Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel's latest superhero movie, is both predictable and fun.  It takes a bunch of hardened adversaries who turn out to have hearts of gold, a failure of the past made up for in the present, and lots of former enemies rallying together.
At the start of the movie (1988), young Peter Quill runs out of the hospital after his mother dies (and he was too scared to take her hand before the passed away) and he is promptly abducted by aliens.  Jump to the present, and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a criminal, heartbreaker, and scam artist in outer space.  He calls himself "Star Lord" (though he's the only one who does), hoping to build a reputation; and his most prized possession is the Walkman and tape he had when he was abducted.  And his latest job -- getting and delivering a mysterious orb -- had everyone after him.

This is where the plot gets complicated.  Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a Kree fanatic, has promised to give the orb to Thanos (Josh Brolin) and in exchange Thanos will destroy the planet Xandar, home of the Nova Corps.  Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is Thanos' adopted daughter who wants to get the orb -- but to keep it away from Thanos; her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) suspects betrayal , and will engage in some of that herself.  Since Peter didn't deliver the orb like his boss Yondu (Michael Rooker) wanted, Yondu puts a bounty out on Quill.  This leads to his running into two unique bounty hunters: Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a cybernetic raccoon who's gun-crazy, inventive with electronics, and acerbic; and Groot (Vin Diesel), a large humanoid tree who only says "I am Groot."  And soon enough Quill, Gamora, Rocket and Groot meet up with Drax the Destroyer (former wrestler Dave Bautista), whose family was killed by Ronan and who only wants to kill him in return.  Oh. and the Nova Corps wants to arrest Peter.  And the orb turns out to contain an extraordinary power.

As I stated earlier, the movie is predictable -- the stars go from bickering and fighting to bonding and friendship; the bad guys get more and more evil -- but the borderline silliness makes the film enjoyable.  Chris Pratt is pretty funny as the action hero who knows he's not trustworthy, Bradley Cooper practically steals the movie with Rocket's one-liners and bad behavior, and Vin Diesel manages to put a lot of emotion into his character's only three words.  Dave Bautista gets a lot of mileage of both Drax's action and his taking everything literally.  Zoe Saldana is given less comic material, but she kicks a lot of ass as the martial arts expert.  There's also plenty of action -- from a high-tech jailbreak to shoot-outs to an epic battle to save a planet -- and the special effects are terrific, from making Rocket and Groot almost believable to the alien worlds and weaponry.  Guardians of the Galaxy may be goofy, but it's also very funny and often pretty exciting.

I'm not sure how Guardians of the Galaxy will fit into the new Marvel movie universe (though Thanos was part of The Avengers, and there are hints the Guardians sequel could have them on Earth) but it works pretty well as a summer blockbuster.  It's dopey and effects-heavy, but it's helped tremendously by a nice mix of comedy and action, plus a terrific cast.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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