Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy, the lat­est block­buster from Mar­vel and a decid­edly dif­fer­ent one than what we’re used to, works because it walks, with all the seem­ingly effort­less adroit­ness of a funam­bu­list, the fine line of not tak­ing itself seri­ously and tak­ing itself seri­ously. That’s the most intel­lec­tual line I could come up for this film, because it is a mess, but an enter­tain­ingly endear­ing mess, make no mis­take. It’s a space opera that is enter­tain­ingly mad­cap at best and barely com­pre­hen­si­ble at worst, bur­dened by a sub­stan­dard Mar­vel sto­ry­line involv­ing a glow­ing blue MacGuf­fin and indis­tin­guish­able bad guys but also, weirdly, lib­er­ated by it: since the plot is so unin­spired, the empha­sis devolves onto the char­ac­ters which, luck would have it, pro­vide a beguil­ing mix of goofi­ness and seri­ous­ness, and are the best thing about Guardians. You have the newly emer­gent Chris Pratt, a truly charis­matic, enjoy­able  pres­ence mostly because, I sus­pect, he wasn’t asked to do things that weren’t already in his wheel­house. As Peter Quill, A.K.A Star­lord, a scruffy thief of lit­tle galac­tic renown (think Han Solo and/or Indi­ana Jones), he gets to groove to 1970s music and trade quips with the rest of the Guardians: a green-skinned Zoe Sal­dana, both flinty and vul­ner­a­ble; an mostly genial talk­ing tree (think Lord of the Rings’s Tree­beard) named Groot who says “I am Groot” to every­thing and is inex­plic­a­bly played by Dwayne John­son, some­where under all that bark; an bel­liger­ent anthro­po­mor­phized rac­coon with issues and a lot of fire­power named Rocket, voiced snarlingly by Bradley Cooper; and for­mer WWE wrestler Dave Bautista’s mus­cled brute out for revenge, Drax, whose defin­ing trait is his lit­eral inter­pre­ta­tion of every­thing (“Noth­ing goes over my head—my reflexes are too fast”). They’re a silly bunch, and not always funny, but still hilar­i­ous enough. Mostly, they’re a lot of fun to watch, and that’s the joy of Guardians of the Galaxy: It’s pure, unfil­tered fun.  I say “pure” because the humor exists solely to please and not to self-deprecate. Sure, Guardians occa­sion­ally pokes fun at the self-serious pseudo-portentousness of many Mar­vel movies, includ­ing itself (most notable dur­ing the won­der­ful open­ing sequence), but it does so organ­i­cally, with­out try­ing to; there’s no neg­a­tiv­ity to be seen. It embraces its inher­ent absur­dity and stu­pid­ity instead of attempt­ing to be a post­mod­ern or obnox­iously “smart” super­hero movie; rather than “We know you’re laugh­ing at this angry lit­tle rac­coon, but we’re laugh­ing right along­side you! Doesn’t that make it so much bet­ter?”  it’s We’re hav­ing a lot of fun here. Come laugh with us.” And with that in mind, there becomes very lit­tle rea­son to not give Guardians of the Galaxy the utmost respect it most deserves. A–