Movie review: “Guardians” intergalactic tag team is overloaded

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From the July 31, 2014 edition

Movies based on Marvel Comics have grossed approximately $6.4 billion (I’m not making that number up), led of course by Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers movies.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” is not a particularly well-known commodity outside of the comics world, but Marvel’s film version is highly anticipated (and boasts a budget that requires it reaches beyond this audience).

As far as franchise launches go, I found “Guardians” to be a mixed bag. There’s a lot to like. There’s a lot not to like. There’s just a lot of everything.

This epic space opera has a lot of moving parts. An American space pilot named Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals a mysterious orb that is apparently sought after by every baddie in the galaxy.

He eventually finds himself the unwitting member of a team of misfits that includes lime-skinned alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), hulking brute Drax the Destroyer (pro-wrestler Dave Bautista), a tree-like creature named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and, finally, a gun-toting raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper).

With a sizeable budget for some eye-popping special effects, “Guardians” seems more primed to be staking out “Star Wars” territory than being another superhero flick. Marvel/Disney put lesser-known director James Gunn at the helm. I really loved Gunn’s feature debut “Slither” — although I was less-enthused by his alt-superhero flick “Super” — and I loved the concept.

Pratt — who got unrecognizably buff for anyone who knows him from TV’s “Parks and Recreation” — has the kind of easygoing charm one might hope for. Peter is the gang’s Han Solo, only with a goofier sense of humor. He seems an unlikely choice to carry such a big film, but he does.

Gunn handles the action well, even if things tend to turn into sensory overload at times. Fight scenes and space battles are peppered liberally throughout. No one will complain about the action, and “Guardians” is pretty damn funny, too.

So why is my overall reaction still kinda “meh”? Because of an overstuffed plot mostly. I found the whole thing hard to follow, particularly matters regarding the villanous Kree. “Guardians” feels overstuffed the way sequels often do, and it’s the first movie.

I predict fans will eat this up, but I was hoping for something more accessible.

Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios