starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Benicio Del Toro
written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
directed by James Gunn
by Walter Chaw After years of looking for a Star Wars for my son (too little for Lord of the Rings; nothing to attach to in Pacific Rim), here's James Gunn's awesome Guardians of the Galaxy to fit the bill. It's science-fiction in exactly the same way that Star Wars is science-fiction--essentially a serial western, with Chris Pratt as both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, green Zoe Saldana as Princess Leia, and a raccoon and a tree subbing for Wookiee and droid. It has a secret history for our hero, a scary baddie in a black cloak, and an entire universe of wonders it treats like an amusement park. It's also fun in the same way Star Wars was fun, and fresh in the same way, too: heedlessly, carefree, even bratty, which explains the post-credits cut-scene that's easily the best of them. Furthermore, it has a soundtrack packed with AM Gold that lends the picture camp and hipster cred simultaneously. Heavy on exposition at times, squandering a few opportunities to demonstrate a better team action dynamic, and not about anything at the end of the day, Guardians of the Galaxy's sword and shield is that its irreverence and self-awareness land as self-deprecating and warm. Doesn't hurt that it's a blast.