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Directed by James Gunn. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman. Release date: August 1, 2014.
For the first time since the first Avengers, a Marvel movie feels so different. Guardians of the Galaxy, plot-wise, isn't all that different from its predecessors, but by taking place in a completely new location and with almost entirely new characters, it feels like it's fresh. It does a lot of world-building, too, but is mostly noteworthy just because it brought relatively obscure characters to the big screen.
Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt): Half-human, half-alien, he's the leader of the Guardians and the captain of their ship.
Gamora (Zoe Saldana): An orphan alien who was trained by Thanos to be an assassin, but joins the Guardians.
Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista): A warrior who wants revenge on Ronan, who killed his family. He takes everything literally.
Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper): A genetically engineered raccoon who works as a bounty hunter and a mercenary. Works with Groot.
Groot (voice of Vin Diesel): A humanoid tree-like creature who works with Rocket.
Ronan (Lee Pace): The film's villain. Working for Thanos, he searches for an orb possessed by Star-Lord in exchange for the extermination of his enemies.
Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker): A bandit who spends the movie hunting Star-Lord after he is betrayed early in the film.
Nebula (Karen Gillan): The adoptive daughter of Thanos, who was raised alongside Gamora and works for both Ronan and her father.
The Collector (Benicio Del Toro): A man who collects Infinity Stones. Cameoed in Thor: The Dark World. Delivers exposition.
Thanos (Josh Brolin): Appeared in a couple of cameos earlier in the series, will eventually be a villain for the Avengers.
Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close): The leader of the Nova Corps, who protect its citizens and keep peace in the universe.
After stealing an orb he plans to sell, Star-Lord finds himself being chased by several individuals. One of them, Gamora, winds up teaming up with him. The two also meet Drax the Destroyer, Rocket, and Groot, the five of whom form the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their goal? Sell the orb.
One of the men chasing them is Ronan, who is working for Thanos. The group goes to The Collector, where it is revealed the orb is the third Infinity Stone. It is now clear why Thanos wants it. Ronan acquires the orb here, so it's up to the Guardians to defeat him, lest the universe be destroyed.
In the climactic battle, Groot sacrifices himself to save the group. Ronan dies after the four remaining Guardians use the power of the stone. A sapling cut from Groot - and will grow back into the giant humanoid tree - survived. The Infinity Stone is given to the Nova Corps.
Is It Any Good?
I love everything about Guardians of the Galaxy. Its action is fantastic, it's absolutely hilarious, it gives its wonderful cast of characters so many great moments, and its special effects are top-notch. It probably shouldn't work anywhere as well as it does, and yet it's a blast from start to finish. It's my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.