Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

As big a Marvel fan as I am, I somehow managed to miss Guardians of the Galaxy when it was out in theatres this summer. So this review is long-overdue, but I have to say I thought that the movie was well worth the wait.

Guardians is not a fandom that I’m particularly well acquainted with. I never read the comics, and to be honest I hadn’t heard of it until I saw the first movie trailer. (Note: it’s source material is only six years old.) But the whole “Space Avengers” concept is textbook Marvel and since it was written after the Phase 1 movies were already planned, it fit right into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Just give us another infinity stone to fight over, a hot guy named Chris to star in it, and we’re good to go.

The main character, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a self-mythologizing outlaw who prefers to be called “Starlord.” After his mother died in the opening scenes of the film, Quill is kidnapped by a group of galaxy bandits (literally abducted by aliens), and taken off into the cosmos. One day, while trying to swipe a deal out from under his outlaw boss, Quill comes into possession of a highly sought after doomsday device – an orb later revealed to contain an infinity stone (like the Tesseract, but purple instead of blue). He also lands himself right in the middle of two warring empires – the Kree (read: the giant blue dude from Agents of Shield) and the Nova Corps – both of whom have an interest in the orb. One wants to contain it, but the other wants to use its power to destroy the galaxy.

Quill is a typical Han Solo type in that while saving the galaxy is cool, he’d much rather save his own skin and get paid. So he tries to sell the orb, first to a buyer his boss had originally lined up in the Nova Corps and then later to the Collector (read: credit cookie from Thor: The Dark World). To protect his financial interest however, Quill unwillingly gathers a group of rag-tag misfits. Among them are: Gamora, a traitorous warrior princess raised by Thanos (read: pink angry guy from Avengers credit cookie) determined to get out from under his power; Drax, a pink-skinned thug hell-bent on avenging the deaths of his family members by killing the Kree leader; Rocket, a wise-cracking raccoon and bounty hunter; and Groot, a sentient mobile tree-like creature whose vocabulary is limited to, “I am Groot.” Together they become the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and work alongside the Nova Corps to stop the Kree.

*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*

It’s hard to say what exactly I liked about this movie. Certainly it wasn’t the best of the MCU films and it has a lot of work to do if it wants to catch up in notoriety. Maybe it was the blurred lines between selfish-ness and altruism that I related to. Each of the characters (except maybe Groot) were willing at some point to give up the orb for their own gain, something that real people are inevitably tempted to do themselves. Maybe it was the snippets of classic rock music from Quill’s beloved walk man which created a uniquely odd fusion of space adventure and 1970s music. Or maybe it was the fact that no other Marvel actor since Robert Downey Jr. has fit their character as well as Chris Pratt fits Starlord. But whatever the reason, I greatly enjoyed watching this film. For lack of a better word, it was entertaining.

Guardians was connected to the MCU. The Kree, Thanos, and the Collector all made appearances. But the story arc is going to need a tighter connection in the next installment if it wants to make a bigger splash. Right now, it’s more of a stand-alone with related themes than it is a real player in the game. Still, there were glimpses of more to come. While most of the rest of the MCU focuses on Earth-centric points of view (Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and even Thor for the most part), Guardians has the ability to take Marvel into the wider universe. The scenes with the Collector proved that there’s more going on with the Infinity Gauntlet* than the rest of the Avengers cast yet comprehends. The Tesseract and Quill’s infinity stone were only  small pieces of a much larger problem. I would bet money that Marvel is setting up the Guardians to manage the fall-out in some capacity, if not actually alongside the main Avenger’s cast.

Was this movie a smash-hit for Marvel? No. Was it a convincing and entertaining under-dog movie with a bigger future in the works? Yes. It was not my favorite Marvel movie by any stretch, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Guardians plays out in the later Phases of the MCU. And also seeing more of Groot dancing in the credits because, let’s be honest, that little guy made the whole movie.

* A terrifying device which allows its wearer to combine the powers of all six infinity stones and do whatever the heck he/she wants.

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