I'm not a comic-book reader, so I generally find the film adaptations of various superhero franchises to be somewhere between confusing (for lack of background knowledge) and tedious (too much mindless action). So I wasn't expecting much from Guardians of the Galaxy, a Marvel title I'd never even heard of.
But James Gunn's action-adventure-comedy turned out to be a fun outing, a film that was helped immeasurably by not taking itself too seriously. (Gunn gave us 2006's Slither, or the greatest movie ever made about slugs from outer space.) It's a loose origin story, in which the pursuit of an orb unites five unlikely heroes: a goofball spaceship pilot (Chris Pratt), an assassin (Zoe Saldana), a muscleman (Dave Bautista), a talking raccoon (voice of Bradley Cooper) and a surprisingly engaging tree (Vin Deisel voices its five words).
The story is largely secondary to the group's antics, squabbling and evolving camaraderie, and a dull villain doesn't promote further engagement with the plot. (As if any of these newly minted Marvel heroes are in any real danger ...) Instead, audiences are invited to laugh at the gags, laugh doubly hard at the many in-jokes, tap their toes to the cheesy '70s pop tunes and goggle at Pratt's newly buff physique. It's summertime, and even comics heroes aren't up for any brooding or heavy mythology-lifting.