The Marvel Movie Universe Soars to Greater Heights in Guardians of the Galaxy

I haven't seen many movies in the theater this summer but of the two I did see, I'm glad that they were both Marvel movies made by Marvel itself: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. (On the other hand, I haven't seen Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, this summer's Marvel movies that were not made by Marvel.) I don't know how Marvel does it, but it makes the production of entertaining, interconnected superhero movies look so easy.

In contrast to the tense, somber Captain America movie that kicked off the 2014 blockbuster season, Guardians of the Galaxy is a wild, humorous romp into parts of the Marvel universe that aren't located on Earth or Thor's home world of Asgard. As such, Guardians is more of a pulp sci-fi space opera that's told with a wink and a smirk--due in no small part to director James Gunn, whose filmography includes oddball genre flicks like Slither and Super--but superhero fans won't be disappointed.

The basic plot of Guardians is that a group of space-faring misfits--including a two-legged talking raccoon and a hulking, tree-like being who can only say "I am Groot!"--come together to stop an evil alien fanatic from using an ancient power source to destroy an entire planet. This is run-of-the-mill popcorn sci-fi stuff, but the creative sparks that make it worth the ride are Gunn's direction, a witty script, jaw-dropping special effects, and a willing and able cast that includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. In case you're wondering how far Marvel has come in building its reputation for making films, consider this: It was able to cast noted acting talents such as Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro and John C. Reilly in bit parts in Guardians and it looked like they were having a blast anyway.

Of course, what would a Marvel movie be without nods to other Marvel movies and comic books? Guardians has got that in spades, providing a treasure trove of Marvel trivia that could launch even more spin-offs. Cameo appearances are made by the Chitauri (the villains from The Avengers movie) and Dark Elves (the villains from Thor 2), and a subplot includes one of Marvel's supreme villains, Thanos (the character who made a cameo appearance at the end of Avengers). While there will be a sequel to Guardians, there are enough nods in this film to open possibilities for Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, Nova and many other characters and story arcs from the Marvel archives.

Keep it coming, Marvel. I can't wait to see what you bring to the silver screen next.


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