Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of Marvel’s most well-loved entries, consistently considered a fan favourite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Light on the story and heavy on the action, Guardians of the Galaxy remains a bulwark of what has become an ever expanding cinematic universe.
Guardians of the Galaxy represented Marvel’s first foray out of the traditional superhero movie genre. The movie had a much more Space Balls crossed with Pirates of the Caribbean feel in terms of expansiveness, storytelling and characters. It was ultimately a turning point for the Marvel fandom, and a stretching of the limits of what the fans would accept. Guardians of the Galaxy was the most outlandish story Marvel had told.
When it was first announced that the man who was mostly known for his role as the funny lovable and goofy Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation, it marked the beginning of Marvel taking unknown or lesser known actors and turning them into action stars. Something about what Pratt did in Guardians of the Galaxy resonated with fans, and whatever fans may think of him now, he certainly made his impact with his entry into the MCU. It was the way that the entire cast came together as a found family that made fans connect with these galactic outcasts.
Dave Bautista was a standout in his role as Drax, and carried the real humor of this movie. His deadpan delivery is second to none. Vin Diesel yelling “I am Groot!” for 2 hours was the pinnacle of effective actor usage. Bradley Cooper was…the voice of Rocket Raccoon, and Zoe Saldana was far too perfect for this movie. Karen Gillan, fresh off of her run in Doctor Who as a bald blue alien was…a choice. Thankfully we’ve gotten to see her character Nebula be developed over subsequent Marvel entries but to see just how little an actress of her talent was used in this movie was jarring.
While Guardians of the Galaxy became an example to fans of the found family trope, it never worked as well for me as it did for others. I was just never able to connect to this group, even though their performances and chemistry are obvious. I can certainly understand why this model worked for so many fans, having the outcasts from across the universe band together and become the family they all lack. It just never quite landed for me, and I found myself struggling to root for this group as they went on their fantastical adventures, and I still find this to be true having seen this group in several Marvel entries to date.
Maybe it was the stakes that seemed far too high, or maybe it was that I couldn’t see how these characters’ stories fit together in an organic way. Don’t get me wrong, not all of Marvel’s found families work all of the time. Even the Avengers, the most explored found family Marvel’s had to date, didn’t always work (stay tuned for our look back at Captain America: Civil War). This group in particular I felt struggled to get its footing and go forward in a way that made me want to see more of them within Marvel’s universe.
Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) became yet another example of Marvel’s villain problem. This character had the opportunity to be another topical meditation on religious extremism and what leads ordinary people down that path (or at least ordinary beings from alien planets). These were big ideas Marvel introduced, and yet the character was dispatched before the end of the movie, not to be re-visited in a meaningful way again. The character’s rhetoric was venomous, offensive, and horrifying, yet it was never fully examined or allowed to be played for anything other than shock value.
The end credits scene featuring little known Marvel comic character Howard the Duck really was a perfect way to encapsulate everything that this movie represented. It took some big chances with some big stories. For some fans, it came together and worked perfectly well and was commendable for Marvel to be bringing in little known characters to have their chances in the spotlight. For others, it seemed like a confusing mishmash of obscure stories and characters that sometimes worked and sometimes did not.
Guardians of the Galaxy was yet another turning point for Marvel as they continued to expand their universe. Although it remains a beloved fan favorite for many, the story is lacking and the characters don’t work as well as the plethora of other Marvel heroes we’ve since been introduced to. It will ultimately remain solidly in the middle tier of Marvel movies, and you know what? That’s perfectly okay.
Guardians of the Galaxy is currently available to stream on Disney+.