Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1
Directed by: James Gunn Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 2 hr 5 min
Screenwriter: James Gunn, Nicole Pearlman Studio: Marvel Studios
Based on: Various Marvel comic book characters
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Lee Pace
If the Avengers were a motley crew when forming, what does that make the Guardians of the Galaxy? Who are, at best, a collection of misfit toys. Ones without the benefits of standalone films preceding their silver screen MCU team-up. A group of characters virtually unknown before this film.
None of the “Guardian” characters in the MCU’s version are original members in the comics. Not one. Guardians of the Galaxy (the comic) first appeared in 1969. Throughout the decades, they went largely under the radar of popularity. In 2008 Marvel relaunched, reshaped? reformed? the Guardians into the content director James Gunn found inspiration in. Fine. Great. Whatever. When this first came out, I had only seen one of James Gunn’s films. I could live the rest of my life without seeing anymore. So when I heard he was directing this movie, I was skeptical, at best. Marvel did what? I went and saw it without managing to see a trailer for it beforehand. So, yes, I went because it was Marvel. Surely they wouldn’t screw the pooch at this juncture in the MCU?
No. They. Did. Not. In fact, this film grossed over $600 million more than it cost to make. Bravo! Okay, the pooch is fine. And James Gunn raised the bar for himself in terms of his filmmaking skills. How did he manage this? He dove into the treasure trove of characters associated with the Guardians, the relaunched version, and molded that into characters and a story that would seamlessly attach itself to the MCU’s ultimate storyline goals.
In logical viewing order, this film is number nine. First, Captain Marvel introduced the audience, Colson and Nick Fury, to the reality of life outside of Earth. Still, the movie’s “public” wasn’t aware of it. That came later with Thor and certainly with Avengers. With Guardians of the Galaxy, the audience is introduced to space travel beyond the Bifrost. To new worlds and characters, and still connects it to Earth, the Battle of New York, Thanos, and beyond.
In James Gunn’s version, the “Guardians” are Peter Quill a.k.a. Starlord (Pratt), Gamora (Saldana), the adopted daughter of Thanos, Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), Groot (Diesel), a nine-foot walking tree species, and Rocket the Raccoon (Cooper).
Adventure and comedy ensue when Quill can’t make money off a job he stole from his boss, Yondu (Rooker). Followed by a public altercation with bounty hunters (Rocket and Groot) that Yondu sets on him. The extra stiff wrinkle is that a mass murderer, Ronan (Pace), wants the item in question as well. He orders Gamora to retrieve the item for him. That doesn’t go as anticipated, and she is arrested with the others. Along the way, they meet Drax and agree to work together temporarily to stop Ronan from his genocidal goals. That’s the summary of this film, and yet, Guardians of the Galaxy is so much more than that. I really don’t want to give anything away. This version of the characters is excellent! They are everything all the other MCU characters to date are not. Guardians bring to the table a much-needed dose of humor and lightheartedness. All while facing some serious obstacles and foes. A more serious character might rebuke their cavalier attitudes and personas. What Gamora simply refers to as “idiots.” The Guardians rally, like the Avengers, and work together to tackle the tasks before them.
The film’s pace always moves along, like an Olympic ice skater who displays a flawless performance. This is accomplished by the excellent cast chemistry and the fantastic performances of their respective characters, also with well-placed quips, jabs, and jokes throughout the film. Another contributor to the pace is the music. Between the jokes and the musical styles of the 1970s that just fit with this eclectic bunch, it really helps it move along. Additionally, it sets the tone of the film early on. Something that is always smart to do.
Frankly, this film’s story could have been poorly received if the audience wasn’t “feeling” this movie’s overall tone and cadence. Primarily when it’s held up against the early MCU films. It just doesn’t take itself seriously like the others. And yet, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
Guardians of the Galaxy is that underdog story that seemingly comes from know where and wins the hearts and minds of the audience. It adds to the MCU and still tells a grand standalone story that is deep, meaningful, watchable, enjoyable, and gifts the audience with characters it can’t help but love. A movie that can pull off all that is worth a place on your watchlist. Grab some snacks and settle in!
—a pen lady