And now, we separate ourselves from Earth almost completely, and introduce a whole new group of heroes while giving the audience WAY more of the story that's meanwhile going on somewhere in outer space. We know aliens and gods are among us now, but what else?
We are introduced to Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, but it's a young Quill so, Wyatt Oleff for now), an Earth boy who is abducted by an alien group known as the Ravagers. The years pass, and Quill is seen on a remote planet, seeking the Orb - the third Infinity Stone, also known as the Power Stone. Although, Quill doesn't know this yet, simply understands it's value, and heads to Xandar, capital of the Nova Empire, to sell it for a pretty penny.
Whilst here, he runs into the likes of Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a walking, talking raccoon - product of experimentation, and his walking talking tree, Groot (Vin Diesel). They are interested in turning in Quill for a bounty on his head set by Yondu (Michael Rooker) - head of the Ravagers. He also runs into Gamora (Zoe Saldana), daughter of Thanos, sent to intercept the orb and deliver it to him, as he seeks the infinity stone within it.
Eventually thrown into a prison after a disturbance, the group also runs into the likes of Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), who wants to use Gamora to get to Ronan (Lee Pace), who killed his family, and ultimately becomes the big baddy of this movie. Together, with their own motivations, the group eventually bonds (spoiler alert?), sees Ronan as the real enemy, and do what it takes to keep the orb out of his grasp.
As much as I love 'Winter Soldier', this one is my favorite from the second Phase of Marvel films. And that includes 'Ant-Man', partially written by Edgar Wright, my personal film hero. For myself, it was kind of amazing that they managed to bring in, not just a new property, but a new team that wasn't The Avengers, and have it be as awesome as it was.
Effect-wise, this one is a cut above the rest of them, not being afraid to just go for it. For example, they visit a place called Nowhere, which is the severed head of an ancient celestial being, and it looks just like a skull, populated by a community, and it's just really cool altogether. It gives way to all sorts of amazing ideas. Now that Disney has their paws on Fox, a character like Galactus isn't entirely impossible.
But what really makes this movie as good as it is has to be the characters. Quill has that cockiness and sense of humor, Rocket's so tiny, yet still manages to be really tough and face things head on with Groot as his bodyguard, Drax is a powerful warrior, but kind of dumb all at once, Gamora's the badass female assassin, and Groot, well, he can only say "I am Groot" and yet conveys emotion and communication so well, he has become a fan favorite for the masses in 15 different languages, all voiced by Vin Diesel.
One may also make the argument that what makes this movie so good is it's soundtrack of bubblegum pop music. That's a fair argument as well, because as cheesy as all of it may come across, that sort of soundtrack really lends itself to the style. In fact, the music is as much a character in these movies as Quill or Rocket. I even think it brought a lot of these songs back to getting radio play.
'The Guardians of the Galaxy' have since become my favorite Marvel film franchise, and has the overall potential to dethrone 'Captain America' as my favorite trilogy of the bunch. We'll have to see how 'Guardians 3' goes, slated for some time in 2020.
POST-CREDIT SCENE: The Collector sits among the debris left over from a massive explosion caused by the Orb. Amid the destruction wander Cosmo the Space Dog and Howard the Duck. These are more just Easter Eggs as opposed to any sort of connection.