Guardians of the Galaxy, based on one of the relatively lesser-known comic books in the Marvel canon, is a very different film from the Iron Man, Thor or Captain America movies. Unlike most superhero films today whose storylines and conflicts are inevitably rooted in the real world, here’s a cheerfully silly adventure that prides itself on being an escapist treat. It’s a comic book movie that actually plays like a comic book.
 
The film takes its irreverent tone from its leading man Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a cocky, wisecracking space outlaw who we meet stealing a magical orb coveted by evil warlord Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). For reasons too complicated to get into, Quill winds up in a space prison in the company of green-skinned alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), tattooed hulk Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), gun-slinging raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a walking-talking tree, but with a very limited vocabulary. This oddball crew joins forces and plots a daring prison break – one of the film’s coolest set pieces – then spend the rest of the movie working together to prevent the orb from falling into the hands of Ronan, who wants to use it to conquer the cosmos.
 
Expectedly the film is packed with nifty special effects, and the 3D justifies itself with an impressive depth of field, particularly bringing an extra thrill to those dogfights between rival spaceships. But it’s the relationship between the five mismatched protagonists, their snappy banter, and the film’s refusal to take itself seriously that are its real strengths. Co-writer and director James Gunn brings a lightness of touch that is refreshing. The serious moments in the film are sandwiched between freewheeling action, snappy dialogue, and cheeky pop-cultural references. There’s even a terrific 70s and 80s soundtrack, courtesy of the mix-tape in Quill’s beloved Sony Walkman.
 
What rankles about the film is that it feels way too busy for its good, crowded with more characters than is possible to keep up with. Solid actors like Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, and John C Reilly barely get any screen time, while an important character like Thanos is introduced but never adequately employed. It’s evident also that the makers couldn’t decide on one definitive conclusion; the film has multiple endings. Yet these are minor issues in a film that is mostly enjoyable, and one that gives us such a charming set of heroes. Chris Pratt may be no Harrison Ford, but he’s terrific as the goofy Quill, and his verbal sparring with Rocket gives the film some of its best moments. But the real scene-stealers are the computer-generated stars: Rocket, the wrathful, weapons-savvy raccoon, and Groot, whose single line of dialogue is exploited for both laughs and sentiment.
 
Guardians of the Galaxy feels fresh and zany, and impossibly hard to resist. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. As superhero movies go, this one’s unique and original. Don’t miss it.

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