Marvel's Phase 1 and 2 series of films is a long one, but by now, we should know that they are capable of making really solid sequels. Some movies may not be as good as others *cough* Iron Man 3 *cough*, but none of them are bad by any stretch. With the killer visuals and cast of Guardians of the Galaxy, I was prepared for a solid film. However, it ended up being more than a solid film; it took creative liberties and stood out in ways the other Avenger timeline films don't. To be honest, the characters in the Avengers were beginning to feel pretty stale, but Marvel's risk of using little known characters is freshening up the cinematic universe they have created.
I wouldn't really call this a superhero movie per say, it's more akin to a movie like Star Wars, where a group of misfits gets together to save the day. They all have their quirks: the human space cowboy, the green alien chick, the genetically modified raccoon, the beefed up former prisoner, and the lovable tree beast. There's a lot of characters crammed into this movie, and they all have their emotional backstory. Of course, there isn't enough time to deeply develop each one, but there's enough in there for you to like each character based on their development. The most developed character would of course be Christ Pratt, who plays Peter Quill or Star Lord, the rebel space cowboy. The movie starts with a young Quill listening to a mix tape his mother gave to him right before she died of cancer. Shortly after her death, he runs emotionally out the door only to be abducted by a space ship. 26 years later, he explores space all while still listening to the same cassette player and mix tape that his mother gave him when he is young. I liked the character of Peter Quill for the same reason I like Tony Stark: Chris Pratt IS Peter Quill and Robert Downey Jr IS Tony Stark. They don't have to act, their personalities exude from the character their playing. Pratt's charming boyishness will win you over every time.
The movie does not take itself seriously by any means, and the soundtrack is a clear indication of that. Star Lord's mixtape IS the soundtrack, which to me is one of the coolest things about the film. It's all oldies Pop and Rock music such as "Hooked on a Feeling" and "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5. It is probably the best soundtrack of any movie this year or in the past few years. It didn't take me long to go download it after I left the theater. Not only does the soundtrack lighten up the mood, but this is one of the first Marvel movies where the jokes consistently land and it didn't feel inappropriate. If you read my review of Iron Man 3 from last year (no idea where to find that link), you would know that by biggest complaint by far was the uncomfortable joking during a "darker" scene. This movie is basically a scifi comedy, and the jokes happen often but you're never smacked in the face by a joke while simultaneously being emotionally moved.
There's a depth to Guardians of the Galaxy that makes you want to see the sequel. So much is crammed into this film that you're never really introduced to the different parts of the universe, but it won't ruin your enjoyment of the film. This movie could have really bogged it's audience down with intricate details of this world, but it just throws you smack dab in the middle of all the chaos and you hit the ground running. You won't have time to wonder the history of each city and planet that you end up on. Also, you don't care because everything in this movie is gorgeous looking. There's so much to the world and the characters that it really demands a sequel (which was already announced at ComicCon), and it will really expand and differentiate the Avengers series in ways we wouldn't have expected 5 years ago.
This is the summer movie you've been waiting for, and you won't be disappointed. It really proves that it's possible to make a superhero movie that feels new and original, despite being a pre-existing universe.