August releases aren’t a sign of confidence in the Summer Blockbuster Movie business. Studios usually schedule their tentpole action movies for May or June, with Oscar wannabes showing up in the fall. But Guardians of the Galaxy has been all about chances for Marvel Studios — a $175 million action-comedy based on a Marvel comic that non-comic nerds had never even heard of until movie trailers started showing up earlier this year — and the movie’s August 1st release date seemed less an early concession of defeat against a summer with multiple movies fighting for that elusive $100 million opening weekend and more of a gambit to give them time to sell audiences on the idea of a superhero movie in space. But the risk there was potential burnout and overhype: Could this movie really live up to an entire summer’s movie season worth of build-up? Could it be as good as the hotly-anticipated trailers promised with their strangely fitting 70s-pop soundtracks and their talking raccoon?

It turns out it really can be that good.

The thing that makes Marvel Studios’ movies so brilliant is their willingness to embrace the sheer comic-book-ness of the characters while still making them accessible, and that’s on full display in a movie where a surly, gun-toting talking raccoon can occasionally bring a tear to your eye. Like the Avengers before them, the Guardians are people with their own problems and flaws who come together for a greater cause. And, like Avengers, in coming together they become friends. But unlike the Avengers, the Guardians barely pretend to heroism. They have no Captain America to look up to, only Star-Lord, a man taken from Earth as a child and raised by space-faring salvagers who are little more than interstellar rednecks. But there’s still a basic goodness to these ruffians. Think of Star-Lord as Marvel’s Han Solo and you won’t be far off.

But most importantly, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun. It tosses you into the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without stopping for a tour and only lets up for long enough to give you a chance to connect to the characters — touching on their conflicts, their backstories, and their scars. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is as affable throughout as he is in the trailers. Rocket is a surprisingly complex, serious character for someone who initially seems like little more than a visual gag. The tree-man Groot serves as the heart of the team, an impressive feat for a character whose vocabulary is limited to declaring his name. And even Gamora and Drax the Destroyer, who both seemed fated to fade into the background as The Muscle, are memorable characters. Drax especially has some brilliant dialogue thanks to an alien cultural quirk: His people are very literal, so metaphors and figures of speech lead to some memorable and highly quotable misunderstandings.

With an opening box office take that put it in third place for the year — behind only Transformers: Age of Extinction and Captain America: The Winter Soldier — it’s safe to say that if you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet, someone you know has and will be telling you all about how great it is. Believe them. For once, months of hype were totally deserved.