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Guardians of the Galaxy

What we have here, in a nutshell, is Disney re-working a previously untapped Marvel Comics lode into a Star Wars clone. If you’re a stockholder you’re probably already struggling to decide whether you’ll go for the new summer house or just the yacht.

There’s not much doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be a hit. The only question is how big. And that’s the problem with it. Everything that’s likeable about it is spoiled, at least for the sourpusses among us who have seen this kind of thing a hundred times before, by its pandering and by its self-satisfaction with its own cleverness.

Chris Pratt (whom I will confuse with Chris Pine even more after this film) stars as Peter Quill, intergalactic bounty hunter and jack of all trades. Think of a young Han Solo, still wet behind the ears. Hired to fetch an orb (yes, movies like this always have an orb) he winds up in prison where he learns that said orb will be used to wipe out billions in a civilization targeted for destruction by Ronan (Lee Pace), an extraterrestrial jihadist. (“Rule it?,” he says of the planet he plans to conquer. “I will cure it!”)

Quill’s allies in the quest to prevent this are an anthropomorphized raccoon named Rocky (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a sentient tree (voiced by Vin Diesel, whose only dialogue is “I am Groot”), and Drax (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista), a muscle-bound warrior from a species that does not understand irony or metaphor. (When smart-mouthed Quill is warned that his quips will go over Drax’s head, Drax defends himself: “Nothing goes over my head—my reflexes are too fast.”)

Oh, and of course a green-skinned space babe, named Gamora (Zoe Saldana). She is a fierce fighter, as if it matters.

Also along for the ride are a fair number of familiar faces, some of whom appear to be enjoying themselves (Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker), others determined only to salvage their dignity by keeping a straight face (Glenn Close, John C. Reilly).

The first in a planned series (which I suppose goes without saying), Guardians of the Galaxy is determined to have its cake and eat it too. Half the dialogue is corny in standard space-opera fashion, while the other half pokes its tongue through its cheek making fun of itself.

It’s all fast and furious, so much so that it’s impossible to get caught up in the story, assuming there is one. Drama requires rising action, but writer-director James Gunn keeps this at an almost unvaried pitch from beginning to end. Without a watch it’s impossible to tell where you are: every scene is treated like a climax, and after 40 minutes it’s exhausting.

Watch the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy

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