Hands up those of you who had never heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy before this year. That’s a lot of hands, but not as many as I’d expected. Those who follow Marvel’s comic universe—and the Avengers in particular—will be more than a little aware of the Guardians, but those who know Marvel for simply Spider-Man or The Avengers have something wonderful in store. Come, let me tell you about it.

Just in case you’ve not seen it yet, here’s the official film trailer, just so we’re clear.

Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of Earth-born Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who forms an alliance with an unlikely band of misfits: assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), thugs Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), and musclebound Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista). Their mission: to save the galaxy, naturally, because some maniac is definitely hell-bent on destroying large parts of it. That’s about as spoiler free as I can keep it, and there’s nothing here that the trailer doesn’t already tell you.

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The film is a complete and utter blast, in turns both touching and uproariously funny. Most of the laughs are from the interplay between the characters, but both Pratt and Cooper deliver a brilliant performance that makes you believe in the characters. Pratt’s role as a likeable rogue is entirely convincing. The action is loud, explosive, and thrilling: just about exactly what you’d expect from a sci-fi epic. What you don’t expect is that you’re going to be laughing and sympathizing with the character in equal amounts. What I loved is that the characters aren’t simple, flat cardboard cutouts: they each have their own tales and own motivations for being where they are, and it’s done in such a way that it works.

It’s obviously difficult (read: impossible) to film a sci-fi movie without any CGI, especially if you’re going to have a character like Rocket Raccoon shooting up the place. I’m glad to say that, despite some over-used light bloom effects, it’s not so over the top as to break the film’s immersion. Rocket is beautifully animated, despite the anatomical difficulties of having a talking raccoon. It’s all believable enough that you’re not going to be going “oh come on!” We’ll see in a few years how well it holds up: CGI effects are notorious for aging badly.

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Personally, I found that one of the best aspects of the film is the soundtrack. It’s filled with so many diegetic 70s and 80s songs (justified, I promise!) that if you’re from my generation, you can’t help tapping your toes along with the music. To my shame, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the non-diegetic music, but this is how it should be: adding atmosphere without dragging you out of your willing suspension of disbelief.

One of the few downsides I found with the film is that it’s difficult to follow where the story is going to, initially. After all, they have to introduce and bring together a large cast of diverse protagonist characters and villains. It’s interesting to see how this is done without being disparaging to existing fans. The story ties up quite nicely toward the end of the first act, though, and after that it’s an easy flight through the stars to the film’s conclusion.

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Honestly? If you enjoyed The Avengers, you’re going to love Guardians of the Galaxy. If you enjoyed Star Wars, you’re going to love Guardians of the Galaxy. If you enjoyed Twilight….uhh…maybe you’ll enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy enough to accompany your significant other. It’s worth the laughs and the action. It’s a Marvel film, so there will be the obvious nods to the fandom as well as the ever-present Marvel cameo by Marvel stalwart Stan Lee. Above all, the movie is fun and knows it’s not here to take itself seriously. It’s sweet, epic sci-fi, after all.

Final Score: 9.5 Galactic Prawns out of 10

Detailed Information:
Director: James Gunn
Producer: Keven Feige
Screenplay: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: 1 August, 2014
Website: http://marvel.com/guardians