Guardians of the Galaxy
Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) wielding a gun he probably thinks is too smallMarvel Studios

Should comic book movies be silly? There's no right or wrong answer, no guarantee that a light hearted adventure will be any better or worse than a dark, rain-lashed thriller. However if I had to choose it would be self-aware ridiculousness every time.

Guardians of the Galaxy falls squarely into that category. Marvel Studios' first original feature since 2011 is a delightful explosion of wanton silliness that both fits the mould set by Marvel's Avengers and feels like its own, strange beast.

The key to each of Marvel's most risky ventures (Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers) has been the selection of the perfectly suited director, and in James Gunn they've hit the jackpot once more.

Groot gets ready for battleMarvel Studios

Bringing a little known group of space-faring superheroes – a human, a green-skinned alien, a muscly mass out for vengeance, a talking raccoon with a chip on his shoulder and a tree person – to the same audience who lapped up Iron Man, was always going to be a tall order.

By embracing the utter madness of its source material however and creating a film thrilling and funny enough to support that, Gunn has taking Guardians of the Galaxy from big risk to even bigger success, with a sequel already announced before the film even hit cinemas.

Guardians tells the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a human abducted from Earth who has spent his life in a far-flung corner of the galaxy growing up around thieves and scoundrels. Very much of the Han Solo/Indiana Jones mould of rogue – but with a more childish side and greater emotional edge – Quill, who has given himself the outlaw name Star-Lord, finds himself in possession of a powerful orb sought by some very bad alien warmongers.

The bad guys want the orb, the good guys want to stop it being used to kill innocent people. That's really as much as you need to know. Some have complained about the film's abundance of alien mumbo jumbo, with talk of Ronan, Thanos, Nebula, Yondu, Xandar, Infinity Stones and Nova probably a bit much for the average parent caving in to their offspring's demands.

Rocket Raccoon gets comfortableMarvel Studios

You don't have to be in it for the long-haul to enjoy Marvel's films however, there's still plenty to enjoy, and you'll be surprised how many of the film's young fans will remember the mad Titan Thanos (here seen in full for the first time) when he's facing off the Avengers in years to come.

Marvel's recent output has been a bit more po-faced than I'd like, with both Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Solider also adhering to the now-laborious template which commands that everything blow up in the final act.

While Guardians' finale does have a fair share of bang and wallop, it maintains its sense of humour throughout, resulting in the most bizarre superhero/supervillain showdown you are ever likely to see.

Of course a large dose of the praise goes to the Guardians themselves. Each character is well cast and given their chance to shine - if one is short-changed in any way it's Zoe Saldana's Gamora, who plays the straight gal to the rest of the group's lunatics, but she still holds her own and is never victim to the standard female damsel role common in other blockbusters.

Vin Diesel's Groot will be beloved by kids, Bradley Cooper's Rocket (Racoon) will be beloved by everyone and Dave Bautista's Drax surprisingly has his fair share of the laughs too.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Groot illuminates the group in one of the film's best scenesMarvel Studios

However it is Pratt as Quill who holds the whole operation together both in terms of the film and the story. His performance is imbued with enough natural charm to ensure that his is a name you'll be hearing for a very long time yet.

Support is a little less stellar, with Lee Pace's villain Ronan The Accuser little better than Thor 2's Malekith and his lackies Nebula (Karen Gillan) and particularly Korath (Djimon Hounsou) given little time to shine. Nebula will be back however and certainly has potential.

Meanwhile, on the fringes of the action, Glenn Close, John C Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz provide ample support as members of intergalactic police force Nova Corps, while Quill's adoptive father figure Yondu (Michael Rooker) is an absolute joy.

Guardians is no perfect film. A set-piece at the film's centre turns into an unintelligible CGI whirlwind on occasion while the film's break-neck speed and over-use of swearing will be too much for some.

Despite its easily forgivable flaws, Guardians of the Galaxy, like its heroes, finds success and acceptance in staying true to its own bizarre self in a film overjoyed with being complete and utter nonsense.

And if I had to choose, I'd pick utter nonsense over a superhero crying into his grime-flecked cape any day.