"The first person that makes a Han Solo joke gets a double dose of lasers to the face!" Peter Quill – a.k.a. "Star Lord" – prepares to do battle in a scene from co-writer/director James Gunn's take on Marvel's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. CREDIT: © 2014 Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Djimon Honsou, Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Fairbank, Laura Haddock and the voices of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Josh Brolin

WRITER(S): Nicole Perlman, James Gunn (screenplay); Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (comic book on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): James Gunn


60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): Marvel Studios' admitted biggest risk since the original Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a citizen of earth who was abducted into space immediately after the death of his mother (Laura Haddock). Fast forwarding into the future, we see that Peter – a.k.a. "Star Lord" – is now a full grown adult scavenging planets for whatever things of value he can find, all while enjoying the mixtapes of his youth on his beloved cassette player.

Unfortunately, the mysterious orb that he has been offered a hefty fee to retrieve for The Broker (Christopher Fairbank) is of value to many other people in the galaxy – especially Ronan the Accusser (Lee Pace), a Kree rebel who is at war with the Xandarians and their leader Nova Prime (Glenn Close) despite a peace treaty being in effect. Assisting Ronan in his quest to eliminate the Xandarians are Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoë Saldana), the daughters of the death-obsessed entity Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin). While Nebula shares a direct bloodline from Thanos, Gamora is his adopted favorite daughter whom he trained to be the perfect assassin.

Of course, Gamora is sent to retrieve the mysterious orb on Ronan's behalf after tracking Peter down to the Xandarians planet ... Which is also where Rocket (a genetically altered and cybernetically enhanced talking raccoon bounty hunter voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his partner Groot (a sentient, walking-tree like creature that comes from a race of walking flora whose EXTREMELY limited vocabulary is voiced by Vin Diesel) are looking for Peter. Why are they looking for Peter? Because Peter's old running buddy Yondu (Michael Rooker) has put a $40,000 unit (a.k.a. money) bounty on his head for not giving him the orb in the first place.

Still following along? Good, now keep going ...

Eventually, Peter, Gamora, Rocket and Groot end up in a place none of them envisioned, only to meet the green-skinned, heavily tattooed silent beast known as Drax the Destroyer (former WWE mutli-time heavyweight champion Dave Bautista). Having suffered the murder of his wife and daughter at Ronan's hands, Drax only has one thing on his mind: Killing Ronan. And once Peter, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax come to realize they have a lot in common thanks to that orb, the galaxy will never be the same ... If Ronan and Thanos don't destroy it first, that is.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Fans of past Marvel movies, Chris Pratt fans, Bradley Cooper fans, space action adventure fans, enthusiasts of smaller known Marvel comic book properties hopeful other franchises will get their own film(s) some day

WHO WON'T – OR SHOULDN'T – LIKE THIS FILM?: People who find too many Star Wars/Star Trek parallels (just look at the film's poster for goodness sake!), people who don't like comic book characters origin stories altered/changed

BOTTOM LINE – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? It's Marvel, which when mediocre has had watchable movies like the original Thor and at its worst, has had the watchable (if unimpressive) Iron Man 3. Fortunately, Guardians of the Galaxy pays big dividends that should be enjoyed by both the comical book faithful and those uninitiated alike into becoming yet another solid entry into the superhero market.

WHAT'S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT? If you have ever watched a Marvel movie, by this point in time, you should know what to expect: Heroes with dynamic personalities that clash given their "I know what's best" nature, villains bent on destroying everything in their path and a mix of humor, adrenaline-filled action sequences and an underlying touch of humanity (no matter how human or not human the characters may be). Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest entry in the Marvel cannon to execute the formula to near perfection with a film that maximizes its PG-13 rating.

Essentially serving as Pratt's coming out party, Guardians finds the versatile actor utilizing the best aspects of comedic sensibilities while utilizing his everyman nature to the best of his abilities. This mix creates a likable character you can tell as no desire to be anything other than a good guy. This is balanced out well by the extreme opposition nature of Cooper's turn as Rocket, which arguably might be one of his greatest performances outside of his David O. Russell work. Rocket is brash, funny and daring ... But he never comes off corny, which given the rather outrageous nature of his character (even by comic book standards), would be a major problem if that were were not the case.

The same can be said for Groot, with a great amount of credit going to Gunn, Charles Wen and the rest of Marvel's visual development team as they – along with Diesel – get the most out of a walking, grunting tree as one could likely ever hope for. Add in solid turns by Saldana and Bautista – who balances his own physical brawn with his character's subtle burning rage well – and you've got an oddball team that works well together, which is essentially what the story is about in the first place.

While Tom Hiddleston has essentially raised the bar for what a Marvel villain should be in turns as Thor's half-brother Loki, Rooker commands the screen in each scene he's in as Yondu, channeling all the intensity he exhibited as Merle Dixon on The Walking Dead while also exhibiting a humorous, charming side simultaneously. While he may not end up with his one Marvel One Shot like Hayley Atwell's Agent Carter, he definitely proves himself worthy of an appearance in the Guardians upcoming summer 2017 sequel.

If Guardians does have some drawbacks, one might point to the very adult nature of some of the language in the film – there's a Jackson Pollack reference most parents will pray any child under the age of 18 doesn't get – and of course, the ways in which death and violence are portrayed throughout the film. Likewise, there is that whole "this kind of has a LOT of Star Wars/Star Trek under and overtones to it" (the nature and chemistry among the characters, the fate of galaxy being at state, the nature of the two-tiered villains and their assassins for hire, etc.).

Then again, it's not like the violence is that bad all things considered, especially if you consider the fact none of the action takes place on earth and there is a talking raccoon and tree involved. Additionally, given the fact the film has people with green, blue and pink skin, one could argue that it makes a great case for a diverse society if you really want to get meta about things ... And as far as Star Wars/Star Trek are concerned, if the world has proven itself big enough for both of those franchises, many fanboys (and girls) likely won't even mind, let alone notice.

Given the quality of the latest Marvel success story, expect a lot of people to take notice of Guardians of the Galaxy upon its release this weekend.



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