MarvelBlog Retro Review: Guardians of the Galaxy
Here’s where I turn heel.
In 2014, Marvel proved once and for all that its movies could do no wrong, as a misfit bunch of intergalactic criminals won society’s heart.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill and his frenemies stopped a henchperson of Thanos from acquiring an Infinity Stone.
Along the way, the members of a prison break became a family, and audiences lapped it up. Not me, though.
As a writer, all I could see at the time were the gaping storytelling flaws in a haphazardly edited movie.
For many years, I believed that this Marvel title was closer to a fun bad movie than a good one. Has that opinion changed?
Let’s find out in this retro review of Guardians of the Galaxy, THE pop culture sensation of 2014.
A Brilliant Intro
Director James Gunn came up through Troma Entertainment, the Toxic Avenger people. As such, he possesses a twisted sense of humor.
To wit, when he learned that he was directing a Disney movie, he started it the way that they all do.
A mother died as their child cried. Poor Bambi. Err, Peter Quill. Somehow, his life goes from bad to worse when an alien spacecraft abducts him.
Apparently, Quill spent the next 20 years of his life worrying that the crew would EAT him. Even Bambi never had it that bad.
The one thing that has kept him sane is – I kid you not – a Sony Walkman.
Yes, the finest technology of 1979 has allowed Quill to listen to his favorite Yacht Rock and Bubblegum Pop during his interstellar travels.
We learn this during a magical introduction to adult Quill, who is off on a grand adventure of dancing and stealing stuff.
Quill is having a wonderful time singing into alien fauna as if they were microphones as he completes his mission.
He’s a scavenger in search of valuable salvage. On this day, fortune favors him as he discovers an orb of some value.
Yes, it’s an Infinity Stone, but the bungling buffoon doesn’t know this yet. Still, Quill recognizes something must be up when the formidable Korath arrives.
The two men instantly dislike each other, especially when Korath doesn’t recognize the name Star-Lord, Quill’s self-provided title.
Somehow, the underdog prevails here, as Quill successfully claims the orb and leaves the planet.
This sets off an intergalactic struggle, as Thanos wants that Infinity Stone. Meanwhile, his underling, Ronan the Accuser, hates Xandarians for…some reason.
The two would-be conquerors work a deal: kill Quill and anyone associated with him to retrieve the orb, currently located on Xandar.
“I’m Gonna Die Surrounded by the Biggest Idiots in the Galaxy”
A casual betrayal triggers the subsequent chain of events. Ronan picks Nebula to lead the assault on Quill, but Gamora volunteers instead.
Both women are daughters of Thanos. However, Gamora has had enough of the Mad Titan. She intends to take the orb and sell it for four billion credits.
Contrast that to the bounty on Quill, which is only 40,000 credits. Hilariously, a pair of criminals named Rocket and Groot deem that a big score.
Alas, none of them leaves Xandar with the orb. Instead, they depart in handcuffs, as each one gets busted for attempted theft.
Most of the mercenaries find themselves in the same intergalactic prison, where the inmates call dibs on Quill and, later, Gamora.
At this point, the tree-man establishes dominance by proving he’s the muscle in the place.
A new face appears to stake a claim to Gamora’s future misfortunes. It’s Drax, whom the other prisoners know as the Destroyer. They’re deathly afraid of him.
Drax hates Gamora due to her connection to Ronan, who killed the muscular blue man’s wife and child.
At this point, the dysfunctional soon-to-be family has come together and settles on a jailbreak.
This sequence is probably the highlight of the movie, save for adult Quill’s introduction. It starts with timeless comedy and ends the same way.
Gunn’s sense of humor proves pervasive throughout the film. Still, that one look by the Guardians as they enter the final, formerly secured area is sublime.
Gamora’s disbelief at the current status of her life, the quote at the start of this section, punctuates the madness of it all.
These people have nothing in common, yet they’re stuck together by circumstance. It works well without feeling forced.
The Bad Half
I’ve now discussed the part of the film that I’d probably give an A- if it stopped right there.
To me, everything after the Escape (The Pina Colada Song) misfires. I understand why you have torches and pitchforks in hand.
In my defense, the rest of the film is so, so stupid. I mean, Glenn Close’s character disappears for a giant stretch for no good reason.
Without her scenes that either got deleted or never filmed, her purpose in the movie is murky at best.
The leader of the venerable Nova Corps from the comics shouldn’t die on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, it happens due to poor planning.
People excuse much of the storytelling mess because Yondu’s shiny arrow impales plenty of randos.
Also, the Star Wars-esque hijinks of the Guardians spending their downtime in Knowhere works as a crowd-pleaser…but I’m not a Star Wars fan.
I suspect that’s the disconnect between me and the 2014 zeitgeist. A Marvel movie set in space with Star Wars elements is a dream come true to many.
Meanwhile, all I do whenever I think about the climactic dance scene is grind my teeth.
If Ronan, the slayer of countless people, simply touches the ground, everything ends.
There’s just no logic to his not doing this other than that the director wants a goofy ending.
I genuinely hate it more than anything else in the MCU…and I’m including the entirety of Thor: The Dark World in that.
For other people – my friends and I have debated this countless times over the years – the joy of the characters supersedes the gaping script flaws.
The Guardians of the Galaxy entertain so much as individuals and jointly that fans have a rollickin’ good time anyway. I’m just not one of them.
I’m coming across as critical here, and I know it. The movie just doesn’t work for me, as the second half is like a C- grade on its own. The ending gets an F.
Overall, I’d give Guardians of the Galaxy a C+, maybe a B- if I’m feeling generous.
I did come across a pleasant surprise, though. I’d forgotten that a Celestial appears at one point during the Infinity Stone explanation.
We’re about to learn much more about them when Eternals debuts in a couple of weeks.
Also, I do like the nods to Quill’s “father” at the start and finish of the movie. They set up the decisively superior Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
You heard me.