To misquote Forrest Gump’s mother, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is like a box of chocolates. Or rather, it’s like a vast, family-sized festive crate of chocolates, all wrapped in the shiniest packaging, all exploding with sweetness and surprises. Maybe there are a couple of flavours you don’t much care for, and after a while it all starts to get a bit dizzying, but you stuff yourself anyway, coming up bloated and satisfied on the other side.
Based on one of Marvel Comics’ lesser known franchises, this is the tale of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an earthling abducted as a boy who, a quarter of a century later, is working as a Han Solo-style outlaw-for-hire under the self-ordained nickname Star-Lord. When his quest for a mysterious orb attracts the attention of some blue-skinned intergalactic troublemakers, Quill throws in with a team of fellow outsiders including green-skinned warrior princess Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically enhanced raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), comically literal man-mountain Drax (Dave Bautista) and a self-regenerating, semi-sentient walking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel, typecast again).
There’s a basic good-v-evil plot in here somewhere, but it’s rendered largely impenetrable by a profusion of Marvel-verse asides which will only make sense to those who have followed the mythology across the entire comic and film franchise (some conversations seem to consist entirely of silly names jumbled up at random). No matter – the rest of us can just sit back and enjoy the ride, as the film ricochets from one dazzling, frazzling action set-piece to the next, pausing only to charm our socks off with another pithy retort, classic bubblegum-pop hit or cutely random alien character.
Some may find the film’s self-satisfaction a mite grating – Pratt is likeable but he’s no Harrison Ford, however hard he tries – and there are moments where the sheer brain-melting relentlessness becomes wearying. But overall this is giddy, ridiculous fun, a witty, wacky and wonderfully generous sugary gift of a film. Marvel, you shouldn’t have!