Guardians of the Galaxy surpassed my admittedly high expectations in every way.I knew that the special effects were going to be great, but I might have to buy a 3D TV in a year just so that I can watch Guardians on it (and How to Train Your Dragon, but let us not get sidetracked). Shot after shot was full of visual delight, and the effects crews worked hard. There is almost always something in the background to entertain, distract, and delight without taking a second away from the foreground. The acting surpassed my expectations. Vin Diesel is catching grief for being underutilized but I challenge any actor to carry any significant meaning with variations in tone and emphasis on his only line: “I am Groot.” But folks, he doesn’t just succeed, his dominates at this trick, because in the scene where Groot and Rocket talk to one another, the conversation is comprehensible from audio cues alone. Damn. If you told me that a list of B-grade actors and a mixed martial artist would manage to hold their own as an ensemble, I would have been skeptical. I walked into the film thinking that effects would carry the day, but there was more heart in the story than I had dared to hope for. This film is space opera, to be sure, but there is a lot of heart there as well. Humor runs throughout the story, obviously, but it is the best kind of humor, the sort that Joss Whedon and his ilk lace through steel and drama. It is frequently attempted and rarely achieved. There were a lot of things in this film that made my heart happy. God is mentioned nowhere in the film, but like Esther, as I stood at the final moments of the credits I was happy. It is one of those stories where so many things come together just right that as a believer I am strengthened by it. I enjoy a story about damaged people finding strength in and love for one another much more than stories about Goody-Two-Shoes Christianity-Light types being goody goody together. A, I believe in such people even less than I believe in fairies, and B there is no drama there. But when the damaged and outcast come together and form families of friendship and loyalty, mutual sacrifice and bravery, that is the sort of story I will pay to watch again and again. Besides… pretty lights. Highly recommended for the non-pharisee crowd.