Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

As it concisely thrives amid the potentially fatigue-inducing bulk of Marvel’s Phase Two initiative, Guardians of the Galaxy is an easily appreciated departure from the likes of what we’ve acclimated ourselves with for the better part of a decade. Focusing on the titular troupe of ne’er-do-wells, Guardians addresses an intergalactic threat perpetuated by the invaluable Infinity Stone – one of six artifacts that bestows the power to destroy worlds upon whoever is strong enough to harness it. Fervently sought after by Kree warlord Ronan (Lee Pace), it’s up to one Peter Quill, a.k.a. “Star-Lord” (Chris Pratt) and his ragtag group of combat-ready misfits to save the planet Xandar from nigh-inevitable annihilation.

First and foremost, it’s easiest to compliment Guardians‘ penchant for effortless engagement despite our unfamiliarity with the source material. Whilst obviously popular among the typical comic book enthusiast, the series’ translation from book to screen finds solace in writer/director Gunn’s always apt sense of humor and narrative steadfastness. It cuts right through the bullshit, introduces us to the expanded universe in which this motley crew resides and gets down to brass tacks without a moment’s hesitation. Given the immensity of the term “galaxy,” such an accomplishment inherently teeters on the brink of a typical fuck-up, however the script does a wonderful job in covering all of its character-centric and situational bases as its vision trumps obvious archetypal familiarity.

Barring Mr. Quill and the gang’s obvious motivations and behavioral erraticism, these characters are still basally unique enough to care about and root for based on principal. Overarching conflict involving an all-powerful, power-hungry asshole hellbent on destroying something beautiful? Absolutely forgivable if only because of how deftly events and key players are introduced and fleshed out as unconvolutedly as possible. Sure, the “Friends forever!” aspect of the core group’s eventually-established bond is a bit hokey but, all in all, the film’s sheer uniqueness of personality and periodically bombast-heavy vision do wonders to blow past its shortcomings.

As you’ve also most likely concluded, Guardians of the Galaxy is simply a delight based on how effortlessly it trumps its cohorts’ confined narrative hindrances. While Cap and the gang are inherently S.H.I.E.L.D.-heavy endeavors filled with one recurring character and plot point after another, James Gunn’s assured illustration of this alternate but soon-to-be-integrated sect of the Marvel universe does wonders for filmgoers of all types. It’s accessible, engaging, humorous as such and a prime example of what blockbuster entertainment in the era of superheroes should strive to be.

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