To be fair, it's nowhere near as catastrophic as Iron Man 2 or The Incredible Hulk. It motors along with impressive momentum, kicked off by a Raiders Of The Lost Ark-y opening and fuelled by the spirit of Star Wars, with its likeable heroes thrown together and pitted against the forces of darkness through no desire of their own. That's about all it takes from the original Star Wars trilogy though; Guardians appears, ill-advisedly, to more thoroughly plunder the prequel trilogy for its roster of unconvincing CG environments and convoluted plotting.
An episodic jaunt through a series of interchangeable fights and confusing aerial battles, Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't afraid to bust out the old stop-the Macguffin-falling-into-the-hands-of-the-enemy plot, and it attempts to cover the fact that you've seen this story dozens of times by introducing an over-abundance of secondary characters. If you can keep up with all the players mentioned in the first act then you're doing well, especially when many of them are either suspiciously similar to each other, almost entirely without motivation or just plain extraneous.
Two minutes of screen time is still enough to warrant your own character poster.
Its tongue is planted squarely in its cheek, and it's comfortably aware of its own ridiculousness, but Guardians Of The Galaxy isn't nearly as funny or clever as it thinks it is. The one-liners are weak, the gags half-hearted, and the one joke aimed high above the heads of the younger audience - i.e. it's about semen - is in incongruously dubious taste. And when it reaches its inevitably overblown finale, Guardians commits the cardinal sin of making up its own rules to explain away the ending, and it's hard not to feel a little cheated. It's not even as if you can take any especially memorable scenes or moments away with you, because there aren't any.
Although the bit where this extra reveals her
true feelings towards Glenn Close is quite good.
How much any of this will impact on next summer's reassembling of the Avengers remains to be seen. Despite a run of below-par entries, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still coasting on enough goodwill from Phase One to ensure the success of Phase Two's grand finale. But while Joss Whedon made surprisingly impressive lemonade from some of the lemons he was handed last time round, one can only hope he's stocked up on sugar over the last few years because - Iron Man Three excepted - this batch of the MCU is beginning to turn a little too sour.