FROM its visually stunning opening set to the funky strains of Come And Get Your Love by Native American rock band Redbone, Guardians Of The Galaxy lends the Marvel Comics big-screen universe a delightful retro twang.
The sardonic anti-hero is seldom parted from his Walkman and he inspires his cohorts to greatness with repeated references to Kevin Bacon and Footloose.
As the slick special effects attest, the budget for this intergalactic romp is big – so too are the laughs courtesy of director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman.
The opening sequence affectionately nods to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and when the mystery surrounding the film's fabled treasure is revealed, the space cowboy casually notes the trinket has "a shiny suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon vibe."
Gunn doesn't skimp on the spectacle – if anything, a couple of the outlandish set pieces are too long – but he adds a comic twist to each deafening blast of pyrotechnics.
Thus a centrepiece prison break is underscored by Rupert Holmes' 1979 hit Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and when the anti-hero barely escapes death in his spaceship and an extra-terrestrial girlfriend stumbles up from the hold, he looks at her with embarrassment and confesses, "I'm going to be honest with you. I forgot you were here."
Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves led by blue-skinned tyrant Yondu (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a thief for hire, who steals a mystical orb sought by sadistic warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans.
Peter evades Ronan's clutches and eventually aligns himself with a motley crew of mercenaries comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan.
When Peter learns the orb is an ancient artefact with the power to destroy the universe, he must put selfish desires to one side to repel Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou).
Guardians Of The Galaxy is a blast.
Pratt brings swagger and dry wit to his emotionally wounded hero, while Saldana adds sass and sex appeal to her otherworldly assassin.
Bautista is marvellous as the hulk who takes everything literally – "Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast" – but almost every scene is stolen by the computer-generated double-act of Rocket and Groot.
Cooper voices his feisty gun-toting fur ball with a wonderful blend of defiance and sarcasm, and breaks our hearts when it seems that he might be separated from his beloved sidekick forever.
Cameos from Benicio Del Toro and Glenn Close hint at a wider canvas of political intrigue that director Gunn will be keen to explore in a sequel star-dated for release in 2017.
SWEARING NO SEX VIOLENCE