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by Peter Lougee

Bottom Line: 4 out of 5 Talking Raccoons

Setting the stage for what appears to be a new cosmic direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe,Guardians of the Galaxy focuses on the adventures of Peter Quill (you might know him as Star Lord) as he brings a band of fellow outlaws together in a quest to prevent Ronan the Accuser from obtaining a mysterious Orb that could wreak havoc on the galaxy…because, well, Peter Quill is one of the idiots currently living in said galaxy.

At the core of this merry group of outlaws is Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, who brings an effusive goofy charm to the cast that sets the tone for the rest of the film. This is important, because Guardians of the Galaxy could have easily been weighed down by its own outlandish concepts, since two of the main characters are a talking raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and a giant tree monster with a limited vocabulary (but a heart of gold) voiced by Vin Diesel. And did I mention the severed head of a celestial-turned-space station yet?

Anyways…rounding out the team is Zoe Saldana’s Uhura Gamora, daughter of the “Mad Titan” Thanos; and Drax the Destroyer, played by Dave Bautista – both of whom are hell-bent on revenge for various atrocities committed by Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser. Ronan is seeking to restore the honor of the Kree Empire that has surrendered to the Nova Corps (space cops) prior to the start of the movie.

If this is beginning to sound overcomplicated, it’s not just you. The first twenty minutes or so can even feel like Exposition: The Movie. Yet, the lighthearted humor (and equally important retro soundtrack) underpinning Marvel’s latest offering makes the whole thing simply work. Rounding out the ensemble cast is Karen Gillan as Nebula, Michael Rooker as the bounty hunter Yondu, John C. Reilly as a space cop, Benicio Del Toro as The Hoarder The Collector, and Glenn-Freaking-Close as Nova Prime (head Space Cop). These types of movies succeed or fail largely on the cast dynamics, and Guardians succeeds wildly.

For all its exposition, the movie does leave viewers unfamiliar with the comics a lot of questions: What is the Kree Empire? What the hell is a Celestial and why is it’s skull now a space station? Why does the team trust each other so quickly if they’re all mercenaries? Shouldn’t the space cops be more worried about someone they call a “Mad Titan” rather than a crazed Lee Pace with a single space ship? Why is Thanos such a crappy father? Can’t Karen Gillan get some more screen time? Where did Benicio Del Toro get his adorable soviet space dog?

All these questions don’t really matter, because this movie just fits together in amazing top-shelf fashion. So should you go see it? I have only two things left to say: I am Groot. I am GROOT.

I think I’ve made myself perfectly clear.