I’m pretty sure after making tons of money from their cinematic universe, Marvel did not have too many qualms about scraping the bottom of the comic book barrel for stories. Basing a movie on a talking raccoon and a walking, sometimes talking, tree sounds pretty weird. When it was announced that Marvel would make a film based on the Guardians of the Galaxy comic series, most people, including some comic book aficionados, said, “Um…what is that?” Yet truth is stranger than fiction, and Marvel's gamble on this unknown bunch has not only made tons of green, but also an excellent sci-fi flick.
The story centers around Peter Quill, a young boy who gets abducted by aliens in the late 1980s. Fast forward to the present day and he has become a sort of Hans Solo/Indiana Jones type who finds/steals/sells stuff to make his way in the universe. One day he finds a mysterious orb, which so happens to be coveted by the notorious alien terrorist Ronan. When it is discovered that Ronan wants to use the orb to destroy all his enemies, including entire planets, Peter joins up with a band of misfits, criminals, assassins, and talking flora to keep the galaxy safe from Ronan. They just have to stay out of the hands of the law at the same time.
Being a film about bad guys doing good things, the morals of this movie have the potential to be rather murky. Yet for all its gray areas, themes of self-sacrifice, choosing to do the right thing, and the value of friendship and family shine through. The main female member of the ragtag bunch, Gamora, is an assassin raised by the evil titan Thanos. Even though she is technically supposed to be working for Ronan, she realizes that the lives of others are more important than wealth or power. Peter is also willing to sacrifice his life to save Gemora, an act that is heroic and simultaneously pedantic.
Another character, Drax the destroyer, seeks revenge against Ronan. In a past encounter, the terrorist killed Drax’s wife and daughter. Drax’s thirst for revenge leads him to make some foolish decisions. He later realizes the needs of others are more important than his need for revenge. Similarly, Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill, who only agreed with the keep-the-orb-away-from-Ronan-plan for the money, eventually realize that putting others first is what really matters and that friendships cannot be bought.
And Groot, *spoilers*, even though he is a tree, he makes the biggest personal sacrifice of all by growing his branches around the heroes to save his friends during a crash.
Guardians of the Galaxy start out as a group of selfish criminals, but by the end of the film they understand what is most important. "I look around at us and you know what I see? Losers,” says Peter. "I mean like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have, man, we have, all of us. Homes, and our families, normal lives...I am not gonna stand by and watch as billions of lives are being wiped out.”
Many characters give their lives in the fight against Ronan. Gamora says before the final battle for the orb, "I have lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.” In the end, honor is worth more than money and friendship is worth more than selfishness.
This is a space epic so of course there are several gunfights, a plethora of space battles, and a high body count. A lot of slapstick violence includes characters getting hit, thrown, and electrocuted. A man is killed off screen with a giant hammer. Groot lifts a fellow prisoner off the ground by hooking his root-like fingers in the perp’s nose. The usually placid tree also does a lot of damage to the baddies in this film, skewering them with his branches and throwing them around. One villain has his head twisted backward, many bad guys are killed by an arrow, and one man has a cybernetic implant ripped from his head. The orb is revealed to contain an infinity stone, an object so powerful anyone who touches it is consumed by a blaze of purple fire. One woman touches it and we watch her explode. We see Rocket’s scars from when he was illegally experimented on. Nebula, Gamora’s sister who is part robot, snaps her joints and appendages back in place after being thrown in an explosion.
Peter gives the finger to some men who apprehend him. He also tells Drax about his past “encounters” with various alien women. Characters gamble and drink. Gamora wears a few low-cut outfits.
The main qualm I had with this film was the amount of language. It’s a sad reality that, as an adult, I do not find it surprising anymore. But with this film’s humor and slapstick comedy having the feel of a kid's adventure story (many have compared its plot to the Lego Movie), I actually felt a bit uncomfortable with the amount of children sitting around me in the theater hearing at least three s-words, a plethora of lesser profanities, and one unfinished f-bomb. Rocket Raccoon is also very free with snarky language, calling people idiots and stupid almost continually.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, unique, colorful, roller coaster of a sci-fi flick. Take Star Wars, Joss Weadon’s Firefly, and well written comedy, mix it together and then add a heaping spoonful of some of the best classic songs of the 20th century, and Guardians of the Galaxy is what you get. Language aside, it is a fun film that will make you miss cassette tapes and Walkmans. Nostalgia and space epics: a great combination that helped make this the summer blockbuster of 2014.
Most would say Guardians of the Galaxy made the big bucks at the theater this past summer because of its aforementioned nostalgia, humor, characters, and action. I would say that this is further evidence that people are naturally drawn to heroes. Not perfect heroes, but rather the flawed and lost misfits who are given second chances. We are drawn to those kinds of heroes because that means there is hope for everyone. Christ gives the losers a second chance. The redemption of the most unlikely misfits is the kind of story that resonates with everyone—even if it has a talking raccoon in it.