If you enjoyed Michael Rooker’s iconic role in The Walking Dead, you’ll quiver with joy as he’s featured in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Merle Dixon was a greatly complicated antagonist for Rick’s Gang in The Walking Dead. With his addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Michael Rooker’s playing another complicated character. This time, his character, Yondu Udonta, is the blue-skinned leader of the Ravagers who sports a Mohawk and wields a sentient arrow that destroys anyone who gets in his way. In other words, he’s back to playing good and bad guys, rolled into one character. He chews up each scene he’s in, forcing the viewer to both cheer for and against him, often at the same time. As a fan of TWD, I really enjoyed every second of his screen time.

Guardians is a fast-and-furious movie. Even though it is a light-hearted space opera, there are many special effects simultaneously happening, so a second or third viewing is almost necessary, in order to catch everything happening at once. Having seen the movie last night, there’s a lot of information and speculation to sift through, so I’ll give a brief synopsis of the movie and try to anticipate the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The purpose of this movie was to introduce a ragtag group of screw-ups and turn them into heroes. Mission accomplished. I loved how each of the five main characters (Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket Raccoon) felt original and didn’t feel forced into other pre-conceived superhero molds. Each one works on its own and eventually, they work well together.

The storyline actually has lots of heart. Even though the main characters don’t look like human beings, the viewer can easily relate to each one’s dilemma. I was very happy Star-Lord didn’t totally have his act together and wasn’t forced into a leadership role, even though Chris Pratt has been widely promoted as the featured character. It felt like Rocket Raccoon was actually the group’s leader, which is risky (and ballsy) move on Marvel’s part, having the main guy played by an incredibly angry (and sometimes drunk) CGI critter. Bravo!

There were quite a few lighthearted moments throughout the movie — and there are plenty of great jokes — but more than a few of them were forced and unfunny. Speaking of forced, there are way too many ’70s and ’80s pop-culture references worked into the storyline. I understand their purpose, but at times they often felt a little heavy handed.

The space opera aspect was fun and it didn’t feel like it was too different from the other Marvel movies. There were aspects of a heist film, where everyone is desperate to steal the MacGuffin (in this film, the orb is a Power Gem, capable of destroying entire planets). Imagine a Star Wars (original trilogy) adventure for superheroes. Oftentimes, there was so much CGI action happening in each scene, it took away from the main storyline.

Minor complaints:
– Although Star-Lord’s helmet looked cool, the CGI made it look a bit fake.
– Clean up your act, Chris Pratt. You’re in a blockbuster movie. Shave the half-beard.
– Speaking only four words, Groot may have been Vin Diesel’s best acting role. EVER.
– Although he didn’t have much screen time, hopefully Ronin the Accuser isn’t dead, but lies somewhere within the Infinity Stone.

As a major milestone for Phase Two, Guardians of the Galaxy really expands the Marvel Universe for future cosmic and space-based characters. I can’t wait to uncover the direction for future movies. It clearly lays the groundwork for next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, but also sets up future solo-based storylines (including a possible Adam Strange movie) and there’s already pre-production work on a Guardians sequel. In fact, a major Easter Egg is revealed in the post-credits button scene. Apparently, a cocoon in the background has been opened and lies empty. If you read between the lines, this is the location where Adam Warlock was regenerating his body before escaping. In the Marvel comics universe, this character is a major villain. He may play a major role in a future Marvel movie as the holder of the Soul Stone (Infinity gem).

The biggest shocker of the post-credits scene isn’t seeing Howard the Duck’s introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but remembering the rumor of an upcoming remake of the Lucasfilm flop of the ’80s. Now, THAT would be very big news (and possibly another disaster).