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Movie review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

Guardians of the galaxy

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Guardians of the Galaxy” is probably the closest thing we’ve had to the next “Star Wars” in many years. It’s a sci-fi movie, but it isn’t one that’s drenched in politics and moral conundrums. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a character-driven film that, like the very first “Star Wars” movie, is just a lot of fun.

The cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Walt Disney Studios

Directed by James Gunn, the movie, which features characters from Marvel comics, opens on a young boy getting sucked into space by a giant ship. Fast forward twenty years, and that boy is now Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an outlaw who travels the galaxy under the nickname Star Lord. When he comes in contact with a strange orb that he steals for a job, Quill soon finds himself the subject of a manhunt led by the powerful villain Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), the daughter of the even more powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin). A string of occurrences leads to Quill teaming up with a bunch of misfits: Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the other daughter of Thanos who wants the orb to betray Ronan; Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who wants revenge on Ronan for killing his family; and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), possibly the quirkiest pair of bounty hunters you’ll ever meet—Rocket being a talking raccoon and Groot being a giant tree and all.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is the first installment of the Marvel cinematic universe in a while that introduces a new set of characters, so you shouldn’t need to be familiar with the rest of the franchise’s offerings to understand what’s going on. Key word: shouldn’t. As it turns out, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is probably the least coherent of all the Marvel origin stories so far. It’s not that the plot itself is very confusing, but characters like Ronan, Thanos, and Nebula are just kind of there, and it’s expected that the audience already knows their backstory and what their purpose is. This doesn’t detract from the plot enough to turn it into a complete mess, but it is a significant enough problem to raise some questions.

Aside from that, “Guardians” is a lot of fun. It brings together a group of characters who should by all means hate each other—and they do, in the beginning—but end up being the only friends they have. The entire cast has great chemistry, with Rocket and Groot stealing every scene. They’re the Han and Chewbacca of this film—don’t be surprised if they get their own movie in the future. The quirkiness of the film and characters is enhanced by the soundtrack of 1970s hits—taken from a mix tape Quill had with him when he was taken from Earth—and humorous dialogue and sight gags. At times it feels like the movie is trying too hard to be irreverent, but the majority of the time, the jokes work well. The cast is rounded out by small appearances by the likes of John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, and Benicio Del Toro.

The special effects are also very well done in this film. They’re always present, but never overwhelming, which helps add to the film’s retro vibe. With a plethora of alien species and mysterious planets present, it’s no wonder that the first film this reminded me of was “Star Wars”. “Guardians” is a breath of fresh air from all of Marvel’s “Avengers” nonsense, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s ambitious and imaginative enough.

As always, be sure to stay through the end of the credits. “Guardians of the Galaxy” boasts the funniest, cleverest, and most appropriate end-credit scene of any Marvel movie so far.

Runtime: 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

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