Plot: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a space pirate who has tracked down a mysterious orb, one that is in high demand, thanks to a high reward being offered from Ronan (Lee Pace), a Kree warlord. So while the orb is of immense value, by refusing to turn it over to Ronan, Quill has made himself a wanted man. In addition to a high value bounty, which will ensure a pack of hunters on his trail, Quill has been unable to unload the orb, since it is the source of such heat. Soon Quill is engaged by a pair of eccentric bounty hunters, a raccoon-type and a sentient tree, all while Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a member of Ronan’s inner circle, attempts to claim the orb herself. All four wind up in prison thanks to the public spectacle of their battle, which allows them to meet the wooden Drax (Dave Bautista), who has an interest that aligns with the others, as he wants to kill Ronan for a past transgression. But even if this wacky group can stage an impossible prison break, can they somehow manage to work together and achieve their varied goals, or will they kill each other in the process?

Entertainment Value: The most colorful, comic book-esque installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy manages to do what few other Marvel movies manage, to be humorous and a lot of fun to watch. A lot of changes were made from the comic book source material, but the end result is still a brisk, eclectic ride that seems almost out of place with the otherwise stiff, unhip Marvel offerings. The visuals play a huge role in the film’s appeal, as an emphasis on vivid colors, practical effects, and vibrant character designs ensure that Guardians is a drastic shift from the grounded, CGI addled Marvel universe. There’s still some awful visual effects at times, but at least an effort was made to make the visual design dynamic and the increased practical effects and makeup work pays dividends. Gamora painted green might seem hokey at first, but it works much better than a soulless, plastic looking CGI creation would have, so choices like that really benefit the movie. The movie also serves up a lot of nostalgia through the music and visual design elements, which is often a safe bet to win over viewers. The story is passable, but forgettable, though the action is fun, the dialogue is humorous, and the characters are well developed. This isn’t the lame dad jokes Marvel is known for, this is effective, sharp dialogue, delivered by well rounded characters, which makes it feel less like artificial one liners.

Chris Pratt was an almost ideal choice for Quill, as he has the kind of charm and sense of humor to make the role really shine. Pratt brings the heat and owns the role here, going for broke with his performance and anchoring the movie with ease, which is tough, given the skills of his costars. He is able to command the screen even in crowded scenes, so his presence is quite remarkable in this one. Guardians is an ensemble piece, but Pratt is certainly the focus of the lineup. At the same time, others on the cast stand out as well and steal a number of scenes. Dave Bautista shatters expectations as Drax, making a small role pack a huge punch. His delivery is on point and every line is nailed, just one great moment after another. Karen Gillan and Michael Rooker are also immense fun to watch, while Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, John C. Reilly, Benecio Del Toro, Bradley Cooper, and a host of others round out the cast. Guardians looks and feels like a comic book, which makes it already better than most of Marvel’s output, but it is the visuals and characters that make it truly shine. Even if you dislike the usual Marvel movies, don’t sleep on this one.

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