IT doesn't take super powers for a 75-year-old comic book institution to realise that the time for reinvention is now, what with anything paper-related coming under threat in this digital age. Which explains why, since the box-office success of the X-Men in 2000, Marvel has become a fixture in Hollywood's summer blockbuster season with one superhero after another brought to life on the big screens this time every year.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the 10th instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First introduced to comic fans in print 35 years ago before being rebooted in 2008, the superhero ensemble never came anywhere near to becoming the household names X-Men or Fantastic Four are; but they have always been a fan favourite and a best-kept secret for comic book nerds.
All that could well change with this rollicking movie adaptation, co-written and directed by James Gunn (Scooby Doo). It's made with the sort of giddy fanboy love not seen since Joss Whedon turned The Avengers into the granddaddy of all Marvel superhero films.
The result is an out-of-this-world rock and roll space adventure with a retro-cool soundtrack of pop hits from the seventies to boot.
Best of all, Guardians of the Galaxy doesn't take itself too seriously - like Chris Nolan's Batman movie franchise is often guilty of - but instead just focuses on delivering two hours of solid entertainment.
Gunn, a low-budget specialist who made his screenwriting debut with Tromeo and Juliet (1996), a horror send-up of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, brings his energetic B-movie vibe to this outrageous intergalactic roller-coaster of a film. He gives Guardians ofthe Galaxy its own distinctive irreverent humour, setting it apart from the other Marvel superhero flicks.
Plot-wise, there isn't much to write home about; Gunn and his newbie co-writer Nicole Perlman don't stray far from the typical good-versus-bad epic sci-fi showdown storyline.
A highly-likeable Chris Pratt (TV's Parks and Recreation) plays Peter Quill, the Walkman-toting space hunter with great taste in music, who unwittingly becomes a wanted man after he steals an orb that has the power to destroy the universe.
Unsurprisingly, it's something Ronan (Lee Pace), the biggest bad-a** in outer space also wants. So to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, Quill (or Star-Lord, as he prefers to be known by his hero alter ego) must ally with a fellow bunch of interplanetary misfits to save the galaxy.
This bunch includes a high-kicking female alien, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, looking hot even in full green body make-up); an angry beefcake called Drax the Destroyer (wrestler David Bautista); a wise-cracking raccoon that's handy with a machine gun, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, who merrily hams it up); and his walking tree sidekick, Groot (Vin Diesel, who has a grand total of one line in the whole film).
Even though the special effects can be blindingly overwhelming at times, Guardians of the Galaxy still proves to be a trippy ride - animals and plants talk; while the colours of the various aliens are macaron-pretty - and its all-round zany spirit should ensure it is guided to box-office success, even if nobody has heard of it (yet).