We needed a hero

Despite The Mouse, James Gunn’s comic-book flick is a blast

The A+ Team.

The A+ Team.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Directed by James Gunn. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.

Rated 5.0

I have to cop that I have a pretty low opinion of Disney as a corporation, and consider it the Monsanto of cinema. I also feel that everything bad about Hollywood in the last decade is attributable to the baleful influence of the comic-book movie, so I pretty much gave up on it all after the unholy alliance of Disney and Marvel was sealed in 2009. Throw in the new Disney Star Wars franchise just to make the Evil Empire comparison complete and … and …

Damn, Guardians of the Galaxy is shiny.

But that might’ve been expected. If someone was gonna make a swell comic-book movie despite the aggressively calculating influence of both Disney and Marvel (really, if the Earth opened up and swallowed those two companies and then closed back up without leaving a trace of their degenerate influence on film I would die a satisfied man) it would be writer/director James Gunn. And yep, he did it.

Gunn was writer of the better-than-the-original remake of Dawn of the Dead and the writer/director of the vastly entertaining box-office bomb Slither. He’s been a filmmaker to keep an eye on since graduating the Troma School of low-budget filmmaking, and writing, producing and starring in The Specials, one of the first deconstructionist swipes at superheroes (released in 2000, but cut years before the woefully inadequate 1999 knockoff Mystery Men).

The story here: Charming half-human/half-alien rogue Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals a MacGuffin and teams up with a band of misfits—including a foul-tempered talking raccoon and a sentient tree (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively)—to avert the destruction of the galaxy from some intergalactic Conan the Barbarian dude. Or something. It’s kind of shambolic, but in a good way. (I’ve always wanted to use that word.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the most entertaining movie of the year, a delirious romp through the CGI cosmos that justifies the gallons of pixel dust it splashes across the screen. Gunn isn’t shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve, as GOTG evokes everything from the best aspects of the original Star Wars, Joss Whedon’s Firefly and all sorts of other fun stuff—even the 1950s noir classic Kiss Me Deadly for a moment of WTF? Actually, there are a few of those (welcome) moments.

Like Quentin Tarantino or Edgar “Shaun of the Dead” Wright, Gunn is a pop-culture montage-ist, and Guardians demands a second (or third, or fourth) viewing just to sort it all out.

But the first viewing is an experience; a vicarious experience of joining a filmmaker who is obviously strapped in and enjoying the ride himself.