Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The previous film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, saw trust betrayed when it was revealed that Hydra had been a part of SHIELD all along, leading to SHIELD’s dissolution and changing the landscape for all Earth-based heroes. But enough of that serious shit, let’s have wacky space adventures! Welcome back to MCU March; let’s talk about Guardians of the Galaxy.

The movie opens with a woman dying of cancer. Okay, so maybe there are still some serious moments. Her son, a young Peter Quill, is promptly abducted by aliens. Cut to the present and that boy has grown up to be Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), a space outlaw of minor renown. He steals a mysterious orb, double-crossing his abductor/father figure, Yondu (Michael Rooker). A bounty gets placed on Quill which draws the attention of talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and tree-person Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, reminding me to eventually cover The Fast and the Furious). Also interested is the fanatical Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who promised the orb to Thanos (Josh Brolin). Ronan sends Thanos’ favorite daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve it while Thanos’ other daughter, Nebula (Karen Gillan, AKA Amy Pond from Doctor Who) and Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou) stay back for now. Star-Lord, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora all get arrested after a scuffle for the orb by the Nova Corps, a sort of galactic police force. The four get sent to the Kyln, a space prison where they meet Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a man with a mission to kill Ronan. Now with five members, the squad escapes and, following Gamora’s lead because she was betraying Ronan and Thanos, heads to Knowhere to sell the orb to the Collector (Benicio del Toro returning from his cameo in Thor: The Dark World). The Collector explains that the orb holds an Infinity Stone (we’ll eventually find out it’s the purple Power Stone), an object so powerful that just about anyone touching it will die. This is demonstrated by the Collector’s assistant rebelling against her master, touching the stone, and explodes. Ronan attacks Knowhere, grabs the Stone, and decides that with it he doesn’t need Thanos anymore. Empowered by the Infinity Stone he decides to destroy Xandar, home of the Nova Corps.

Ever the spunky underdogs, our five anti-heroes team up with Yondu and his band of space pirates to stop Ronan and steal the Stone. A valiant effort is made, but Ronan empowered by the Stone is too much to face directly. Nebula flees, Korath dies, and Ronan’s ship is damaged enough to make it crash. Groot sacrifices himself so that Rocket, Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax survive the crash, but it turns out Ronan did too. Star-Lord distracts him with a dance off while Rocket and Drax destroy Ronan’s hammer, which contained the Stone. Quill grabs it and doesn’t immediately die but is in a world of pain. The three remaining Guardians of the Galaxy–a name mockingly given to them by Ronan–all touch hands, dispersing the power between them to tolerable levels. Ronan is destroyed, the Infinity Stone is handed off to Yondu in return for his help (just kidding, that’s a fake and the real one is entrusted with the Nova Corps), and we are told that Star-Lord’s dad was apparently some ancient and powerful entity. More on that in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Oh, and Groot is survived by Baby Groot. More on that later in this post.

A post-credits scene is a cameo for Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green). Yup, the 1986 box office disaster Howard the Duck was a Marvel film, and his cameo here filled nerds with a mixture of hope and dread that a reboot may be in the works. So far, for better or worse nothing has moved beyond Green doing voicing the character a few more times.

While just about every MCU film has some comedy elements, not all of them really count as “comedies”–Guardians, however, is absolutely one. Star-Lord is a loveable loser (although how much you love the character and/or the actor varies as time goes on), Drax is cartoonishly oblivious, Rocket is a bag of snark, Groot is the dumb but lovable one, and Gamora is the “straight man,” reacting to everyone else’s shenanigans. It’s a solid cast for a fun comedy with a few tragic moments. I mean, we did find out in interviews with writer/director James Gunn that Groot is absolutely dead and that the Baby Groot showing up at the end (and appearing in subsequent films) is a completely separate entity with similar mannerisms. So, uh… that’s a thing. I’m burdened with this knowledge, so now you are too.

COMIC BOOK FUN FACT! The Guardians of the Galaxy as they appear in the film are not the original Guardians, but I’ll get to that when I review Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As for these characters they first appeared as a team in Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (2008), but all of them were established characters before that. Chronologically speaking, Drax appeared first in Iron Man #55 (1973), which was also the first appearance of Thanos. Next was Gamora in Strange Tales #180 (1975) where she appeared as an assassin sent to kill Adam Warlock, a character with a long history involving the Soul Gem and Thanos. Rocket Raccoon’s first appearance was in The Incredible Hulk #271 (1982), an issue where Gideon’s Bible is an important plot item, reminding us that he’s directly inspired by the Beatles song “Rocky Raccoon.” The next two involve… technicalities. The first appearance of a Groot was in Tales to Astonish #13 (1960), but that’s not our Groot–all floral colossi are essentially named “Groot,” and the one we know first appeared in Annihilation: Conquest – Starlord #1 (2007). And Star-Lord as current readers know him more or less appeared in Thanos #8 (2004), but he was based off the original Starlord introduced in Marvel Preview #4 (1976) who at some point stopped being canon. I could spend an entire paragraph on how that works, but let’s not.

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Next: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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