The jump from previous MCU entry Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Guardians of the Galaxy is massive, tonally speaking, but it’s a welcome one. After Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, The Winter Soldier was a definite improvement, but it lacked any levity and serves as a very serious entry to the MCU. Guardians of the Galaxy does the opposite, injecting humour into the most unlikely place imaginable – the story of a orphan raised by space pirates joining forces with a team of killers to stop a genocidal maniac.

That’s exactly what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so fun, though. It’s a space caper, brought to life by a cast of colourful rogues, led by the excellent James Gunn. It had its darker moments, but their mixture with the film’s comedy makes for a very different style of superhero film that adds an interesting note to the wider MCU.

The film’s writing was strong, and it benefits from a solid pace, a generally sound plot, and some brilliantly written characterization that allows its actors to really shine in their roles. While Chris Pratt is undeniably the driving force behind bringing the film’s comic tone to life, it’s actually in the characters of Rocket and Drax that Guardians of the Galaxy works best. Rocket is expertly written, and Bradley Cooper delivers an impressive vocal turn, and Dave Bautista proves just how well he can carry off nuanced performance as Drax – character with a tragic backstory and a whole lot of rage, but who also happens to deliver some of the film’s best (and funniest) lines.

Naturally, Guardians of the Galaxy relies heavily on its visual effects, with four of its five core characters being non-human in origin. Luckily, it’s able to carry it all off by using an extensive combination of CGI and practical effects, and it all comes together in an aesthetically pleasing (and delightfully visually chaotic) manner.

As enjoyable as the film is, though, it’s a little confused at times. There’s so much happening visually that it’s easy to lose sight of how simplistic the plot really is – it’s a film that does its best to dazzle its audience into believing they’re seeing something entirely unprecedented. While that might not be true, it’s an enjoyable, entertaining entry into a franchise that was seemingly at risk of going a little stale, and it proved that Marvel has far more up its sleeves than simple superhero stories. It’s such a departure from the traditional hero films that were becoming standard fare that it deserves a little credit for that alone, as it reframes the entire MCU in a wider scope, setting a precedent that allows room for the stories that follow as organically as possible.

There’s a lot to love about Guardians of the Galaxy, but there’s also a lot of chaos. While many fans embrace the staggering attention to detail, it’s a little overwhelming for those in the audience not as interested in spotting endless Easter eggs, and that does work against the film.

Overall, it’s a light-hearted film with a lot of ambition, and there’s some genuine laughs mixed in with the impressive sci-fi action. It’s far from a perfect film, but it brought something to the MCU that the franchise had been missing.

Rating: 70%

Summary: Fun, flashy, and full to bursting, Guardians of the Galaxy is a very different type of MCU film, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

Highlight(s): Dave Bautista’s Drax is the standout character for me, in terms of depth, comedy and the actor’s ability to bring his character to life.