Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) — Star Wars-style fun

“Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.”

Justin’s rating: Oh… YEAH…

Justin’s review: It’s been a good long while since we dropped an MCU movie review on the site (seven years, actually), and my sense of completionism isn’t sitting well with that. Plus, as of early 2021, I haven’t actually seen any of these movies newer than 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, so I would actually like to catch up and see what the internet’s been gushing about for over a half-decade now. Endgame was a thing, I heard? Something about snapping fingers? I dunno.

So let’s rewind to 2014 to start this journey, kicking it off with Guardians of the Galaxy. Now here was a really weird risk for Marvel to make. The Guardians weren’t that much of a known property outside of tight comic book circles, and the decision to take all of the action into outer space rather than another setpiece on earth meant that scifi was going to be the order of the day more than typical superhero antics. And it had a talking raccoon, a sentient tree-thing, and a wild assortment of races, planets, and technologies with which to contend.

The key to getting this to work was to ground it in some good old-fashioned relatable humanity, which bursts onto the scene as Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill (AKA Star Lord). Peter was abducted from earth as a boy and has spent his life being molded into a Han Solo/Indiana Jones rogue who’s trying to make a quick buck and land a hot date. When he takes up a job to find a strange sphere, Star Lord finds himself embroiled in a conflict that involves his foster scavenger family, a vengeful alien, assassins, and space cops.

This sphere McGuffin gradually attracts a crew of outsiders who find themselves traveling — at first reluctantly, and later enthusiastically — with Quill. Gamora is a green-skinned fighter who’s rebelling against her “dad,” Rocket’s a genetically modified raccoon who is insanely good with technology and firepower, Groot is a giant walking tree who can only say three words, and Drax is a literal-minded musclehead out for some serious revenge. These loners and losers forge a friendship together in space jail that gradually transforms into a superhero team. Of sorts.

As I said, Guardians of the Galaxy’s far-out locales and nonstop barrage of aliens needed to be tethered to our reality somehow, and Quill’s “aw shucks” quips and idioms help to do just that. Also pitching in is the incredibly odd soundtrack: a mix of pop and rock songs from the 1960s and ’70s that Peter listens to on his headphones (I was distracted wondering where he found AA batteries in space, but let’s just breeze past that). It’s a quirky decision to use David Bowie and The Jackson 5 in your space epic, but it played well into Guardians of the Galaxy’s overall tone of irreverent heroism.

When I first saw this, I felt that Guardians really captured that elusive Star Wars spirit that even George Lucas couldn’t with the prequels. It’s really about having a cast of likable characters having a good time with each other, whether that’s hanging out at a cafeteria table or racing around in spaceships during a frenetic firefight. As much as I did like Chris Pratt in this role, let’s be honest: Bradley Cooper’s Rocket stole this whole movie. He turned what could’ve been a one-note joke — hey kids, a talking raccoon! — into a complex character that had deep wounds and a scary brilliant mind. And Rocket’s so, so funny. I’m still laughing about how he assigned Peter the job of stealing a guy’s prosthetic leg just to see if he would do it (Rocket didn’t need the leg for his project, it turned out).

Yeah, there’s a little too much CGI and that implausible action that Marvel likes to stuff into its action scenes, but I thought Guardians did a great job making us root for some outcasts who ended up needing each other more than they needed revenge, money, or parental approval. From gut-busting, laugh-out-loud moments to wild scenes that seemed so self-satisfied with its own audaciousness, this movie is pure popcorn fare to the highest order. And I’d see it over The Last Jedi any day of the week.

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