Just like the the actual Guardians of the Galaxy in the film, moviegoers have been very skeptical about this new Marvel franchise (even though it’s been around since the late 60s). It is one that has not gotten a whole lot of recognition; it doesn’t have any of the Avengers, it takes place in space, and people aren’t familiar with any of the characters. But just like in the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy is an astounding surprise, one that will surely have the neigh-sayers eating their moonboots.

Featuring one of the most emotional moments in Marvel movie history, Guardians opens on Earth and then whisks us away across the galaxy to worlds filled with unique alien creatures, dangerous bounty hunters, ruthless scavengers, and a conflict between two alien races that could potentially have genocidal consequences. Peter “Star-Lord” Quillan comes into possession of a mystical orb within the first minutes of the movie, and in doing so, he becomes the target of everyone else who wants said orb. As a result of this, Peter finds himself wrapped up in the aforementioned intergalactic conflict along with a talking raccoon, a tree-like humanoid, a revenge-seeking killer with a large vocabulary, and a seductive alien who has ties to both Thanos (the alien seen during the post-credit scene of Avengers), and Ronan, who is trying to get the orb to Thanos so he will destroy his enemy, the Xandarians. At first it seems like a lot to gather, we are thrust into this galaxy without any real backstory to anyone and have to pick up on the dialogue to discover the ties and histories, but it is not as daunting as one might think. 

For such a ragtag cast, it certainly is very strong. Chris Pratt is an excellent lead. He is witty, sarcastic, and far more relatable than some other Marvel leads. He is essentially an orphan, raised in space by a group of scavengers, and now a bandit who really wants to be known as “Starlord.” I really hope that Pratt gets some more leading roles. He has always played the dumb friend, so a change of pace would be really nice. Supporting him is a mix of voice-actors, brief cameos, and luckily no huge Marvel cameos. Zoe Saldana, who dons green instead of her famous blue from Avatar, kicks literal butt as an assassin who initially is trying to get the orb from Starlord, but then gets caught up in the mix. She and Pratt have good enough chemistry for a movie that doesn’t focus too much on the romance. She may be an assassin, but she also is very grounded in the decisions she makes and actually cares about honor. Bradley Cooper. in a rather shocking role, does the voice for Rocket Raccoon, and you probably couldn’t even tell if you just heard his voice. Rocket is a bounty hunter, he is an experiment who was torn apart and put back together, and he is longing for someone like him. He only cares about getting money, blowing stuff up, and his pal Groot. Groot, voiced with only three words (“I am Groot”) by Vin Diesel, is one of the funniest aspects of the film. He is a lumbering figure, who can grow and transform his body if need be, and he is one of the most caring members of the Guardians. Rounding off the Guardians is Dave Bautista, some of you may recognize him from WWE, who plays Drax, the most viscous of the group. He has a thing for words—and revenge—but sucks at metaphors and uses his words to hurt people more than help.

For a Marvel film, it certainly has a humorous script full of hilarious references to Kevin Bacon and Footloose, sad moments that are completely unexpected, and a tight story that spans years and planets. The movie is essentially a movie about orphans who need somewhere to fit. It is the “losers club” of the galaxy. They have nowhere else to go, so why not just learn to live with each other?

The film, though it has ties to the upcoming Avengers sequel, is entirely its own vehicle. There are no “superheroes,” but there are “super-villains.” The film feels wholly different from the rest of the Marvel universe, and that is a very good thing. It is like the odd-cousin. It is filled with classic rock music, takes places in the far-reaches of space, and feels more like a weird sci-fi flick littered with raunchy humor and space battles as opposed to superheroes battling it out in the most recognizable cities in the world. The locales are no less memorable, though, ranging from a prison in outer-space, various spaceships that could be on the same level of coolness of other famous spaceships, and different planets that each have their own unique personality. The special effects and set design also stood out. From the colorful outfits, to the interiors of the spaceships, and the beautiful space-explosions, the movie is more than a feast for the eyes with its colors that almost pop out of the screen.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy, though it was a huge underdog, is actually one of the best Marvel movies to date. It combines an entertaining and mix-bag cast with whip-smart dialogue, great action, and an intergalactic story that separates itself enough from the other Marvel films to not feel like a Marvel movie at all. It is definitely one of the best space films in years, and I will surely be anticipating the sequel which is currently slated for 2017. So, if you were on the fence about the new film, or are already excited to see it, you should probably get to it before your seats get filled. Guardians of the Galaxy is a stellar summer blockbuster.