WARNING: PLOT SPOILERS
Marvel definitely went in a different direction for their latest sci-fi thriller, but that direction was in no way a bad one. Guardians of the Galaxy starts off in a hospital waiting room with a young boy listening to a mix-tape. His father walks out of a hospital room and tells the young boy (Peter Quill, played by Parks and Rec. star Chris Pratt) that his mother wants to see him.
Peter and his dad walk into the room to find it full of people crowded around a bed, on which Peter's cancer-ridden mother lays weakly. She gives him a wrapped present and tells him that she loves him before the cancer wins.
Peter, distraught of his mother's death, runs out of the hospital and falls to his knees in tears. He's suddenly surrounded by a bright light as a spaceship descends from the stars and beams his aboard.
Fast-forward over a decade and Quill is alone (yet still with his Walkman) on a barren planet filled with tiny lizard-like creatures. After using various gadgets and his trademark jet-boots, Quill comes upon a chamber with a peculiar orb perched on a pedestal. He uses yet another gadget to retrieve the orb from its protective force field, but by the time he picks it up, he is surrounded by armed guards led by Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou).
Quill surrenders the orb momentarily before using some more gadgetry to steal the orb back and escape. He makes a beeline straight for his Milano starship (with some awesome explosions in the background I might add) and flies off of the planet.
Quill's next stop is Zandar, where the headquarters of the Nova Corps is located. A rodent mercenary named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his giant tree bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) spot Quill and locate the bounty put on his head from his former partner-in-crime Yondu (played by Michael Rooker from AMC's The Walking Dead).
Once Quill arrives at a merchant's establishment, he is all ready to sell the orb to him until the merchant finds out that an evil Kree warlord named Ronan (The Hobbit's Lee Pace) and cancels the deal.
Liitle does Peter know, Ronan had been working for the mad titan Thanos, and when Korath reported the orb as stolen, Ronan sent both of Thanos' daughters to assassinate the thief and retrieve the orb.
Thanos' green-skinned foster daughter Gamora (Star Trek's Zoe Saldana) was the first to come into contact with Quill as he came out of the merchant's hut. A street brawl ensued as Gamora tried to take the orb and things escalated when Rocket and Groot step in to prevent Gamora from taking their bounty. Nova Corps eventually steps in and ships them all off to prison.
At the prison, Gamora isn't given the warmest welcome (hats off to Nathan Fillion's voice-acting of the bulky prisoner that Groot takes out) due to her altercations with Ronan. One of her biggest adversaries (literally) in the joint is Drax (former WWE Pro Wrestler Dave Bautista). Drax wants vengeance on Ronan for the death of his wife and child, and ends up with his hands wrapped around Gamora's emerald throat. Quill talks him down, telling him that Ronan is the real threat, and that Gamora was planning on betraying Ronan (she actually was).
Drax ends up joining the other four in a break-out attempt that Rocket brings to fruition. Once they escape (and Quill retrieves his Walkman which was confiscated earlier) they fly the Milano out towards Knowhere, where Gamora knows of a perspective buyer of the orb: The Collector.
While the fivesome explore Knowhere, Ronan travels to meet up with his boss. Thanos isn't happy that not only is the orb missing, but the thieves are as well. Furious, he sends his daughter Nebula (Dr. Who's Karen Gillan) along with Ronan to take Quill and company down.
This is where I'll stop with the synopsis because my goal with this article is not to give you a play-by-play of the entire film, but rather to give you a taste of how unmistakably awesome Guardians of the Galaxy is.
The story is great, with Thanos finally being tied in and unforgettable characters like Groot and Drax finally making their debut. The essentials of the plot are that Peter Quill and the rest of the Guardians don't want the orb, but everyone else does, so they somehow have to choose who ultimately gets to stow away the artifact and won't use its unstoppable powers for themselves (I won't give the specifics of the orb just yet for those who haven't gotten around to see it).
The casting choice was also spot-on. Chris Pratt's blend of action and sarcasm fits in perfectly for Quill, and both Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are perfect for their roles as warrior women. Lee Pace's commanding voice (which you might be able to peg as Thranduil's in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) gives Ronan the authoritative quality that defines a Kree. When it comes for voice acting, who can say Vin Diesel did a bad job with "I am Groot!" and Bradley Cooper made a hilarious Rocket.
The only beef I have with the film is Ronan himself. In the modern-day era of superhero films where one has to compete with the likes of Loki and Ultron, Ronan definitely let me down on the whole villain front. His main motivation is to destroy Zandar and name himself the ruler of the world, which isn't the most original of motivations. His powers are also a bit inconsistent. In the beginning of the film, he emits a pulse from his hammer that snaps a guy's neck instantly. However, during a clash with the Guardians near the end, he sends out the same pulse but only succeeds in knocking them over. The final battle between Ronan and the Guardians, while it may be funny, is also disappointing. You'll see what I mean once you watch it.
Back among the great factors of the movie is the soundtrack, featuring trademark songs like "Hooked on a Feeling" by The Blue Swede, "I Want You Back" from the Jackson 5, and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
Factoring in all of the components, I would rate Guardians a solid four out of five stars. It was definitely better than the latest Iron Man films, and possibly even better that Thor: The Dark World, but I'm not sure it is up to the same standards that I classify with The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you haven't seen it yet, I could not recommend it more. Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely not only worth watching, but worth admiring.