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Actress Nicola Peltz poses for photographers during a press conference of her latest film ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ in Tokyo. The film, which premiered in the US in June will open across Japan on Aug 8. (AP)
Is Pratt’s goofy space romp out of this world? Marvel’s ‘Guardians’ fun, hilarious

LOS ANGELES, Aug 2, (RTRS): Fans have had high hopes for Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy” since the first teaser dropped in February and, according to most critics, moviegoers will not be disappointed. Rotten Tomatoes already collected 161 critics’ reviews of the James Gunn-helmed Disney release — which opened Thursday night — and 90 percent of them are positive. Chris Pratt stars in “Guardians” as a goofy, space brigand named Peter Quill (who prefers the moniker “Star-Lord.”) He heads up an unlikely band of heroes which includes Bradley Cooper (a feisty, well-armed raccoon), Vin Diesel (an adorable tree monster), Dave Bautista (a knife expert with awful skin) and Zoe Saldana (a sexy green assassin). Together they make jokes while trying to, well, guard the galaxy from nefarious forces.

“‘Guardians’ has a little more space for irony, goofiness and sarcasm than the other Marvel movies,” writes TheWrap’s own James Rocchi, “which Gunn and co-screenwriter Nicole Perlman relish in exploring with great one-liners and running gags.” He doesn’t think it’s perfect, however. “The film also has many of the structural flaws of the other Marvel movies,” Rocchi writes. “All the Marvel films look clean, are shot relatively well, and are, to a one, both overstuffed and underwritten, full of too many characters in search of too many McGuffins.”

TheWrap’s lead film critic Alonso Duralde doesn’t see the problem. “I think there’s a danger that this movie’s going to be kind of oversold, it’s just sort of fun and ridiculous,” he said. “This is almost a comedy more so than anything else,” agrees TheWrap’s soon-to-be former film reporter Lucas Shaw.
“‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ does the impossible,” adds Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. “Through dazzle and dumb luck, it turns the clichés of comic-book films on their idiot heads and hits you like an exhilarating blast of fun-fun-fun. It’s insanely, shamelessly silly — just one reason to love it.” He wasn’t the only critic to praise the movie for not taking itself very seriously. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal calls the film a “likable lightweight.”
“The people who made this movie must have had a swell time in the process, and it’s nice to see a summer epic that takes itself so unseriously,” he continues.
The special effects in “Guardians” are generally lauded, too, which is good considering so much of it is CGI. “There are some fantastic effects here, from the photo-realistic talking raccoon to a wonderful scene in which hundreds of small fighter ships align themselves wingtip to wingtip to form a giant net to trap a larger spacecraft,” says Miami Herald’s Rene Rodriguez.
But not everyone loved the film.
“Writer-director James Gunn keeps pulling the rug out without first bothering to trick anyone into standing on it,” wrote Kyle Smith in his New York Post critique.
“Gunn has to juggle so many plot elements in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ — so many booming galactic battles, so many whisker-close brushes with death, so many almost-poignant moments of epiphany — that it’s little wonder he loses his grip on the thing,” adds the Village Voice’s Stephanie Zacharek.
While the quality of any film is always up for debate, the early box-office success of this one in particular is not.
As TheWrap reported, “GotG” blasted off to an $11.2 million Thursday night opening.
Pratt may get first billing as Peter Quill/Star-Lord in this weekend’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but when it comes down to the bottom line, the sci-fi adventure’s MVP may just be its smallest: Rocket Raccoon.
The James Gunn-directed movie made $11.2 million in screenings — the best of the year — and is projected to have a big weekend. Analysts think fans may leave the theater talking about the mouthy, gun-toting raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper.
“You can never fully predict a breakout character, but we knew he was funny and that kids especially would respond to him, since, like many kids, he is underestimated because of his size,” Paul Gitter, senior vice-president of licensing for Marvel, Disney Consumer Products, told TheWrap. “Rocket is unlike anything we have in Marvel merchandise, and licensees have risen to the expected demand with a range of Rocket-inspired products.”
“This movie is fantastic for merchandising,” adds Matthew Harrigan, a media analyst at Wunderlich Securities. “Groot [the sentient tree-warrior voiced by Vin Diesel] and Rocket Raccoon are just naturals for boys. Disney tends to run a little girlie with all its princess franchises, so this is a very worthwhile complement.”
According to Chris Byrne, a toy industry analyst known as “The Toy Guy” and the content director of Time to Play Media, cartoon heroes like Spider-Man and Batman actually sell the most toys to pre-kindergarten children, while movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and the more grim “Dark Knight” trilogy do better among adult collectors, who comprise up to 40 percent of the toy market.
Byrne predicts “Guardians of the Galaxy” will try to appeal to both demographics. And while it may not earn the $482 million merchandising haul of the first “Transformers,” Byrne says the Guardians should do good business — especially Rocket.
Marvel has licensed plush dolls, 12-inch action figures, action masks and toy weapons; adult collectors are being wooed with six-inch figurines, vinyl figurines, bobblehead dolls and statues. Legos, branded headphones and backpacks with hoods and tails should attract both age groups as well.
Additionally, novels and anthologies will meet the needs of those who demand the backstories of Rocket and Groot. Marvel also launched a new Rocket comic just this month, ready-made for new readers.
Merchandising potential was certainly a consideration in Disney’s $4.64 billion acquisition of Marvel in 2009. Disney cashes in on all of the comic company’s characters — it profits on Spider-Man toys despite not having the movie rights — and Marvel Studios films bring tie-in opportunities galore.
Disney sold $40.9 billion in licensed merchandise in 2013, and as Byrne notes, consumer goods are often developed in concert with film and TV properties.
“It takes on average about 18 months to get a toy from Asia off the molds and into the market,” he explained, “so I would say about the time that the script is done and the cameras are starting to roll, the toys are in process.”
Sometimes even success requires contingencies.
“Due to the response and demand,” Gitter said, “we are working closely with licensees on additional product assortments for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ led by Rocket-inspired offerings.”

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