Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
…And then there came a day when Marvel Studios decided to make a movie, and settled on the most ridiculous idea they could come up with. Well, I’m sure it seemed ridiculous back when they decided to make an Iron Man movie, because he wasn’t a well-known superhero then (though, he wasn’t totally unknown either—I actually knew of him from some cartoons I grew up with). Then they made the big crossover event The Avengers, a ridiculous movie for a lot of reasons, and yet it succeeded.
And now, it almost feels like someone dared Marvel to see how ridiculous they could possibly get, and Marvel accepted the challenge and made a movie called Guardians of the Galaxy, about a space-based superhero team that no one’s ever heard of. My initial gut reaction when this movie was announced two years ago was, “This has to be a joke.” When it turned out it wasn’t a joke, I just kept asking, “Why?”
But then slowly, I got more and more excited as the release date drew closer, and curiosity took over. Just the thought that Marvel would actually do something like this, and put so much money and effort into such a big gamble was incredible, especially when their competitor DC is still playing things as safe as possible. And now the movie is here, and it’s just as ridiculous as it sounds and looks. Which in all honesty is what makes it great.
In the movie, our hero is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), clearly not your typical goody-two-shoes hero. In fact, he’s a scavenger and a thief making a living off the underground (the underground… of space!). Which becomes an important theme throughout the movie, as Quill has been ordered to acquire an orb for a client, only to find out that the orb is a heck of a lot more than what he thought it was, and suddenly he’s up to his neck in problems as everybody wants the same orb, all for their own selfish reasons.
Soon he’s thrown in a prison together with green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who previously wanted to kill him so she could get to the orb, a talking raccoon named Rocket and a walking tree named Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively), who both want to capture him to collect a bounty, and Drax (Dave Bautista) who at first wants to kill Gamora to get revenge on her adoptive father, but decides to wait until her insanely strong father comes for her to kill him personally.
So we’ve got five characters stuck with each other who are all different kinds of idiots, each in their own unique way, and they’ve all got their own conflicting goals. But then they have to work together when they’re suddenly caught up in something that concerns not just themselves, but the entire universe, and they have to overcome their differences and personal idiocy to succeed as the bunch of, well, losers that they kind of are.
A big strength of the film is that it already knows it’s an absurd movie, but instead of trying to distance itself from the absurdity of it all, it embraces it fully and immerses us in its crazy universe. The movie is colorful, fast-paced, and the last thing you can fault it for is not being entertaining. It’s never boring, and not afraid of poking fun at its own characters, and fully acknowledging just why each of them is an idiot.
But at the same time, the film treats each character with deep respect, as you get the sense that there’s in fact much more to them, and something very genuine in their cores, which carries the movie along and makes for a likable and dynamic ensemble cast.
The movie looks beautiful. Each new place the movie visits is distinct and memorable. The film uses colors well, and manages to create new worlds that are wonderful to look at. In that regard, this will indeed be the movie that the next Star Wars has to look out for, as there will undoubtedly be a ton of comparisons between the two movies.
Also, the visuals are another middle finger to DC and Warner Brothers, who are trying so hard to make their movies look as serious and realistic as possible, and are already getting negative feedback from the muted colors seen in the images released so far for their upcoming Batman v. Superman.
Guardians of the Galaxy is just as good as everyone hoped it would be. It’s non-stop fun, it has lots of humor, and its heart is in the right place, with all of the characters undergoing their own transformations and becoming an efficient group of misfits by the end.
The biggest complaint I have about the movie is that it sometimes feels a bit too crammed with story and action and exposition. A lot of things happen in its two-hour runtime, and sometimes you only have a short amount of time to digest a ton of information before the movie rushes forward to the next big scene. And much of the political discussions about alien planets I’d never heard of was flying right over my head, too. But it also flew right over the heads of the main characters, so clearly that was the idea.
It’s also great to finally see how the movie ties into the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with plot points hinted at in previous Marvel movies finally being explained. It wasn’t completely evident before now that teasers regarding Thanos and the Collector in previous movies were actually teasers for this movie.
Marvel took a huge gamble here, and bet a lot on this movie. They even took a risk by ending the movie with a big title card saying, “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return”. Thankfully, it’s a gamble that paid off.
The movie is full of memorable scenes, lines, and characters. This is a rare opportunity to see a fantastic, fun space adventure involving heroes that are a little (well, a lot) rough around the edges. It’s a movie that never holds back, immersing us one hundred percent in its universe and characters. And I for one am really excited about what could come next. What could possibly be more ridiculous than this?
Well, to those who have already seen the movie and stayed for the post-credits scene, you already know the answer to that question. I think it was just a joke, not a teaser for a future story, but it was a great joke all the same. I laughed so hard that I think the people around me were concerned about my mental state.
[—Editing/cleanup/revisions to this article provided by Dr. Winston O’Boogie.]