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Movie Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014)

“Guardians of the Galaxy” contains all the excitement and adventure one would expect from a Marvel superhero movie, but the glue that holds this ragtag band of outlaws together is the humor. Clearly able to laugh at itself, rather frequently, the script pokes fun at both pop culture and a more universal style of comedy in the form of sight gags, physical slapstick, and verbal wittiness. The back-and-forth banter between the protagonists is often well-written and delivered with genuine exuberance by a commendable collection of capable actors.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” still suffers from the same elements that plague many superhero films, including uninspired antagonists and a heavy reliance on deus ex machinas. Plus, the looming presence of larger puzzle pieces waiting to be further utilized in subsequent installments or sequels to the various intermingling franchises stalls several sequences. But such setbacks can’t quash the fun or the impressive level of creativity flowing through everything from the character designs and action choreography to the pleasantly unusual employment of classic rock ‘n’ roll-steeped ambiance.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a roguish human member of a clan of thieving “Ravagers,” dubs himself Star-Lord and pillages precious loot from all reaches of the galaxy – for a price. When he obtains a mysterious orb for a client, he unwittingly draws the attention of Ronan (Lee Pace), a fanatical warlord hellbent on using the device to obliterate his enemies on the planet of Xandar. Intent on stopping him are Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a lethal assassin, Drax (Dave Bautista), a vengeful musclebound fighter, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a genetically engineered raccoon bounty hunter, and Groot (Vin Diesel), his mutant treelike bodyguard. Thrown together by chance, the very fate of the universe depends on Star-Lord and his misfit team of unintended cosmic defenders.

At the beginning, the ending, and spotted throughout the middle, this latest Marvel production goes for emotional touches and deeper relational components to ensure greater connection with the superhero cast (comparable to a more poignant twist on the Fantastic Four, or as if a wilder “Star Trek” crew was being formed). Family and friendship play a larger role than the round-the-clock sarcastic pungency, building characters that audiences will certainly want to see return. And, sure enough, the titular guardians of the galaxy are stated at the end credits to be coming back in future episodes, exactly like in James Bond’s signature signoff. To match the mushier moments are the lively themes of selfless heroism, seething revenge, and ultimate sacrifice, which work agreeably through alternating sequences of action and comedy.

Director James Gunn infuses his typical quirky humor into the mayhem, breaking up sentimentality with outrageous verbal exchanges. It’s to a great enough extent that the smart dialogue seems to override the annoying disregard for physics (expectedly forfeited for striking poses, slow-motion, and futuristic tech), the showdown-procrastinating tactics (themselves spiked with wordiness), and the hopelessly contrived scenarios that come to the rescue when nothing more believable can alleviate tragedy. At times. it might be considered too much humor, but it’s effectively used in a disorienting manner that outshines Iron Man’s comic relief ramblings. The notable soundtrack nicely complements these breaks to heighten the familiarity of humanness absent from the visuals.

But those visuals are their own factors of superiority, making use of prosthetics, makeup, and costuming that vastly outperform the standard computer graphics. Even though two main characters are entirely animated, there’s a pleasing balance with the background entities adorned in vivid ornamentation and cosmetic structuring that reminds of the Mos Eisley cantina or Jabba’s palace from “Star Wars.” A new universe, worlds, cities, alien species, and starships are crafted with stunning creativity and razor sharp imagery. It’s a genuinely exciting environment studded with likeable heroes, numerous villains, and oodles of things to blow up.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)