To say that I’d been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy would be a bit of an understatement. After the initial, “Wtf? Who are these guys?” was followed by some research and an awesome trailer, I was so totally on board. It was on of Marvel’s riskiest moves outside of the first Iron Man movie. With some of their most famous properties in the hands of other studios, they’ve had to go to some pretty interesting places to use as building blocks for success. What started out as trotting Marvel’s “B-Team” out and assembling the Avengers has given us a golden age of superhero movies. With movies that run the gamut from spy thrillers to straight-up action movies, Marvel has stretched its movie-making muscle. In their newest film, they tackle an even more challenging genre: the Comedic Space Opera. Do they succeed? Oh yes. They most certainly do.

The Review

I’m going to start this by saying that the first few minutes of the film aren’t funny, but they’re important for laying character groundwork. Young Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleff), faced with his mother’s mortality, does what many kids would do: runs. That’s how he ends up getting picked up and taken to the stars. Years later, Quill (Chris Pratt), is all grown up and robbing deserted planets while dancing to the groovy tunes on his Walkman. Yes, folks, dancing. That’s just how this movie rolls and it’s awesome. He dances us through the credits and into the familiar scene we’ve all seen in the trailers: his stand-off with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) where he introduces himself as “Star Lord” while stealing a mysterious orb.

As I’m intending to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, I’m going to try to steer clear of any further plot reveals save for mentioning that the titular Guardians finally group up during an inventive escape from prison. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know that I’m talking about the following group of “a-holes:” Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Drax (David Bautista), and Groot (Vin Diesel). After prison, their plan could be summarized thusly:

Step 1 – Keep the orb out the hands of the villainous Kree fanatic, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Step 2 – ????

Step 3 – Profit

Of course, the best laid plans, or even partial plans, often go slightly askew as they’re faced with Quill’s angry mentor, Yondu (Michael Roker), and Gamora’s even-angrier sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan). Their plan for profit soon becomes a race to plan for survival as they are the only things standing between Ronan and the slaughter of billions. I’m just surprised that Quill didn’t request that someone never tell him the odds. Being a child of the ’80s, he speaks with frequent pop culture references from his Earthen upbringing. While the audience gets the references, Quill’s compatriots have no clue and it’s awesome.

Speaking of Quill’s upbringing, the music from Awesome Mix Vol. 1, the tape in his Walkman, is featured prominently throughout the movie, perfectly complementing the amazing score by Tyler Bates. While I had read in an interview with the film’s director, James Gunn, that the plan had always been to include Quill’s music in the movie since it was such an important part of his character, it was still a pleasant surprised to hear it all used so well to enhance whatever was going on screen at the time. In an age of albums of “music from and inspired by” movies filled with fantastic pop songs, it’s great to actually hear those songs played during the movie.

I got a chance to see the movie in IMAX 3D last night, the format that Gunn says is actually his favorite. I can’t argue with his opinion. The visuals pop in 3D (no pun intended) and you can really feel the sweeping, galactic scope of the movie. With Marvel moving off of Earth and into the rest of its universe, they couldn’t have picked a better way to introduce audiences to all that the rest of that universe entails. From other planets to aliens and all kinds of celestial beings, Guardians of the Galaxy shows us the big picture while telling the tale of a small group of unlikely friends and allies. It’s fun, funny, and just plain fantastic. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cry from laughing. This is the movie that the rest of this Summer’s blockbusters are going to have to try and beat. Gods help them.

Final Thoughts

I loved this movie and am going to delve into some potential spoilers here in saying that I especially love how Gamora didn’t end up being a love interest. In fact, when Quill puts the moves on her, she emphatically tells him that she’s not going to fall for his charm and when he tries a different, more sincere-sounding tactic later in the film, she just rolls her eyes at him. That was just awesome. See, it’s fairly clear that Quill must have been personally inspired by Han Solo as he’d have grown up on Star Wars like the rest of us. His motivations are money and women. It was nice to see his slightly more altruistic side by the end of the film, though a part of me still wonders if his goal to save the universe was mostly motivated by the fact that he lives in the universe and that’s just where all of his stuff is.

Peter Quill is not a perfect hero. His team are all flawed individuals with their own issues. Well, except for maybe Groot, but Groot is special. I liked how the film wasn’t afraid to show their flaws while showing how they can work so well together as a team. It’s like the Avengers on a galactic scale.

In somewhat related news, I now want so much Groot merchandise. You have no idea. He’s one of my most favorite things about the movie. Hands down.