Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space.The A-Hole Patrol

Director: James Gunn
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Karen Gillian, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close

After nine films which focuses on billionaires in iron suits, World War II soldiers, gods and gamma irradiated creatures, Marvel Studios have opened up new doors for the mainstream public by venturing into the deep recesses of space. For all intents and purposes, a film involving a talking tree and a gun-toting raccoon shouldn't work, but Marvel had a secret weapon: James Gunn.

The man is notable for effortlessly infusing a wicked sense of humor into his films, while not losing sight of the story. It's a successful formula that works, helping the viewers to like and accept these characters through the common trait of humor. What also helps is that each of the characters get a wealth of screentime and development, leaving none of the titular heroes shortchanged.

Remember when Harrison Ford appeared in his first starring role in Star Wars? How he commanded the screen with a cocky arrogance befitting of his character, with enough charisma which made you not want to take your eyes off him? How his performance informed you this was not the last you'd seen of him, that he was going to go far as an actor? Well, the same thing could be said for Chris Pratt. After having appeared in supporting roles and in the long running TV series Parks and Recreation, he's come out with a fantastic performance which ranks alongside Robert Downey Jr and Chris Hemsworth as fantastic, unexpected choices which more than paid off. Expect to see much more from him on the big screen.

The titular heroes

Bradley Cooper shows great talent in his voice performance for Rocket, a character dealing with more than he lets on, but it is Vin Diesel who is deserving the most of praise. He may only have a few words to say throughout the entire film, but he manages to distinguish each saying of the words in a manner that's effective enough to help the viewers understand what he's saying. Groot is the character that could have been the biggest problem if played as a joke, but Gunn and Diesel treat him as a character in his own right, and have come out with the breakout star in a team full of breakout stars.

Gamora may be the only female member of the team, but she proves to be more than the typical love interest that only exists to make googly eyes and be there only for gender diversity. She is a great character in her own right, one with a tortured past and reasons which justify her actions, and Zoe Saldana brings her to life so effortlessly. Dave Bautista was the biggest question mark as Drax, but he fits in perfectly with a performance that makes a rage filled character as lovable as the innocent houseplant, and as hilarious thanks to Bautista's deadpan delivery.

Lee Pace portrays Ronan, a member of an alien race known as The Kree, and an extremist whose belief in the ways of his people drives him to the point of terrorism and murdering innocents. Pace brings a chilling performance and an exemplary line delivery to the table, making for one of the more memorable Phase 2 villains. Karen Gillian is suitably chilling as Nebula, doing good work to emphasize the sibling rivalry between her and Gamora, while Josh Brolin's cameo as Thanos is an effective set-up to where the Marvel Cinematic Universe could take us.

The collection of songs put together for the soundtrack is nothing short of perfect. The soundtrack (labelled Awesome Mix Vol. 1) perfectly emphasises the character of Peter Quill, a child of the 80's, holding on to one of the last few remnants of his days on Earth and his memories of his mother. Gunn also does a good job with the action, delivering effects and choreography to a gleeful, heart-pounding extent.

Guardians of the Galaxy represents the best of Marvel, and I'm not talking about Chris Pratt's abs. It takes characters that are virtually unknown, and with the help of a magnificent cast, turns them into beloved beings you'll wish to spend more time with, while making sure each of them have significant enough development among the moments of humor. In short, James Gunn has made the best Marvel Phase 2 film.