again, it's time for some back story and motivation for our main character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), whose tale we then pick up again some 26 years later. After stealing a mysterious orb (something akin to a decorated shot put), our all-American hero soon finds himself hunted down and thrown into an inter-galactic prison. After some entertaining scenes, Quill reluctantly joins forces with a quartet of alien bandits in order to make a jail break: the very green Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the very buff Drax (Dave Bautista), the potty-mouthed Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the very tree The Groot (voice of Vin Diesel). Forming an alliance, this quintet of misfits soon go toe-to-toe with super villain Ronan, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the orb.
Still got your attention? Things sound a bit familiar, and well-worn? Well, give it a chance, as this is actually one very entertaining film.
The Invisible Woman (K12)
Hailed as the saviour of the 2014 summer box office, during a season that has yet to really take flight with a number of ho-hum outings, the film delivers on its promise. Subversive for a genre that traditionally strictly adheres to particular story beats, Guardians is even more self-aware than the Iron Man trilogy.
While things eventually get bogged down with the predictably overblown ending, the film's tongue remains firmly in cheek throughout its duration. Some choice '80s tunes accentuate the carefree attitude, with a couple of cracking one-liners delivered. As is the genre's want, proceedings are saturated with computer effects, though their digital realisation and 3D rendering is simply superb throughout.
Last seen – or heard, more accurately – as the lead in The LEGO Movie, and soon to appear in Jurassic World, Chris Pratt anchors proceedings nicely. Equal parts arrogant and goofy, his slimmed down physique suits him well. Joining him is Saldana, who is no stranger to green screen work after Avatar. Bautista's bulky frame and no grasp of a metaphor raises laughs, and all manner of wooden acting jokes can be thrown the way of Diesel, as his character spouts the same sentence repeatedly ("I am Groot") to amusing effect.
Also along for the ride, fans of Michael Rooker will get a kick out of his Walking Dead hillbilly shtick getting an airing in outer space. Elsewhere, the cast is stuffed with star wattage, with the likes of John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro and Djimon Hounsou on offer. Oh, Josh Brolin bobs up as the voice of chief bad guy Thanos, just in case the cast list wasn't crowded enough.
After starting his career as a screenwriter in the late 90s, at first glance director James Gunn's CV is patchy at best. Responsible for the scripts for Tromeo and Juliet, Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and the 2004 Dawn of the Dead reboot, his work here far surpasses anything he has done previously.
Rather inevitably, a sequel has already been given the green light, so time to saddle up for what is destined to be a long and profitable series.
James O'Sullivan – HT
Image: The Walt Disney Company Nordic
Elsewhere on screens
What to make of The Rock? After recently giving a boost to a number of tiring franchises, here Hercules sees the man mountain stepping up as the son of Zeus, in the latest from director Brett Ratner. An adaptation of Steve Moore’s Radical Comics graphic novel, early word has been surprisingly good, with critics praising the lighter tone brought to the material.
Finnish cinema receives a boost this week, with the highly-publicised Kesäkaverit hitting the screens. Here childhood friends Iiris and Karoliina enjoy the spoils of a summer together, heading out of the big smoke to settle in Hanko for the warmer months. The wheels begin to fall off their big adventure when their apartment is not up to scratch and their workmates operate at a snail’s pace. However, things begin to look up when love interest Jussi arrives on the scene.
Finally, acclaimed thespian Ralph Fiennes follows up his memorable turn in The Grand Budapest Hotel, with his second directorial effort, The Invisible Woman. Embarking on a 13-year affair with 18-year-old actress Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the film boasts celebrated English author Charles Dickens (Fiennes) at its centrepiece. Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander co-star, as the film shines a light on the relationship that was effectively erased from the history books following the author’s death in 1870.