Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy ★★★½

So the surprise to me is how much unexpected stuff the movie does right.

For instance, it occasionally uses its CGI quite beautifully, which is not something I would say about any other superhero movie.

* While it has the Marvel-mandated ship-crashing-into-a-city climax (also recently abused by STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and others), the Dark Aster is a great digital illustration, handsomely counterpointed by the swarm of Nova gnats. The movie squeezes a great many flavors out of that ship's trajectory.

* Groot is one of the all-time great animated-in-live-action creatures even before the credits scene, and the shots with his luminous seedlings are almost Miyazaki-level swoony.

* The gloomy shmoopy CGI of Pratt and Saldana freezing in space should look terrible -- a classic pitfall of the uncanny valley of special effects -- but instead it's arresting.

Still, the "this generation's STAR WARS" is an oversell. This generation's FIREFLY, maybe. The audience loved Rocket more than I did -- a thin joke, voiced ably but indifferently by Cooper -- but Bautista and Gillan are fun; Pace, who risked being squandered, finds a great kabuki vein to mine and becomes indelible.

Pratt turns out to be ideally cast as well. Pratt and Pace in the dance-off is a better moment than the Marvel mindful could have hoped -- a real movie joke, the sort of thing that needs actors to achieve liftoff. I'm glossing over a lot of cliches here, but the movie makes you not mind.