My Bodyguards

The Marvel universe is expanding even more rapidly than our own. That's not a complaint. Since I've taken to being more careful and selective about which superhero movies I go see, the crap tends to get filtered out pretty effectively. And I don't feel like I'm missing out on important plot information - it's not like Captain America: The Winter Soldier hinges on events that happened in the Thor and Iron Man movies I skipped. As a result, all the superhero flicks I've seen recently have all been consistently great.

The streak continues with this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, which accomplishes something that even the highly-regarded movies of the past couple of years did not: It's funny. Where movies like The Avengers and X-Men: Days of Future Past are mostly action or drama with moments of levity, Guardians of the Galaxy has a consistent thread of comedy all the way through.

It's no small feat, especially because I had zero prior experience with this set of characters. I like superhero video games, and used to watch the X-Men cartoon on Saturday mornings, but beyond that, I was never a comic book kid. I had no idea who Peter Quill or Groot or any of these other creatures were, and could have easily let this movie slip by, mistakenly judging it as a cash-grabby over-extension of the Marvel brand (and yes, that would be Ant-Man's tiny ears burning about now, though I hope I'm wrong about that). Once a tidal wave of positive reviews and gushing word-of-mouth built up, though, I jumped on an opportunity to head to the theater.

For those who are interested in a rich, deep story, I'm afraid you'll have to look elsewhere. As with a lot of Marvel movies, the plot is essentially meaningless. Extraordinary person (or people) go after an Important MacGuffin that will stop a Villain from precipitating a Catastrophe. That plot gets copied from movie to movie, but as long as it stays confined to action/superhero movies, I don't know that too many people will have a big issue with it. In this case, Quill (Chris Pratt) and his team try to track down a glowy rock that a bad guy will use to destroy a planet, and blah blah blah.

I sound dismissive, but Marvel seems to have found a formula that works, concentrating on movies that function as character explorations with an impressive setpiece or two, rather than narrative. It works the best it ever has in Guardians of the Galaxy. These are characters you want to spend time with, which often can't be said of people like Hulk or Thor. Pratt is a charismatic and engaging lead, and for the shallow among us, the shower scene was much-appreciated. The soundtrack is also pretty wonderful (for fans of '70s/'80s rock, anyway), and is incorporated cleverly into the plot. I'm reaching for things to nitpick, and am not really coming up with anything. This was pretty much the perfect summer movie experience, and assuming Marvel wants to capture lightning in a bottle like this again, they'll have their work cut out of them.

Guardians of the Galaxy: A


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