Directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy brings the Marvel cinematic universe into outer space with a new roster of memorable characters.
Chris Pratt plays Peter Quill (or as he prefers to be known; Star Lord), who was taken from Earth as a child. Armed with a Walkman playing an "Awesome Mix" of 70s and 80s classics, he has the roguishness of Han Solo and charisma of Tony Stark. Bradley Cooper lends his voice to an augmented raccoon called Rocket, who is full of plans and deadly with a gun. Vin Diesel voices a talking tree that can only say "I am Groot". While you would expect this limitation to make his performance wooden (sorry), he is actually one of the stand-out characters. WWE Superstar Dave Bautista is also surprisingly great as Drax the Destroyer; a one-man-army who comedically doesn't understand metaphors. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora - a skilled assassin who also happens to be the adopted daughter of super villain Thanos (as seen in the Avengers Assemble end credits).
When the opportunistic Peter Quill steals a much sought after orb, he gains the unwanted attention of the deadly Ronan (Lee Pace). A shaven headed Karen Gillan is also on the case as Nebula; who also has a history with Gamora. When the gang finally form an alliance in a space prison, the fun really begins.
Also appearing are John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey, Glenn Close as Nova Prime and Benicio Del Toro as The Collector in brief, but narratively important roles.
Being an origin story, we also get to learn about each of the Guardian's backstories. In particular Peter Quill, who we are first introduced to as a child. Through which, we learn how past tragedies have become catalysts for their current actions. It's also worth reading the recently-released Prelude comic book if you'd like to know even more about their origins.
While Guardians of the Galaxy is certainly a stand-alone film, it contains elements of a wider arc that will undoubtedly affect the Marvel universe at a later date. Confidently, the film even announces that the Guardians will return. Not that we were really in any doubt of that, based on previous franchise successes. Some have claimed that launching a comic book adaptation with relatively unknown characters is a risky move, but Marvel and Disney have yet to put a foot wrong in their cinematic universe. In fact, the Guardians are amongst their brightest prospects, resulting in a modern mix of Star Wars and Indiana Jones that I can't wait to see more of.
The tone of the film is laid back, cool and confident, as it effortlessly flows from big laughs to quirky pop culture references and dazzling action. There isn't a weak link in the team either, with everyone competing to steal scenes and having great fun in the process.
Marvel's biggest risk deserves to be one of their biggest rewards, as Guardians of the Galaxy is out of this world!