Starring Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana. Rated PG.
While Guardians of the Galaxy is a wholly professional Marvel product, compatible with and engineered to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it also feels like an indie movie—a specific one: Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, written and directed by James Gunn.
That movie explored the effect of superhero archetypes on besotted fans. Guardians of the Galaxy feels like something wished into being by besotted fans. It is a space opera set on multiple worlds, featuring space battles, epic fights, vast vistas, and dramatic postures. The sets are huge. Colourful objects whiz in all directions (well, three-ish dimensions). There is an origin story for a superhero group that includes a talking, armed raccoon, well-versed in jailbreak.
In addition to said raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the motley team includes transplanted Earth man Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, much buffed into a plausible space thief and rake), lithe green assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the mighty Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Groot, a talking tree (Vin Diesel). The team—all wanted for various crimes by Nova Corps, space cops led by Glenn Close and John C. Reilly in a sentence I never thought I would write—come together in order to destroy their common enemy, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a psychotic supervillain in Juggalo-esque face paint.
Their efforts often result in heroic posing and explosions. (The body count, albeit of aliens, is immense.) It is impressive in the conventional, modern action-movie way. As a director, Gunn has certainly given Marvel another successful product, with likable actors, comprehensible motivations, and clear fight staging, set at a pace that could fairly be described as rollicking.
But Marvel, as a studio, has given Gunn the leeway to play with its comic, to tease and satirize the genre. Some of his choices are in highly questionable taste, but that is probably the point.