Yup, it's as good as they say.
WARNING: I'm not avoiding spoilers in this post. There aren't many, but they're there. You have been warned!
This movie is now my favorite of the year. Frankly, I think it rivals The Avengers as my favorite movie for quite awhile. I've seen it three times now, and it holds up to multiple viewings. I think that's because so much of this movie is centered on the characters. Yes, there's amazing action & special effects, and yes, it's a grand space opera concept with aliens and powerful beings. But, it comes down to five misfits who are thrown together by circumstances, forced together by greed, and forge a friendship out of their experiences.
You're acutely aware of what the film is doing as it sucks you in. The emotional moments are obvious, and yet still work. The action is big and loud, and also thrilling. The plot isn't complex, but it believably drives all of the characters and is compelling for us.
And the main characters are: Peter Quill, known as Starlord and played by Chris Pratt, who was kidnapped from Earth by space pirates when he was boy. Zoe Saldana is Gamora, an intergalactic assassin raised by a malevolent tyrant after he murdered her family. Drax the Destroyer is played by Dave Bautista, and is a killing machine drive by revenge for the murder of his wife and daughter. Vin Diesel voices Groot, an animated tree with limited vocabulary but amazing control over the vegetation of his body. And finally, Bradley Cooper voices Rocket, a raccoon that has been transformed into a foul mouthed mercenary with an uncanny knack for building mechanical devices and elaborate plans. I felt for all of these characters.
And there are so many other characters as well: good, bad, and incidental. Beyond the central five "heroes", there's a villain (Ronan), and the big bad guy behind the villain (Thanos), and at least two major henchmen that have significant roles (Nebula and Korath). Also,there's the other bad guy/partner (Yondu) and his big group of henchmen. Helping the heroes are various members of the civilization they're trying to save (Nova Prime, Corpsman Dey, Denarian Saal, and all the Nova Corps), the informers and traders they work with (The Collector and The Broker), and various background characters. And yet, all the characters are distinct and clear.
And the music! It drives this film and ties it together with emotional content. All of the music consists of familiar tunes from the 70's, and several major plot points are dependent on the music being part of the story. I mean, what comic book action film would have the main character sing along with the score while challenging the bad guy to a dance off?
There was a lot in this film that was plucked directly from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic books and general Marvel Cosmic setting. So much that I couldn't list it all. The backgrounds in every scene are filled with Easter Eggs for comic fans. In fact, that's one of the reasons I want to see it again (and again).
A friend of mine has referred to Guardians of the Galaxy as this generation's Star Wars. That's a pretty bold statement, but I can't say he's wrong. There's a lot to love about this movie, and the most important of them are those main characters.