“A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

-Norman Bates (Psycho)

Even though the buzz surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy was hovering around unbelievable, a small amount of doubt had crept into my mind just before the film started. Within ten minutes all the doubt had faded, and I was in the midst of one of my favorite cinematic experiences. I am not at all familiar with the source material, and frankly I don’t care. This film has only a fragmented connection to previous Marvel films, and that’s okay too.

The movie begins with Peter Quill saying goodbye to his dying mother, and from this moment on there is a breadth of tone shifts that makes this one of the most exciting films in recent memory. Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) plays the adult version of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. The loss of his mother in the opening scene weighs heavily on Quill’s motivation and personality. From the silly 1980’s-style walkman to his resilience in the face of imminent death, Quill’s choices are motivated by his last interaction with his dying mother. This is one of the best character arcs you will see this year.

Quill isn’t alone however; he has a team of misfits who join him on his space-cruising adventure. Gamora, the adopted daughter of Thanos, is handled elegantly by Zoe Saldana (Avatar). Rocket Raccoon and Groot are voiced respectively by Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) and Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious). The surprise of the movie is Drax the Destroyer played by Dave Bautista from WWE fame. It’s amazing that even though Quill is the main character, the rest of the Guardians are given enough backstory that you connect with them. James Gunn (Super) does a fabulous job of letting each character have his or her own moment.

Gunn is at the top of the craft here. His visual style is arresting and original. The set pieces in this film are so well thought out and impeccably shot that you will forget the similarities to Avengers and Captain America: Winter Soldier. This is a slight bump in the road for the movie, but because Gunn does such a good job of maintaining excellent action, you forget how familiar the climax feels. He also keeps the comedy flying at you with great one-liners and a hilarious ending battle between Quill and the movie’s main villain Ronan played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit).

Humor and action are at the forefront of Guardians of the Galaxy, but what makes it the best film so far this year is its gigantic heart. Gunn cares about his characters and handles them with the precision they deserve. Nothing ever feels forced or contrived. It’s truly a joyous spectacle from beginning to end. I could go on forever about how much I loved this film, but that would mean you aren’t watching Guardians of the Galaxy. So stop reading, and go see it!!!

Grade: A+