Strange days have come into the world of sci-fi and fantasy. Once the imagined worlds were mostly shared in books and graphic novels, hence it took the commitment of reading to enter them. As such the genres belonged to the “nerds,” who would rather escape to the Middle Earth with Frodo than attend a party. The movie industry, however, has changed that.

The 2012 “Avengers” announced the definite transition of speech bubble stories to the screen. And the comics imperium Marvel jumped on the motion picture bandwagon with vengeance. Plagued by the vision of their multiverse brought to the bigger audience, the producers ate through one of their most notorious franchises in a span of three years.

The ire of the camera then landed on the series on the back shelf. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was eagerly expected since the first movie outran critics’ expectations by a mile in 2014. A sarcastic and self-critical space ride with a catchy soundtrack and even catchier characters overshadowed reboots of both Star Wars and Star Trek series. The group of renegades-turned-protectors of the whole cosmos brought together some of the best individuals the superhero movies have seen so far.

The group is led by Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, whose serious parent issues are masked by a third grader sense of humor and a knack for 80s soft rock. Chris Pratt, the portraying actor, shares a great deal of Quill’s quirkiness. A former star of a smart comedy series “Parks and Recreation” pulls off the galactic cowboy’s mannerism without making him annoying. Joined by the alien femme fatale Gamora with a no-nonsense attitude, human hybrid Drax the Destroyer, who doesn’t understand metaphors, and a genetically engineered raccoon Rocket with his plant hybrid partner Groot the film serves the audience a volatile cocktail of personalities.

The story makes full use of that, focusing on the characters and their hilarious interactions, which is a foreign idea for space odysseys. Inter-galactic tales mostly use personas to present the universal plot. Family-friendly action can’t afford that.

It boils down to the fact that fantasy became mainstream. And the new popularity asks it to accommodate to a different kind of crowd than it was used to. Now the audience is all over the place and the characters need to be much more flexible, often at the expense of a complicated narrative.

The neo-comics movie needs a simple plot for the framework, visuals that will be fun to watch in the cinema and personalities that will create an interesting social aquarium. The new “Guardians of the Galaxy” pass all that with ease and then add more.

Paradoxically the biggest downfall of the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” isn’t that they are a self- appointed galactic Sponge Bob, it is the parts when they are trying not to be. The long useless dialogues about love, courage and family are forcefully punched into an otherwise rainbow-sprinkled smartassery. But overall, the idea of putting a bunch of jackasses into a spaceship is amusing to watch.

Of course, the fantasy and sci-fi purists will pluck their hairs out over what  pop culture is doing to the genres. But, the core fandom will always be like that no matter what the producers do. The world doesn’t need another episode about Luke Skywalker, but it desperately needed another one about Peter Quill.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Hubert M

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