Jon W’s review published on Letterboxd:
Who would have thought that an obscure comic book would translate into one of the funnest films of 2014 and Marvel's best film to date? It happened with director James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy, which plays less like a superhero comic film and more of a sprawling space opera.
The two reasons Guardians hits it out of the park are the light jocular tone Gunn maintains throughout the movie and the fantastic visual feast we're given. There's loads of imagination and technical prowess on display here, but it's backed up with real heart and fun. It's actually a pretty funny movie - so many jokes work well in just the right ways to make you laugh more than at a straight-up comedy film.
The ensemble cast does a great job here - while I was skeptical about Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket Raccoon, he does solid work bringing the scrappy little genetic freak to life. Chris Pratt, however, is easily the breakout star of the film. What recognition he got from Parks and Recreation will surely pale in comparison to what's to come from him, stemming from a great performance here as the lovable rogue Peter Quill.
The uncredited real star of this movie, however, is unquestionably the soundtrack of 70s and 80s pop and rock hits. Ostensibly they come from a mix tape Peter's dying mother gives him before he's abducted, but they give the film such a quirky and distinct personality while also serving to make the far-out science fiction elements millions of times more relatable to an Earthbound audience.
For sure, it's not without its flaws. There's a LOT of stuff thrown at you pretty quickly at the beginning regarding characters and politics that you can get disoriented easily - luckily the film gives you enough time to fully grasp what's going on without throwing more stuff at you. The "romance" between Peter and Gamorra seems forced and out of character, and there are some real clunky serious character moments that seem a tad shoehorned and pretty much scream "YES THIS IS A CHARACTER MOMENT," taking you out of the fun tone of the film. And Marvel, your movies have been great so far, but you need to start moving away from this all-powerful McGuffin formula. It's getting stale, and there are so many other plots to choose from that don't involve a mystical item. (This was one of the reasons The Winter Soldier was so great - it had a strong McGuffin-less plot.)
Whatever criticisms I have are extremely minor because this was the most fun I've had at the movies in a long time. The universe that's created here is so rich and enjoyable to lose yourself in that I can't wait to revisit it again in the sequel. This is my favorite Marvel movie hands-down, and has leapfrogged into being one of my new favorite films, period. With humor, heart, and a super-cool science fiction universe, Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly a new classic.