Now, full disclosure here - I'm not a huge comics person. I know, I know, "fake geek girl." Whatever, IDGAF. But I've seen pretty much every Marvel movie that's come out so far, with the exception of Iron Man 3, which is on my to-do list, and I have to say that I've been consistently impressed by the overall quality. Iron Man 2 didn't blow me away, and I'm sort of sad that they swapped out Ed Norton as The Hulk (although I do really like Mark Ruffalo), but I've genuinely enjoyed every single one. Things can get dramatic and gritty, but the movies are always leavened by a vibrant sense of humor. I mean, the Batman movies are awesome and all, but sometimes unrelenting darkness really starts to get you down.
Guardians of the Galaxy significantly ups the humor quotient. It's one of the funnier movies that I've seen this year, actually, outside of Obvious Child, which I never got around to reviewing but which you should absolutely go see because it was also amazing. Chris Pratt as the cocky, wiseass Peter Quill, is so charming and delightful. I want to get a beer with him and mangle his nickname Star Lord just to see his face crumple in disappointment. Zoe Saldana, whose goal in life is, apparently, to star in every major sci-fi franchise running right now, is also fantastic. Her character, Gamora, is more serious, a bit sadder (which is understandable given that she's the tortured adopted daughter of a death-worshipping madman), but she still gets one of the best lines in the movie. I'm going to be telling my boyfriend that "I will not succumb to your pelvic sorcery" for approximately the rest of my life.
The other guardians are just as well developed. Rocket, a sociopathic raccoon-looking thing, has the same cocky swagger as Quill, just packed in a rather different body. Drax, tattooed, blue skinned, and rippling with muscle, is struggling with his sadness and his rage after losing his family to the main villain, Ronan. My favorite character, though, has to be Groot, the giant tree creature with a very small vocabulary and a very big heart. There's only one real tear-jerker moment in the movie, and it's all about him.
If there's one weak spot, it's probably Ronan, the vengeful alien warlord who vows to destroy a neighboring planet. His motivations are clear - during a previous war, his father and grandfather will killed - but not particularly interesting or engaging. He's kind of a standard issue scary, indestructible sort, a flat surface for the heroes to dance a jig on.
The writing is super sharp, though. The Badass Digest has an article about how Gamora is both the most and least interesting character in the movie. I didn't read her as flat, the way that they did, but they did point out how interesting it was that when Gamora is threatened in the prison scene, she's threatened because people see her as bad, as an enemy, not because she's a woman. They also refrain from threatening her with sexual violence, which makes the movie sadly unique among superhero movies, or action movies in general.
Now, I'm still waiting on a female-led movie, and I'm kind of annoyed with Marvel's bullshit excuses for not making one. Before, it was become they only made two movies a year, and choices had to be made, and blah blah blah. Now they're releasing three movies a year for the next two years, but they still can't be bothered to do one starring a woman, apparently because they've really got to keep rolling with these male-led franchises that they've already started. It does look like eventually they're going to do a Black Widow movie (like I mentioned above, they've got Nicole Perlman for the script, so that's something), but it's still pretty bullshit that it looks like that's dead last on their to-do list, especially considering that 44% of that massive opening weekend box office was female.