'Guardians of the Galaxy': What the Critics Are Saying

James Gunn's Marvel film stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro.

Guardians of the Galaxy — spotlighting a rag-tag group of unlikely galactic heroes and starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Djimon HounsouJohn C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro — unspools in more than 4,080 theaters on Friday, making it the widest August release to date.

The James Gunn-directed 3D installment is expected to open to at least $65 million this weekend — a strong start for Marvel Studios' new franchise and, if achieved, one of the top August openings of all time in North America.

PHOTOS 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel Hit New York

Read what top critics are saying about Guardians of the Galaxy:

The Hollywood Reporter's film critic Justin Lowe gives credit in his review to Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman, who "have crafted a well-articulated universe with distinct settings and relatable, compelling characters devoted to a thrilling question for redemption." Lowe also lauds the film’s charming cast, as “casting is key to the movie’s effectiveness.” Pratt, although not known as an action hero, “dons the mantle with obvious enthusiasm, rounding off Quill’s rough edges with an endearing comedic sensibility.” As for Saldana, she “possesses the action chops required to persuasively portray a deadly assassin, and she makes a resourceful heroine.” However, “much of the movie’s scene-stealing is left to Rocket, a CGI character impressively crafted by the Guardians’ crack VFX team and voiced with panache by Cooper.”

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times has high praise for Gunn’s “palpable directorial sensibility,” which helps “a pulse, wit, beauty and a real sensibility” to be “slipped into the fray, alongside the clockwork guffaws, kabooms and splats.” Gunn “also summons up some emotion and even quiet desperation amid the scares and the brutes.” Dargis is also impressed with the cast, although somewhat ambivalent about Saldana’s character, who “is given more to do than make a splashy entrance and wear tight costumes, ... even when she trades in her Emma Peel-ish catsuits for a miniskirt, a costume change that’s accompanied by the image of a soft female hand resting on a strong male shoulder. This is another movie that mock-skewers the stereotypes it embraces.” Overall, however, “while Guardians takes you down one after another crazy narrative turn, it also pulls you into — and, for the most part, keeps you in — a fully realized other world.”

By contrast, SF Gate’s Mick LaSalle finds that “we’re shown nothing about this particular galaxy that should make us care whether it gets blown up like Vulcan in Star Trek.” LaSalle is also not sucked in by the comedy, as “in place of wit, Guardians offers a sort of generalized willingness to be amusing, an atmosphere of high spirits that feels like lots of people pumping air into a tire that has a hole in it. Everyone is clearly working, but nothing is really happening.” Ultimately, the film is “a cheerful emptiness, neither good nor bad, and pleasant enough.”

Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times appreciates that Guardians is “blessed with a loose, anarchic B-picture soul that encourages you to enjoy yourself even when you’re not quite sure what’s going on.” The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, as “like kids turned loose in a candy store, Gunn and company have endowed their film with a sense of fun. ... When you see the inevitable tag line, ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Will Return,’ you may well start counting the days.”

The Boston Globe’s Tom Russo gives the film three out of four stars. He says, “the motley crew’s repartee makes for comedy that’s surprisingly consistent, yet freewheeling and sharp enough to pinball from Kevin Bacon to Jackson Pollock and back." However, the action sequences start to wear thin, as “boredom would likely set in by the second or third laser shootout if Gunn, Pratt, Cooper, and the gang weren’t having such a blast. They hooked us on a screwy feeling months ago, and here they make good on the tease.”