WITH a team comprising Che from The O.C., a former ballerina, a professional wrestler, a sentient tree and a trigger-happy raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy was both a casting and a character risk for juggernaut new studio Marvel.
With the phenomenon that was The Avengers in the rear-view mirror, the studio and its head Kevin Feige took a massive gamble on Guardians, a lesser-known comic with lesser-known actors, set almost exclusively off Earth.
And it's a gamble that has paid off.
Chris Pratt (Delivery Man) was a bold but brilliant casting decision, bringing a charisma to his character Peter "Star Lord" Quill rivalled in the Marvel universe only by Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark and Tom Hiddleston's Loki.
Zoe Saldana further cemented her new niche as a fierce space-lady with Gamora and wrestler Dave Bautista was a force to be reckoned with as Drax the Destroyer, a hilariously literal and articulate tattooed space-man.
But it's Rocket the (mostly) raccoon, voiced by two-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), and Groot the walking, talking tree, voiced by former Iron Giant Vin Diesel, that truly make the movie.
The easy chemistry between the two CGI creatures is fantastic, especially given the juxtaposition of the adorable Groot's three-word vocabulary ("I am Groot") and Rocket's Rocket'd vocabulary.
With fun action sequences and enjoyable characters, nobody watching is too concerned with the plot, which involves a MacGuffin orb housing an infinity stone worth four billion units — the intergalactic currency.
Main villain Ronan (Lee Pace, Lincoln) is entertaining and near-indestructible, but the far more interesting quasi-villain is Yondu, played with delightful relish by Michael Rooker (Cliffhanger).
Other notable cast include John C. Reilly (Gangs of New York), Glenn Close (Jagged Edge), Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects), a creepily awesome blue-contacts-sporting Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator) and, of course, an early cameo by comic book king Stan Lee.
The Marvel tradition of pre- and post-credit stings rings strong in Guardians, but few fans will be particularly entertained by the last — better to head out and catch it on YouTube later.
A space adventure that harks back to Harrison Ford classics Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Guardians of the Galaxy is a bucketload of fun that has taken the (galactic) road less travelled, which has made all the difference.
It's not the best Marvel film to date — that honour is still held by phase one starter Iron Man — but it is definitely top five.
Bring on the sequel.
Guardians of the Galaxy is in cinemas now and is rated M.