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If the poster for “Guardians of the Galaxy” seems a bit like a parody of a space-opera movie — with its ray-gun firing hero, green-skinned Amazon, machine-gun toting space racoon and giant alien plant — well, that’s because it is. Kind of.

Director James Gunn is best known for his film “Super,” which was a rather hilarious and demented dismantling of the superhero genre. With “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Gunn inherits a little-known Marvel Comics property — a bush-league versions “Avengers,” basically — and attempts to have some fun with it. He’s aiming to both make a mockery of “Star Wars”-style space operas and also deliver enough sci-fi spectacle to make any fanboy swoon. Remarkably, he succeeds, and “Guardians” is pure, silly fun. (It’s even more remarkable considering Gunn’s last film, the gross-out comedy “Movie 43,” utterly bombed at the box office.)

It’s all bit camp, really. The film is as comfortable with bad guys in the Sith Lord tradition, ranting in classic super-villain seriousness (“Xandar, your wretched peace treaty will not save you now, it is the tinder on which you shall burn!”), as it is with a hero who will suddenly start breakdancing to 1980s pop tunes. The film’s big message is not the quasi-Eastern profundity of “the Force,” but rather that its ragtag band of mercenary heroes must learn to, and I quote, “give a sh-t.”

Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating
Director James Gunn
Run Time 121 minutes
Language English
Opens Sept. 13

Even the origin story of the film’s hero, Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), seems like a parody. We see Peter as a little boy in the hospital where his mother is in the last stages of cancer. Distraught when she dies, he runs outside — and is immediately beamed up by a passing UFO. Seriously. Cut to 26 years later and he has become Star-Lord, an intergalactic rogue in the Han Solo mode.

His soon-to-be sidekick Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) — an anthropomorphic furball, marksman and space pilot — was one of those strange ’70s Marvel characters that could only be explained by the era’s preference for good weed. (Howard the Duck is another classic from this era.) Rocket is joined by his sentient-plant friend Groot, a kind of Chewbacca with leaves, and rounding out the team are super-assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and vengeance-seeking Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who looks like what Vladimir Putin sees when he stares in the mirror.

The plot is pretty much just another race to get the MacGuffin, in this case a mysterious orb that everyone is after, none more so than the evil Kree warlord Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who needs it to, you know, blow up planets and stuff. Gunn stages his chases, escapes and shootouts with great flair, and a sequence where Ronan’s massive spacecraft is contained by a fighter formation creating a giant scintillating energy net is particularly imaginative.

What makes it all work, though, is the film’s oddball sense of humour, and while this may all get a bit tired by the time we get to “Guardians 3,” for now, sit back and enjoy.

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