“I look around at us and you know what I see? Losers.
Today it’s giving us something. It is giving us a chance.”
When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced to be an installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people were taken aback. Before, all the entries had been of well-known superheroes, so it appeared odd that the fact they were producing a film of a rather unknown comic book. As the film’s upcoming release date grew closer and closer, people were starting to wonder how well it would do in the box office and how good it will be. In the end, this underdog film had somehow managed to triumph over Captain America: The Winter Soldier and ended up being the highest grossing comic book movie of the year. And how good was it? Well…it was brilliant.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the main example of the rising phenomenon known as “post plot cinema” (seriously, google the term; most articles will cite this movie). This term refers to movies that choose to prioritize action and cinematics over plot. Though this seems like it would take away the value of the films that choose to focus on cool explosions rather than a captivating storyline, this is exactly why Guardians of the Galaxy is so brilliant. Its plot may be paper thin, but a good film does not need plot to excel. What this movie chooses to focus on is the characters, the writing, and most importantly the funof it all. This sense of priorities is what makes Guardians of the Galaxy so enticing.
Firstly, let us explore the characters themselves. Guardians of the Galaxy has the most charismatic and memorable characters I have seen in a very long time (well except Gamora, but more on that later). Although they are basic archetypes, what makes this film so enjoyable is how the characters interact. This is what made the Breakfast Club so compelling; there was no complexity to Judd Nelson’s Bender, he was just a simple rebel with a poor home-life.
The same concept applies here; an example being the lead character, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill. Quill shares a lot of features with Han Solo from Star Wars, and more recently Eggsy from Kingsmen: The Secret Service. They are all your typical cocky action heroes that enjoy cracking jokes and taking nothing seriously. What makes Guardians of the Galaxy and the Breakfast Club so captivating is how all the different archetypes interact. Seeing such a variety of characters play off each other is what makes these films so compelling.
Perhaps this is an over-analysis on my end. If you ask people what was the best part of Guardians of the Galaxy was, they will typically say the humor; a statement in which I 100% agree with. The chemistry is nice, the action is amazing, but the comedy is what makes the film so fun for me. Ever since the Avengers, Marvel movies have tried to shoehorn in comedy into their films with variable degrees of success (most not), but I consider Guardians of the Galaxy to be even funnier than the Avengers. Drax the Destroyer’s running gag of not understanding metaphors is absolutely hilarious, albeit slightly forced (though it works mostly). A highlight is when Quill asks about metaphors going over the destroyer’s head, and then he replies “Nothing goes over my head; my reflexed are too fast”. The film is littered with these types of jokes and one-liners, and continues to brand Guardians of the Galaxy as a film with tons of laughs.
And what’s an entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe without some sort of ties that bind? Guardians of the Galaxy, while feeling disconnected from the rest of the films, is actually one of the most important films towards the future of the cinematic universe. Those familiar with the comics all know that the Infinity Wars is coming. This is where Thanos goes around collecting the Infinity Gems in order to obtain absolute power. And while we have seen them before in other films (see: Captain America, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World), Guardians of the Galaxy is the one that introduces them. However, while I found this interesting due to my knowledge of the story arcs in the comics, I fear this will be overlooked by the casual audience. When I attempted to speak to my friends about this sort of development, they seemed unfamiliar with what I was referring to and/or simply disinterested. Despite this, introducing Thanos and the Infinity Stones is still essential as it introduces an ongoing arc leading to something massive.
Despite all the praise to be given to Guardians of the Galaxy, it is not flawless. The main cast is almost entirely brilliant, with Gamora being a weak point. While she does represent an archetype, the classic “tough, yet serious girl”, she lacks the sort of charisma and likeability the other characters have. The other characters come off as loveable A-holes, but Gamora just comes across as too serious to be interesting. Furthermore, while the other characters provide a different sense of comedic value, Gamora does not. There is potential for her seriousness to be funny, but I think this fails because of the actress, Zoe Saldana. Overall, Gamora really clashes with the tone of the film and that her romance with Quill is incredibly forced. The only reason why I do not cringe whenever we get screen time between the two is due to Quill’s charm. The things he says to Gamora during their scenes feel unique, funny, and entertaining, unlike Gamora who is just a bore.
Another issue is that at times some moments can clash with this film’s lighthearted tone. Most notably is Drax’s backstory, where his entire family were murdered by the main villain. This is merely used as a plot device for Drax’s motivation as it barely gets expanded or explores his pain. You would think having your entire family killed would be a traumatic and dark experience no one could imagine going through, but this type of character analysis is not explored. Perhaps this is not the type of film to do that, but the whole idea just feels jarring and disturbing.
Guardians of the Galaxy is an excellent film and one of the best Marvel films to date. Its casual lighthearted tone is what makes this simple action flick such an incredible experience. While there is barely a plot, its characters stand out due to their simplicity yet likeability. The humor is ample and consistent, with there being plenty of jokes to laugh at and enjoy. The fact they took a comic book series barely anyone had heard of into a successful big budget action movie is impressive. Guardians of the Galaxy is not just an important film due to how riveting it was, but also demonstrated just how big the comic-book film is presently. Marvel proved to everyone that they can easily take something not really known, and make a huge financial gain from it.