Great expectations before the film, definitely, and they really paid off. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best Marvel films to date, and a really good sci-fi at that too. The film is strong on so many levels, outstanding characters, great worlds, is emotional and humorous.
Peter Quill, or Star Lord as he likes to call himself, is a quick-witted man of Earth thrown into the far reaches of galaxy, who has stolen an artifact that everyone seems to want. By accident he stumbles upon four other characters, Gamora the assassin, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket the enhanced raccoon and Groot the humanoid tree, and the five of them form an unlikely team. The characters are really well presented, their emotional core is strong and back stories engaging. In short, they're interesting and easy to like. All of them have great moments and keep us wanting for more and more. Rocket, in particular, steals the show with his anger management problems and bright one-liners. It was great to see a group of people each with their own agenda come together, this dynamic worked really well. Star-Lord carried a lot of this weight, and was very sympathetic.
The film doesn't take itself very seriously, which was refreshing to see after also great yet darker themes of Thor and Captain America 2's. Guardians has a lot of laughs, witty dialogue, characters rub off on each other (and the audience), writing is perfect. The film is so entertaining, non-stop adventure but also knows when to balance with more dramatic themes. Scenery and worlds are spectacular, visual effects top notch. As a reader of the Guardians comics it was great to see some smaller motifs thrown in that may not be necessarily caught by regular viewers, but which the comic book readers will definitely be thankful for too.
All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy was an awesome watch. Amazing characters, vivid cinematography, great dialogue, lots of humor, soundtrack was nice, story exciting. This wonderful adventure and its captivating characters will be in mind for a long time.