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Guardians of the Galaxy

In theaters August 1, 2014

James Gunn isn’t a household name when it comes to piloting $100+ million dollar movies. The director has a few good projects under his belt. Films like Slither and Super are great examples of his work, but there’s nothing to suggest Gunn was ready to tackle a Marvel movie. But he has succeeded in creating the most entertaining stand-alone Marvel film since Ironman kick-started the machine in 2008.

Great characters make great movies. Such is the case with Guardians, as every character is fully realized and perfectly cast, despite the exclusion of any big A-list actors. The film stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a member of an intergalactic gang of thieves. He was abducted from Earth as a small child. His most precious belongings are a sony walkman and mixtape, they are his connection to humanity.

Quill, in an attempt to double-cross his boss Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), steals a valuable artifact for profit, only to become the target of an evil, power-hungry alien named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace). Ronan is the single character that could have deserved Gunn’s attention, he won’t go down as the most memorable villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Marvel history, Ronan is bent on Kree dominance of the galaxy, however, that motivation doesn’t translate in the movie. Quill’s attempt to sell the orb artifact is thwarted by the first of his eventual teammates, the deadly assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Their confrontation sends both to prison where they form the Guardians alongside the trigger-happy Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his pal Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and the revenge-driven Drax (Dave Bautista).

The unlikely team of heroes escape prison and recover the orb to turn it for profit. The buyer is Tivan the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) who has made a career of cataloguing the galaxy’s most precious treasures. Here’s a tip for movie-goers: pay close attention to the captives in the Collector’s glass boxes, there are many easter eggs to be found here. Here we learn the orb contains an Infinity Stone and it eventually falls into the hands of Ronan. The evil tyrant has made Xandar the first target of his planetary domination. It is up to the Guardians to settle their differences and save the galaxy.

Marvel could have subbed a talking donkey for Rocket Raccoon and I would’t have been the wiser. That obscurity allows Gunn to tell a story very much steeped in MCU lore, and still cut its own trail. The greatest feat Guardians accomplishes in its fast-paced 2-hour runtime is develop five new heroes we can cheer for, blend their motivations seamlessly, and still manage to be entertaining. The most memorable moments in the film are not the action-packed fight scenes or space battles, it is the back-and-forth banter of the Guardians. The times when they’re just sitting around and bickering at one another. The actors compliment each other wonderfully. This movie is about friendship.

If you had asked me 3-months ago whether I thought Guardians stood a chance in winning the summer blockbuster trophy, I would have dismissed the thought. I’ve never invested my time in the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books. But James Gunn has transformed an unknown property into one of the most satisfying, complete superhero films in recent memory. I want to know these characters. I want to know their backstories. I want to raid my local comic shop for back issues and TPB’s. I’m ready for the sequel.

Read about all of Guardians of the Galaxy’s Easter Eggs and Secrets in our in-depth article here. Just a warning: there are many spoilers. Decide whether you want to know ahead of time what to look for, or what you might have missed.

Guardians of the Galaxy is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Chris Giroux
Chris Giroux is founder and editor-in-charge at Movie Reelist, an entertainment news and review blog serving the most fanatic moviegoers. Chris started his publication in Detroit in 2010 and has since reviewed hundreds of films and interviewed numerous talent across the country. He is an avid film festival attendee and red carpet photographer, having shot the likes of Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Mark Hamill, and more. Chris grew up in New Mexico, where he studied mass media writing while working in post-production and multimedia authoring. It is also where he discovered Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York, resulting in an unhealthy Kurt Russell obsession.

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