“Guardians” makes for Marvel-ous summer movie

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Michael Wu and Margaret Geist

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In recent years, many classic and beloved comic book characters, including Spider-Man, Batman and the Avengers, have been adapted into movies. “Guardians,” however, has been mostly overlooked by producers due to the sheer weirdness of its characters.

The movie follows a group of galactic misfits under the leadership of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who goes by the name of “Star-Lord,” a human who was taken from earth as a young boy in the 1980s. Rounding out the film’s core cast is Zoe Saldana as Gamora, a green skinned alien, WWE star Dave Bautista as the hulking Drax the Destroyer, Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as Groot, the tree.

While it may seem that these characters would be nearly impossible to properly translate on screen without seeming campy or nonsensical, the film ultimately avoids this. There’s a constant sense that director James Gunn realizes the inherent strangeness of a talking raccoon on screen, or that a major film star is covered in green makeup for the entire run time. In fact, this lighthearted tone and playful self-awareness, scored to a soundtrack consisting of mostly 70s pop hits, is what allows the film to work as well as it does.

This is still a Marvel film, meaning there is a deep well of characters and mythology that the filmmakers had to draw upon. The film is occasionally overstuffed, quickly introducing and abandoning major actors, like Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro, in very minor roles that only diehard fans would be excited about.

This is a tendency that extends to the film’s more prominent villains as well. Going by names like “Ronan” and “Nebula,” they become intent on stealing an “Infinity Stone,” an all powerful sphere that the protagonists are in possession of. Though the audience is aware that these two are connected to an intergalactic kingpin named Thanos, almost nothing else is known about their motivations.

Nonetheless, most of the film’s success lies in the fact that it is surprisingly funny. Much of this credit goes to Pratt, who was given a temporary leave from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” to make this movie, who easily proves capable of leading a major blockbuster with the charming, but not grating, goofiness he brings to Star-Lord.

In recent years, most likely kicked off by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, comic book adaptations have become increasingly dreary and self-serious. They become bogged down by needlessly complex mythologies, brooding protagonists and desaturated colors. “Guardians” graciously avoids this, becoming instead a fun and easily likeable entry in the superhero genre.

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