Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy ★★★★★

James Gunn's "Guardians of the Galaxy" is terrific. It is terrific science fiction, terrific entertainment; it is an altogether terrific ride. It is the type of film that has audiences wanting to step in line and see it again immediately after seeing it the first time, and then counting down the days until its blu-ray release. There has not been a film this fun in years.

A fast, fizzy sci-fi cocktail, "Guardians of the Galaxy" tells a story consisting of recognizable plot beats made fresh by the personalities of the film's characters and the palpably satisfying adventure on which they take their audience. The narrative is a simple hero quest where its hero is tasked with finding something of great importance and, eventually, ensuring its protection so that it does not fall into the wrong hands. In the case of "Guardians of the Galaxy," the aforementioned something of great importance is an infinity stone, a something that could lead to the destruction of the galaxy.

Admittedly, the story is a rote mix archetypal plot points revved up by comic book writers of days past. What makes the story great, however, is its character-imbued attitude. With its distinctive, sharply drawn group of reluctant heroes, the film is graced with charm, humor, and wicked fun. Each of the Guardians is fully developed with backstory and clear-cut personality. They are unique, lively, and human, even when not actually human. The colorful personalities are not just injected into the film's main characters, but it is something that graces minor characters as well. Almost everyone involved in the galaxy-guarding mayhem is written with lively uniqueness.

The actors inhabiting those characters, whether in the flesh or supplying vocals only, make up an excellently assembled cast. From Chris Pratt's Han Solo-meets-Emmet Brickowski aw-shucks leader, Peter Quill, to Zoe Saldana's no nonsense Gamora; from Bradley Cooper's acerbic, sardonic, and hilarious Rocket, to Dave Bautista's straight-laced Drax; the actors perform their sure-to-be iconic characters with aplomb. Michael Rooker, John C. Riley, Lee Pace, and Benicio Del Toro lend rich support. With four words, Vin Diesel's Groot creates the most soulful sidekick this side of Chewbacca.

The solid story and uproarious characters are given a firm cinematic foothold through James Gunn's spirited direction. Imbuing the film with pop radio standards, a relentless pace, and a glorious sense of humor, Gunn's direction is swift and and colorful. In contrast to the film's space-vomit (my wife's words) color palette, the electric visualization of script and character is bright and upbeat, crackling with life.

Technically, the Marvel Studios film is a marvel. A blend of practical and CGI special effects, fully rendered production design, and theme park ride editing, the film has an expansive, tangible look and a whip-cracking energy.

Its themes of friendship, family, and the importance of allegiance, along with its robust dialogue, serving as icing on the cake, "Guardians of the Galaxy" is a full-bodied, delightfully executed, and completely blissful experience. It is the type of film that comes around every few years to offer spectacular entertainment and pop culture impact. With "Guardians of the Galaxy" James Gunn has created something meaningful, joyful, and totally terrific.

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