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'Guardians of the Galaxy' Looks Like Quite the Sci-Fi Flick Blockbuster, But...

It's a pretender to the throne.
 
 
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Already this summer we've seen a bevy of films released: some good ( Snowpiercer), some bad ( Tammy), a lot that were simply kind of okay ( Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), and even a few genuine surprises ( Edge of Tomorrow). It doesn't take much to please the summer filmgoer, and I include myself here. All we truly desire are a few moments of escape, a bit of fun and 90 minutes in an air-conditioned theatre.

Guardians of the Galaxy might look like just the ticket: action, a few laughs, and a heaping helping of gonzo science fiction goodness. It might even occasionally sound the part, but allow me to save you time, money and the potential of getting stuck on the SkyTrain when it breaks down again. It's a pretender to the throne.

Guardians starts off in the Marvel Universe once more. Stan Lee makes his usual cameo appearance to the braying of the audience bros, who'll make enough noise so everyone knows they know this is part of the show. (What the bros also know is that if you remain in your seat through 10 minutes of tail credits, you'll be rewarded with an Easter egg. This final scene of every Marvel movie usually alludes to another upcoming sequel, although in Guardians it's slightly more original. I won't tell you what it is, because if I have to sit through an endless crawl of credits to get there, so do you.)

But before we get to the end of the film, let's start at the very beginning. In the opening scene a little kid sits alone in a hospital corridor, listening to his Walkman and sporting a considerable shiner. Meet Peter Quill, who had a large chip on his shoulder even before his mother's untimely death from cancer. When his baldy mother tries to give him one last gift before she kicks it, the kid can't deal. He turns away from her outstretched hand, she dies, he runs. The requisite dead mother cliché is introduced and then whisked away so quickly you barely have time to clear the schmaltz from your nose before Peter, the tow-headed toughie, is himself sucked off of planet Earth by an alien spaceship.

Jump forward 20 odd years, and little Peter (played by a rather buff Chris Pratt) is all grown up but still sporting his Walkman and his mother's gift, a tape labeled "Awesome Mix Volume 1." He's now a petty criminal named Star-Lord who steals on contract and beds alien babes, all with a cool, breezy outlaw vibe lifted directly from Han Solo. It seems Peter Star-Lord has been hired to steal a mysterious orb and sell it off to the highest bidder. Little does he know that the small round ball contains a rather large secret. Other folks want the orb, including some blue villainous types in heavy makeup and cool capes.

Watching this film I had a full-on flashback to my school playground in 1978, when kids would bring their big brother's motorcycle helmets and house towels to school and stalk about in towel capes, trying to channel their inner Darth Vader. There's something of that spirit of ridiculous dress-up at work here, as the villains hunch their shoulders and shout their lines, aiming to evoke menace and strength of purpose but conveying only some weird form of cosmic constipation. Where is the bathroom on this space station, anyway?

It should be fun, right?

There are always some gravel-voiced baddies (Necromongers, Sith Lords, etc.) wanting to rule the universe in this sort of film. This time it's a bunch of cranky a-holes called the Kree, who have issues with a peace accord signed by Nova Corps and the planet Xandar, or some such nonsense. The Kree want war; the nice clean people of Xandar want indoor plumbing and lighting. You can see the conflict, but let me see if I can sum it up in a few sentences and save you 122 minutes of wearying exposition.

 
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