The Marvel universe is slowly gobbling up all of Hollywood. There've already been three Iron Man movies, two Thor films, and a couple of Captain Americas too, plus a slew of sequels for all of them still to come. And then every couple of years, Marvel throws a superhero party called the Avengers and it rakes in billions more in profit.
Not content with its present film-world domination, Marvel on Friday launches yet another comic book franchise, with five more superheroes.
They're called the Guardians of the Galaxy and if that title sounds corny, know that the filmmakers know that too. How could they not, when our heroes are: a talking racoon, a walking tree, a lithe green female alien of some sort, a heavily-tattooed strongman alien of some other sort, and a goofball human with a weakness for lame jokes and 70's pop songs?
If the Avengers are like cool high school seniors, these Guardians are more like middle-school wannabes. The lone human Guardian, Peter Quill, for instance, keeps hoping someone will start calling him Star Lord but everyone just laughs at him.
The Guardians' only saving grace is that they're all pretty good fighters who are great improvisers, which is a good thing since their plans keep falling apart.
Like most middle-schoolers, the Guardians think their jokes are hilarious, especially when they're not. And after a steady stream of the most belabored one-liners this side of Adam Sandler, I found myself yearning for Robert Downey Jr's sarcastic Iron Man to cut them all down to size with a single, withering wisecrack. These silly Guardians were just too slight and inconsequential to care a whit about.
But then, slowly but surely, the Guardians of the Galaxy began to win me over, precisely because they didn't take themselves too seriously. Their goofy camaraderie is ultimately infectious.
And when it comes right down to it, who would you rather see save the universe - a man in an iron suit, a god with a big hammer, a soldier with a red, white and blue shield or a wiseacre racoon with a machine gun? There's no contest.
The Avengers may be The Avengers, but these guys are the frickin' Guardians of the Galaxy.