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Guardians of the Galaxy (3D)


Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Djimon Hounsou, John C Reilly, Josh Brolin, Nathan Fillion, Ophelia Lovibond. Voices: Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel

Director: James Gunn

Another triumph for Marvel Studios, this thumpingly-paced superhero sci-fi fantasy has so many amusing situations and lines that it's pretty much an action comedy. And that's also partly because the majority of the 'good' characters have stuff about them that makes you smile.

Chief among these is Peter Quill (engagingly played by Pratt), a space wanderer seized from Earth as a child, who plays pop music from cassettes given to him by his dying mother (Laura Haddock), while retrieving galactic objets d'art that he can sell to the highest bidder. One of these proves to be the film's McGuffin, the Orb, an all-powerful thingummyjig that can lay waste to entire civilisations - and a bad guy, Ronan (Pace, done up to look like an Egyptian pharaoh) wants it for all the obvious reasons, aided by a mechanically assembled daughter (Gillan) and henchman (Hounsou).

There's another daughter (Saldana, becoming the first actress to play different alien characters with blue and here green skin), who turns out to be on Quill's side.

Quill also picks up bounty hunters Rocket, a snarlingly self-opinionated cyborg raccoon (Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (Diesel), a mass of living twigs and branches, whose sole dialogue is 'I am Groot', carrying differing meanings decipherable only by the raccoon.

Breaking out of a Klee (they're the bad guys) prison, the quartet takes in tow thick-skulled, red-skinned strongman Drax (wrestling star Bautista), out for revenge on Ronan for the deaths of his family.

Lie back and expect fizzing action that stops only for wisecracks, often from Cooper's raccoon. Pratt's laidback, self-deprecating humour, faintly reminiscent of the late James Garner, fits well into this framework, even though he's often upstaged by his animal partner. Fans will be relieved to see the disclaimer that 'no raccoons were harmed in the making of this picture'.

Special affects are generally too fast and furious to be properly appreciated, although those involving Saldana's movements are sometimes a bit dodgy. Minor downspots: Reilly and especially a garishly made-up Close look a bit silly as senior residents of Utopian Nova Prime.

Older filmgoers may recognise 1980s' star Gregg Henry at the beginning as the young Quill's grandpa.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Walt Disney (Marvel Studios). Technicolor.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Jul 2014