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Guardians of the Galaxy

At this point in the game, I’ve seen every film that’s contributed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the sole exception of Thor: The Dark World. A lot of these films, while often humorous, don’t exactly dive right into the campy goodness that many comic books nowadays actually do. Much like DC, they’re dark; frankly, too dark for their own good. People long to adapt things that Frank Miller and Alan Moore might have written in the eighties, when a darker and edgier comic was necessary to save the life of the printed format. But we’re in 2014 now. It worked for Christopher Nolan, and plenty are still serious, but it’s time we lighten the hell up, and that’s exactly what Disney and Marvel are doing with Guardians of the Galaxy.

The story of our gang starts up modestly on Earth, with a young Peter Quill (Chris Pratt’s endlessly charming character) being abducted by a spaceship right after practically watching his own mother die. Years later, he’s found an orb worth a lot more than he bargained for that just happens to leave him teamed up with four other misfit individuals. That bunch is made up of the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the genetically-engineered raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel), and the vengeance-driven warrior Drax (David Bautista), all of whom are more badass than him (including the tree whose vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot”). Needless to say, adventure ensues, all set to a glorious soundtrack full of seventies hits that Quill’s mother left him on a cassette tape (Rupert Holmes’ “Escape” and 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” being two personal favorites).

While some might complain that the script tries too hard to be zany, and arguably leaves its villains (Karen Gillan’s Nebula and Lee Pace’s Ronan) with not all that much to do, it’s nearly impossible to deny just how entertaining it is to watch the crew fall into the situations they do. While they embark on their journey due to necessity, watching them fumble into something else out of sheer ineptitude or naivety is a constant delight. It’s all attributable to the cast — even those who only provide voice work to some beautifully designed creatures — and their talent at bringing the joke-packed script that James Gunn and Nicole Perlman wrote to life. They work together to make these characters pop, but also to give you reasons to care about them. Something as simple as the real motivation for Peter calling himself Star-Lord adds depth to a character with a nickname that was once looked upon as a joke. It’s a script that’s dedicated to making every character feel real, even when there’s not an ounce of reality in their existence.

As entertaining as it is, Guardians may not be the ultra-rebellious feature some dreamed would be the perfect counter to other films that Marvel and DC are putting out, but it’s a step in the right direction. Sure, it still contains some of the gratuitous disaster porn that comic films have gotten used to, as well as an abundance of gratuitous ass shots, but it’s refreshing to find a film and characters that aren’t interested in another tiresome fist fight of a boss battle. This is a silly group that would rather drink, dance, and think circles around their enemies rather than simply jump head first into a fight. That, and the fact that this group and narrative is accessible to practically anyone who steps into the theater (including those who have never read an issue of GotG in their lives), is what makes the film so good.

Be wary of your trust in my review if you don’t always believe that sillier is better when it comes to comics, but if a good time is what you’re looking for, that’s exactly what Guardians of the Galaxy will provide. It’s non-stop entertainment that draws from many sources to create a truly modern sci-fi adventure; the goofiness of Star Trek‘s original series, the haphazardly put-together punk space team of Star Wars, feelings of nostalgia for hits that never belonged to us, and the constantly shifting aesthetic of the modern world. This is the comic book movie I’ve been waiting for folks, and I’m damn glad Marvel was the one to make it.

And on a final note: that post-credits sequence. Why???

Guardians of the Galaxy is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

Directed by James Gunn; written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman; based on the comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, David Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Benicio del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, and Josh Brolin; 121 minutes.