2014 has been some year for Chris Pratt. First he starred in the yellow-is-gold genius that is The LEGO Movie, and now he has top billing in one of the best adaptations in Marvel history. The Parks and Recreation man has truly arrived with Guardians of the Galaxy - Brass in Pocket isn't on the soundtrack, but it should be.
Pratt plays Peter Quill, an intergalactic vagabond whose cringe-to-the-power-of-10 moniker Star-Lord belies his skills as a thief, hustler and ass-kicker. Part Indiana Jones, part Jack Burton, the Walkman-wearing Quill makes his living stealing stuff for the highest bidder but bites off a lot more than he can chew when he boosts an orb with a "shiny suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of vibe". Soon it's not just about Quill saving his own skin but the lives of 12 billion. And he can't do it alone. Enter Gamora (Saldana), Rocket (Cooper, with brilliant CGI), Groot (Diesel, ditto) and Drax (Bautista), as mismatched a gang of killers, thugs and maniacs as you could ever find.
With the energy of a Saturday morning serial and the crash-bang-wallop spirit of comics throughout, Guardians . . . owns the summer blockbuster crown. Co-written by director Gunn, it turns some of the lesser-known characters in the Marvel Universe into bona fide stars, offers more quality laughs and in-jokes than any of its stable mates and uses mixtape magic to provide the best use of music in any superhero film to date. Hooked on a Feeling indeed.
If you're one of those people who thinks that this film looks slightly naff and childlike then you really need to be proven wrong - you'll be a few pounds heavier from the sugar binge all the way through, with your inner kid bossing you all the way home. The only disappointments are that it's about 15 minutes too long and some of the villains have come straight from central casting. But neither hurt The Avengers or Iron Mans, and there's as much charm here as those box office behemoths.
The sequel is due in July 2017 and feels light years away. Many of us will know this off by heart by the time it arrives.