Guardians of the Galaxy

MPAA Rating: PG-13 | Rating: ★★★★
Release year: 2014
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi Director: Gunn

Not so long ago, in a galaxy fairly close in proximity to our own….

Guardians of the Galaxy.

Cue the music: Awesome Mix Vol. 1.

I realize the parallel between Guardians and Star Wars may be reaching. Is Guardians really *that* revolutionary of a film? Not really. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderfully quirky and entertaining film. It’s the expansive universe of Star Wars meets the action-packed quirkiness of The Fifth Element, with a dash of an Indiana Jones quest. Unlike many of the previous Marvel superhero films, Guardians capably walks the line between visually-stunning blockbuster action and hilariously savvy humor. It takes common elements from sci-fi and superhero films, building upon them to create something at once familiar and unique.

The story follows the human Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who after being abducted from Earth as a boy has developed into a not-so-infamous outlaw bent on making some quick cash, particularly from the macguffin of Guardians: a mysterious orb everyone in the universe apparently wants. Trying to avoid the evil Ronan the Accuser and his minions, his former partner-in-crime Yondu, and the Nova Corps, Quill finds himself in cahoots with a diverse cast of ruffians–Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is the daughter of Thanos and a highly capable assassin; Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel) are violent bounty hunters and social misfits as a talking/walking raccoon and tree, respectively; Drax (Dave Bautista) is a literal-thinking knife-wielding tank of rage.

What makes this lineup stand out from previous iterations of the “we’ve got to work together as a team!” superhero movie (Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc.) is their individual dysfunction and brokenness overcome by a sense of fellowship. While the other stories feature brooding loners (Logan in X-Men) and narcissistic one-man shows (Tony Stark inIron Man), the Guardians feel much more like a band of misfits and outcasts, the rejects and losers of the world brought together for a singular purpose beyond themselves. Sure, X-Men also has the central theme band of outsiders, but they are trying to find peace and integration within their society. The Guardians just don’t give a crap; while the X-Men want integration, the Guardians just want enough money to get away from it all. Quill is an orphan and abductee raised by a band of thugs. Gamora is also an orphan of sorts, adopted by the evil lord of the cosmos that destroyed her family. Rocket is the result of a science experiment gone wrong, an abused mistake left to fend for himself. Groot is a talking tree. Drax is fueled by the grief and rage from the death of his wife and family. As they work through their pain and confess their own brokenness, a community begins to form out of the remnants of their pain, a mosaic of broken pieces coming together to make a new whole. This team ultimately sacrifices their own individual agendas and risk their lives for the sake of a galaxy that has really given them nothing but pain, grief, shame, and bitterness. What begins as a group of selfish, isolated miscreants becomes…well…the guardians of the galaxy.

I once compared The Avengers to the church, summarizing the plot as “a group of individuals must save the world from an evil invasion led by a deceptive spiritual being from another world.” Allow me to make a similar comparison with the Guardians–a group of broken-yet-gifted individuals are united by a common mission to save the cosmos from destruction by a malevolent threat. Even a summer blockbuster with a talking gun-toting raccoon can point us to our need for a savior. Perhaps the contemporary appeal of these superhero films stems from the deep cry within our collective soul–we long for Someone to come and redeem this broken world for the better, making the wrong things right and bringing justice, peace, and salvation for all.

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