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“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Marvel Studios

2 hours 2 minutes

When it comes to movie-going, sometimes I am my own worst enemy. As a critic, I’m supposed to be immune to, or even disdainful of, the noisy, brightly colored hype that accompanies so many of the seasonal blockbusters, be it Summer or Christmas. But that’s ridiculous. I buy into the hype as much as anyone, maybe even more, because first and foremost I am a movie fan, and an eternally optimistic one at that. So when it comes to a movie like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” this summer’s latest entry from Marvel Studios and the one to occupy the most distant space in their ever expanding Universe, I was sold before I ever bought a ticket. The trailers, the interviews, the full-year of production photos and stories - I was ready for “Guardians” to not only be the best movie of the summer, but the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. And, of course, it isn’t that. What it is is fun, clever, and imminently entertaining. It is not, however, for everyone.

The story opens in 1988 with ten-year-old Peter Quill in a hospital, surrounded by family, watching his mother succumb to cancer. Armed only with his backpack and trusty Walkman loaded up with his mother’s favorite mix-tape, Peter flees the hospital in horror only to run into a different kind of nightmare. A hovering alien spaceship blasts a beam of light at the boy, sucking him up and disappearing into the night. Flash forward twenty years and now we are in some far-flung corner of the universe where Peter Quill, now a hunky adult played by Chris Pratt is exploring a desolate ruin of a planet in search of a hidden artifact. Our hero is now a space pirate, of sorts, selling his ill-gotten treasures to the highest bidder. In the background is a brewing war between the warlike Kree empire and, I suppose, everybody else. A particularly despicable Kree agitator named Ronan the Accuser is determined to destroy the peaceful world of Xandar and has made a deal with a cosmic entity named Thanos in order to achieve his goals. After being arrested by the Nova Corps on Xandar, Peter Quill is thrust together into an unlikely alliance with an eclectic group of outlaws, including a turncoat assassin, a maniac bent on revenge, a raccoon bounty hunter and his partner, a walking tree. Together, this team of misfits must not only save the galaxy, but each other, as well.

If the above description sounds dense and more than a little ridiculous, I’d have two responses for you: The optimistic me would say, “well, how do you think ‘Star Wars’ sounded when it was first described?” The realistic me would look at the above and say, “Yeah. You’re right.” This gets to heart of the problem with “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the general direction Marvel Studios is moving in as a whole. Yes, I really liked this movie, though I think it could have used about ten minutes more character development and ten minutes fewer explosion. But this movie feels made specifically for me and my ilk, specifically, comic-book sci-fi nerds who consume every bit of genre pop culture they can get their hands on. Where “Star Wars” inspired millions of new science fiction fans for generations, this feels like it will only inspire people who are already completely bought into the Marvel Universe series of movies. The latest “Captain America” had a similar problem, simultaneously being a well-made entertaining movie but being nearly impenetrable for people not already versed in the comic book film world it exists in.

For the initiated, though, “Guardians” is a whole lot of fun. The characters are varied and often very funny with Groot (the tree) stealing the show. A minor gripe is that Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel, a completely unnecessary celebrity addition as he only has one sentence and his voice is seriously enhanced. I also liked Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, though that character seems almost designed to be beloved. Filling out the team are wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer and Zoe Saldana as the green-skinned killer Gamora. Each does a fine job, but it’s hard to go up against two adorable CGI characters. If you’re in the club, “Guardians of the Galaxy” will likely be a great night out at the movies. If you’re not, Marvel doesn’t seem to be worried about you anymore.

Grade: B+

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is rated PG-13 for lots of sci-fi violence and mild language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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