Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely mind-boggling. A movie about a bunch of C-list comic book characters messing around in space is the last thing you'd expect to succeed. And yet here I am, unable to wipe the smile from my face after watching what could possibly be the best superhero, nay, comic book movie of the year.
And I say "comic book" because Guardians of the Galaxy cannot be just lumped into the genre that Marvel Studios helped build. It's a love letter to cosmic Marvel, chock full of comic book easter eggs that would make any cosmic Marvel fanboy (especially fans of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's work) blush. It's also a cool space epic, and director James Gunn knows how to sell it well, with balls-to-the-wall action amidst sweeping shots of alien planets, futuristic cityscapes and even the gigantic severed head of a freakin' Celestial. It's been a while since we've seen a movie with this much imagination crammed into it that it blows you away.
But more than that, Guardians of the Galaxy stands firmly on the strength of its main cast, and it's a fun ride watching them go from saving their own asses to saving the galaxy. Chris Pratt owns his leading man status as lovable scoundrel Peter Quill/Star-Lord, and despite Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel only providing voices (and mo-cap, in the case of Vin) to their characters, Rocket (Raccoon!) and Groot steal the spotlight in every scene they're in. I'm a bit sad that Zoe Saldana didn't have much to do here other than be Star Lord's love interest and sword-wielding badass, but what we little we did get of her is great. The surprise hit for me was my main man Batista (Dave Bautista to you) as Drax, who surprised everyone by going full-on, old-school eloquent Drax the Destroyer mode and playing off everyone so well that I cracked up at everything that came out of his mouth. Jim Starlin must be beaming right now.
An even bigger surprise was Lee Pace, who obviously enjoyed playing Ronan the Accuser so much and made the movie all the better for it. His Ronan is one of the most menacing villains we've seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. He's how Thor: The Dark World's big baddie Malekith should have been, the kind of over-the-top villain that promises to destroy the world and actually come close to it. Sure, Ronan's motivations are murky at best, but Pace's swagger in the face of even Thanos himself is just so fun to watch.
I especially liked how freaking heart-warming Guardians of the Galaxy is. Despite all the a-holes that make up most of its characters, the movie doesn't tread the path of modern-era cynicism that even Captain America: The Winter Soldier went through. When Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot finally come together in the defense of the galaxy, they don't go through it like they didn't have a choice. They've bonded with each other through the course of the movie. They didn't just become a team...they became friends. When Drax nails Nebula with a rocket launcher for threatening Gamora, the big guy plainly states "No one talks to my friends like that". And for a guy like me who's a sucker for those little things, it's very satisfying.
Put it all together and you get one hell of a comic book movie that is sure to surprise everyone in a good way. What Marvel's The Avengers started, Guardians of the Galaxy took it and ran with it in ways other comic book movies wish they did. Hell, if you haven't picked up a comic book in your life and just want a fun and funny action movie set in space, you're gonna have a great time. Highly recommended!