SAN DIEGO - I was here for the first-time presentations that Marvel made for both "Thor" and "Captain America," and I thought they were both very confident panels that did a good job of conveying (A) the casting and (B) the general tone of each of the movies. They were good. Solid. Did the trick.

Today's presentation for "Guardians Of The Galaxy" was easily better than both of those combined. I am going out on a limb here, but I think this looks like one of the most genuinely fun things Marvel has ever made. I find something about the entire notion of Marvel just suddenly doing space fantasy ballsy and weird in the first place, but this particular property, done this particular way, by this particular filmmaker? That's just insane. It's an insane proposition on paper. I have no doubt there are execs at other studios just waiting to see this one stumble, and I also have no doubt those same people are going to be dumbfounded when they see what it actually is.

As the cast of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" made their way backstage, Chris Hardwick stood waiting, and finally welcomed Kevin Feige back to the stage. He talked about how cool the first two presentations looked, but asked Kevin if there was any way he could talk about something new.

Kevin looked out at the crowd, deadpan. "Well… do you like new things?"

I swear to God, Feige is like Pavlov ringing the dinner bell at this point. He and his team know the Hall H crowd better than they know their own families. They play them. Marvel is the Globetrotters, and every fanboy in that room is the Washington Generals. That's just how it is now.

Once he had the crowd warmed up, Kevin told us that they were 14 days into shooting the film, which is really just barely started. "They very much wanted to come here to say hi to you." Long pause. "So they came here to say hi to you."

James Gunn came out to introduce his cast, and I gotta say… this is one motley crew. I love it. Visually, they are something else, even without the make-up that they'll all wear in the film. Michael Rooker's sporting a Travis Bickle right now, a wee little mohawk, so he can play Yondu. My favorite "Dr. Who" companion ever, Amy Pond, seems to be going by a new name now. "Karen Gillan". Sounds totally phony. Anyway, she's playing Nebula. Djimon Hounsou is Korath, and Lee Pace is Ronan The Accuser. Benicio Del Toro will be The Collector with Zoe Saldana playing Gamora. The most remarkable sight of the entire panel had to be Dave Bautista making his entrance. He's Drax the Destroyer in the film. And finally, Chris Pratt as Star Lord, the center of this very warped corner of the galaxy.

I think it's outstanding that Gunn's sense of humor is all over the footage we saw. He's put together a very eccentric cast. One by one, those names are all interesting for different reasons, but you put them together, throw a little John C. Reilly in on top, add an animated raccoon and a large mute sentient tree, and you've got the weirdest goddamn mainstream movie possible. The only way to play it is to steer right into the absurdity of it.

Gunn talked about how he hasn't really had to adapt his shooting style for the film, since he's always been a meticulous planner. The scale may be different, but he seems to be making the film he wants to make. I think what Marvel is pretty good at by now is deciding if they like the film someone's describing, and then if they decide to make it, they back that film as hard as they can. They really do seem to put a lot of trust in the people making these. This is not tiny little indie experiment that Gunn's making. It's a big-budget outer space action comedy with effects and all sorts of stars, and it's not something that most people already know. This is as close as Marvel gets to creating an all-new IP for film. There is no real precedent that you can point at for this.

Hardwick asked Pratt if the recent photos that appeared online of him in fairly remarkable shape had anything to do with him getting the role in the film. "Nope," Pratt replied. "Really weird timing. I just happened to get a tapeworm." Pratt's a natural for panels like this. He will have fun riffing and teasing if you give him any set-up at all. "Actually, I got this role six months ago, and when I got it, they said 'Yeah, that was really good, but you're too fat.' And I said, 'Well, I can work on that.' So I got the part and then they gave me a personal trainer."

They all seemed careful in terms of how much plot they were willing to discuss, but Pratt described the character as "a jerk. Star Lord lives in outer space, and he had a tough time as a kid, and now he just flies around outer space, making out with hot alien girls and being a sort of a rogue. Through teaming up with these guys, though, he finds a higher purpose, something to care about and fight for and something worth putting his life on the line."

Saldana is pretty much cornering the market on outer-space female leads right now, which she acknowledged when she said, "I've been blue, so why not try green?" She said that when she described the character to her 11-year-old niece, she tried calling her "a fierce warrior." Her niece corrected her, though. "No. She's an assassin." Saldana seemed pleased to be playing an assassin from space, but her enthusiasm was nothing compared to Dave Bautista.

I interviewed him earlier this year, and it was the wrong day. Just one of those things. I wasn't on my game, and we didn't have a ton to talk about regarding "The Man With The Iron Fists." What I saw today, though, was an actor who knows that people perceive him a certain way because of how he looks and where he came from, a guy who finally has hold of a role he feels like he could turn into something special, and he understands that you don't get many of these moments. Bautista was very frank when talking about how much he wanted the role, and Feige admitted that they really put him through his paces. "We made him audition seven times," Feige said. Bautista said that when he found out he got the part, he cried "like a little baby." He seemed thankful for the moment, and very genuine. Gunn told us that Bautista is terrifying in the role, and I am curious to check it out now.

Lee Pace played it close to the vest regarding Ronan The Accuser. "He's a very complicated Kree," he said. He told the crowd he didn't really want to describe the character. "We're going to put it on the screen," he said.

In another fairly blunt moment, Djimon Hounsou said that he really, really wanted the part of Drax The Destroyer, and said that as soon as he saw Bautista for the first time in London, he knew immediately why they picked him instead. He said he was happy to be playing Korath instead, "a great ally to Ronan and Thanos."

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.