Sunday, January 4, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy: Recap & Review

I know, I know. I’m late to the party. Guardians of the Galaxy has been out for a few months now. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this one in theaters, but I did get it for Christmas. And finally, on January 2nd, the whole family gathered around to take a journey into the galaxies.

I’ll admit, I had low expectations for this movie. I thought it sounded a bit contrived and far-fetched, and I wasn’t sure why Marvel was adding yet another ensemble to the mix. We have The Avengers; they’re working well, right? My greatest fear has always been that Marvel would do too much and eventually burn themselves out to a mere shred of what they once were. And to me, Guardians seemed like the beginning of that.

But I’d like to admit that I was totally wrong. Guardians of the Galaxy was a film that I consider worth it, and Marvel did well.

(Spoilers contained in this article.)


Guardians of the Galaxy starts out at an extremely quick pace. Within minutes, we are thrust into an entire new world. The movie starts out semi-familiar, though, in 1988. We see our young hero, Peter Quill, as a child. He seems quiet, and takes refuge with his Walkman and a mixtape his mother made for him. As the scene progresses we discover that Quill’s mother is dying. During her last breaths, Quill says goodbye to her. After his mother dies, Quill runs out of the hospital and is unexpectedly abducted by aliens.

After a flashback to our young hero, Peter Quill, as a child, we are then hurtled into space at lightning speeds. Even as a sci-fi fan, I was completely lost. Ronan? Xandar? Thanos--the guy from one of the past credit scenes, right? Who is who? Who are we fighting? Where is Groot?

So my first criticism is that they dunked us too fast into the world. I was confused, and my brain almost give up. I’m sure other people were baffled by it as well--my mom is not into sci-fi, and she still doesn’t quite grasp the movie. The beginning’s pacing is a little abrupt, and I think it could have caused some people to give up on the plot.

However, things soon begin to make some sort of sense. We see Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, now an adult. We quickly see that he is a rough-around-the-edges thief who grew up in the alien world. He works with a group called "Ravagers", who are essentially thieves, and we later found out that these Ravagers are who kidnapped him. He is examining a planet with some sort of ray gun that shows him the past. (I think? I wish they had explained this.) While on this mysterious planet, Quill just narrowly manages to escape with a mysterious orb, which is reminiscent of the Tesseract, in that we don’t know what it actually does just yet.

Quill then ends up on Xandar, where he’s planning to sell the orb, until he gets interrupted by Gamora, a green alien with awesome combat skills. They duke it out in the town square, and things get even more complicated when two more people... well, not exactly people... show up.

I’d seen the previews and I vaguely knew who everyone was. So when Rocket and Groot made their first appearance, I was inwardly fangirling. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a talking raccoon and a giant tree, but somehow they made me adore them right from the start. Rocket’s personality, grizzled and cynical, shows itself clearly right away, as well as his deep relationship with good-natured Groot, whose vocabulary is limited to “I”, “am”, and “Groot”, in that order.

I thought the motives of the characters were extremely interesting. The fact that Rocket and Groot first meet while chasing Peter Quill who’s chasing Gamora who has the orb is awesome. I think that with these kinds of reluctant heroes, they can’t just unite for the heck of it. They have to have solid reasons for uniting that will benefit them, and I think the bounty hunter aspect of Groot and Rocket is a really good start to that.

Due to their unruly conduct on Xandar, Quill, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot are arrested and taken to a super high-security prison called The Kyln. This is where things start to get really interesting. During this sequence we hear Blue Swede’s “Hooked On a Feeling,” the song this movie was marketed with and the song that has been in my head for 6 months straight. We also see our heroes get undressed (what happened to you, Andy Dwyer?) to put on their yellow prison outfits. This provides us with a look at Rocket’s shaved spine, which is covered with some sort of electrical input. Obviously, Rocket’s past isn’t a happy one, and it’s reminiscent of Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. (I hope they get to meet and talk about how much their lives stink.)

In the prison, we get some of our first good looks at Gamora, who gets involved in this movie because she tries to steal the orb. At first she’s painted as a villain, especially in the prison where everyone riots for her death, but we soon see that she isn’t what she appears: Thanos turned her into a weapon, and because of that, she hates him just as much as everyone else.

Because of Gamora, Drax is pulled into the mix. He wants revenge against Gamora’s adoptive father, Thanos, and to do this, he wants to kill Gamora. Gamora narrowly lives, due to Quill’s amazing diplomacy skills. Quill convinces Drax that, to exact true revenge on Thanos, Gamora should be left alive.

While in prison, our soon-to-be heroes get to know each other and decide they want to break out of prison. (Rocket has broken out of 22, by the way.) This is essentially their first real mission, as they cooperate together to get the things they need. It also provides one of the funniest parts in the movie, which is where Rocket is talking about the last thing they need to do that will set off all the alarms, while Groot takes initiative and does the thing in the background. (He is Groot, after all.)

All chaos breaks loose, and somehow they manage to get out of the prison. Now that they’re out, they’ve decided to stick together for now--Gamora has a buyer for the orb, Peter wants to make sure the orb stays out of Thanos’ hands, Groot and Rocket want a share in the profit of the orb, and Drax just wants to kill Gamora. (Such a warm, fuzzy group.) They take off across the galaxy to Knowhere, a creepy, gross, decaying head of a celestial being that’s being mined for its various bodily substances. We are warned that no rules apply here, and it’s seriously shady business.

Our heroes wait for Gamora’s buyer and indulge in drinking and iguana races, where we see Groot react compassionately to an iguana’s death (which is hilarious and interesting when you consider how many people he kills later in the movie). Gamora and Quill share a moment about Kevin Bacon in one of the best parts of the movie. Later Rocket gets drunk and gets mad at everyone for calling him a rodent, saying, “I didn’t ask to be made!” (This little raccoon’s backstory is going to break my heart, I can feel it.)

This leads to Drax leaving the group, and a huge argument between the others. It’s cut short by Gamora’s buyer, the Collector, who leads him into his creepy vault. There, he gives us a brief history of the Infinity Stones, one of which appears to be the Tesseract from The Avengers. He informs us that the Infinity Stones can lay to waste entire civilizations. And guess what has secretly been an Infinity Stone all along? You guessed it. The orb.

The power inside the orb is cracked open and a pulsing purple gem appears. Driven to it by her employer, The Collector’s pink assistant places her hand on it and we see what the Infinity Stone can do--it’s not pretty. The assistant explodes in purple effervescence and lays waste to The Collector’s vault (though, according to the credit scene, he survives. I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of him).

We then see what Drax has been doing with his time: calling Ronan! Ronan’s ships sweep in and lay waste to Knowhere. With him is Nebula, Gamora’s adopted sister with a serious mean streak. (Whovians will recognize her as the much-altered Karen Gillan from seasons 5 and 6 of Doctor Who.) Gamora and Nebula, while sisters, have a serious competitive streak going on. Both adoptive daughters of Thanos, I saw a sort of Thor-Loki dynamic going on, which is really cool.

What I found interesting is that we got to see a little vulnerability from Nebula in the scene where Ronan is talking to Thanos. Thanos refers to his favorite daughter, Gamora, and we see Nebula flinch. It’s clear that, as bad as Nebula (and at times Gamora) may be, their life has not been easy. I sincerely hope we’ll see Nebula in future movies, and perhaps a redemption arc for her.

And now back to the plot: Ronan’s trying to get the orb, which we now know has the power to destroy entire civilizations--obviously not a good thing to be wielded by an evil guy. Our heroes are now dedicated to protecting the galaxy--and themselves--from what Ronan could do with the Infinity Stone. We see a huge battle with Ronan’s troops, with industrial grade, indestructive pods. There’s lots of flashy stuff and really exciting battle sequences.

In a majorly cool space chase, Gamora is pursued by her adoptive sister because she has the orb, which leads to Nebula (not) taking the high road. Nebula explodes Gamora’s ship, which leaves Gamora floating in space. Suddenly seized by love, Quill leaves his spaceship and risks his own life for her, making ice consume him and his eyeballs go red in the process. In what I can only call a stroke of genius, he tells Yondu (his adoptive father/sort of enemy) to come and get him. They are saved by Yondu dragging both Quill and Gamora onto his ship, but now there’s a problem: they’re captives, and Ronan has the orb.

This is what is arguably the darkest moment of the movie, because not only is Gamora almost dead, but Drax is almost dead as well. He is thrown into a pool of yellow liquid (not sure what that was--alien blood?) by Ronan and left for dead. That is, until the kind-hearted Groot shows up. He punctures Drax’s chest to get out the yellow liquid, and Drax survives.

Drax, Groot, and Rocket reunite, and unwillingly, Rocket leads a rescue attempt for Quill and Gamora, which coincides with Quill and Gamora convincing Yondu to help them defeat Ronan in exchange for the orb. This leads to another hilarious part, where the three others threaten that Drax will blow up the ship if Quill and Gamora are not handed over in five seconds. Fortunately, Quill prevents this (again with the smooth-talking, he’s amazing at this) and soon negotiates for Drax, Rocket, and Groot to be brought on board.

Our slowly-transforming heroes reconvene in a room to stand in a circle. Here, I’m going to go down a brief rabbit trail. What was refreshing about this scene, and this movie in general, is that it takes several superhero tropes and turns them on their head. Some examples:

  • Instead of the typical dramatic, inspiring scene, the heroes make fun of themselves. “Here we are, five jacka**es standing in a circle.” 
  • Instead of a noble speech, Quill resorts to vulgar yet simple language that makes his point: “Here is our chance to give a sh*t.” 
  • Instead of a nobility speech in response to the question, “Why would you want to save the world?”, Quill says, “because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it.” 

During the circle-scene, Quill tells them his plan, which essentially means he’s asking them to die. This leads to a really emotional part where Gamora says, “I have lived most of my life surrounded my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends,” which is a sentiment shared by the rest of the group. At the end of this scene, these heroes have agreed to help each other. They have solidified themselves as what we knew they were all along: the guardians of the galaxy.

Quill notifies the Xandarian Nova Corps (led by the awesome Glenn Close) that Ronan is headed to destroy their planet, and they (surprisingly) believe him. The Xandarians prepare for Ronan’s arrival while Yondu and his crew head there as fast as they can. We see our heroes suiting up and making a plan on how to attack Ronan’s ship, using Gamora’s inside knowledge of Ronan’s procedures and ship layout. (Speaking of which, the shape of Ronan’s ship is super impractical. It’s just begging to be split in two.)

Once they’ve arrived at Ronan’s ship, Groot lights up the darkness with one of the coolest scenes of the movie. Then their plan is set into action and we are led to the biggest battle of the movie. We get to see some awesome things: Nebula and Gamora fighting it out, Yondu’s magical whistling arrow (pure genius I tell you), Drax and Groot and Rocket kicking butt, and the incredible spaceship-shield created by the Xandarian air force. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of casualties when Ronan’s shield breaks through the shield, killing every single pilot (which is a lot). There’s also a ton of collateral damage as things crash onto the planet of Xandar, including kamikaze pilots. Rocket also saves the lives of a pink alien and her daughter by shielding them from a blast.

The battle turns badly for all of them as they prepare to take on Ronan. By now, Ronan has taken on the power of the Infinity Stone, his eyes are purple, and he’s ten times more menacing than before. Our heroes battle him together and think they’ve taken him down, as well as his ship. Unfortunately, that’s not good for them: they’re now about to crash on Xandar. In what’s possibly the most meaningful part of the movie, Groot surrounds them in a protective branch-cage. Rocket protests, “No! You’ll die.” And Groot says this:

We are Groot.” 

During this scene, Rocket starts to cry, and I cried at a raccoon crying, which I never thought I’d say. The spaceship crashes and true to Rocket’s word, Groot is nothing but a pile of twigs.

They can’t mourn for long though, because there’s one problem--Ronan’s alive. Our heroes prepare to take him on, and Quill hilariously distracts Ronan in a dance-off while Rocket reassembles his gun. At long last, Rocket fires his gun at Ronan’s staff, which is holding the Infinity Stone. The Stone drops, and in an incredibly slow-motion shot, Quill tries to catch the Stone before Ronan did. Unfortunately, this pretty much means his death, judging from what we’ve seen the orb do to those unworthy of its power.

But Quill is worthy of his power. Not only that, but now he has friends. They form a human chain to channel the Infinity Stone’s power through. And somehow, they all live. But they didn’t know they would live, and that’s touching. At the beginning of this movie, we had a group of thieves, criminals, and rugged people who wouldn’t even care about other people. And now, they have each laid down their lives for each other: multiple times.

Which leads me back to Groot. Rocket weeps over him, and Drax, who has also lost people close to him, sits beside him and comforts him. Feels.

On the villain side of the spectrum, Ronan is now dead, due to the Infinity Stone now destroying him. Nebula has taken off on some spaceship, never to be seen again (until the next movie). Quill preteends to give Yondu the orb, but the real The Infinity Stone is locked away in the Nova Corps’ vaults. (And the Collector is alive, as we see in the credits scene.)

Our heroes are honored by the Nova Corps, and we find out that Quill is only half Terran (human). His dad is described as an “ancient, Celestial being”, and his mother was from Earth. Due to Quill’s mysterious ancestry, he was able to hold the Infinity Stone and survive. They don’t give us much more than that, but I’m clamoring for more information about this.

Thanks to the Nova Corps, Quill gets his spaceship back, and once he’s back on it, he finally opens the gift his mother gave him at the start of the movie. It's another mixtape: Awesome Mix, vol. 2. Included with this gift is a letter, which shows us that “Star-Lord” isn’t just a title Quill calls himself--it’s what his mother called him, too. (And in the comics, Star-Lord is an actual title, which could lead to Quill being actual royalty.)

Quill begins to listen to “Awesome Mix, vol. 2.” As “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” plays, we see that the pink woman and her daughter that Rocket saved during the battle were the wife and child of John C. Reilly’s character. We see Nova Corps lock away the Infinity Stone (which just means it has to come back into play at some point). We also see Gamora slowly start to dance. “Just like Kevin Bacon.”

And in the end, the Guardians do the sci-fi equivalent of riding off into the sunset.

“What should we do next: Something good, something bad? Bit of both?”

I can’t let this post go by without mentioning one of the credit scenes we get treated to: a tiny Groot dancing in front of Drax. Aka, one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

In case you were wondering about the very end credits scene, that was a reference to Howard the Duck: Marvel’s first movie, which ended up being a commercial box office failure.


While Guardians suffered some pacing issues and info-dump-y sections, I overall found it a very enjoyable movie. Marvel surprised me by taking me to territory I’d never been before. I appreciate that Marvel is trying new things, even though staying comfortable could have been the better choice. Making the movie Guardians was actually a risky choice in my opinion, because there was no way of knowing how these new characters would be received in an already-pretty-established universe. But in my opinion, taking this gutsy move is part of what makes Marvel great, and I’m thankful they decided to make this movie.

Guardians brought us to a more edgy type of Marvel film as well. There were several usages of the s-word, which I can’t remember in any other Marvel movie, as well as some other swearing and a non-blurred out version of the middle finger. There’s also a lot more dark material. Knowhere is the severed head of a celestial being that’s been turned into a mine. Ronan kills someone off screen while the camera shows us lingering glances at the alien’s blue blood. Thanos turns his not one, but both his daughters into highly-trained weapons, and a robot, in Nebula’s case. We see a raccoon engineered to be a human in less-than-ethical ways, and Drax’s entire family was killed. Several people are near death. The stakes are high, and I was surprised to see this content in what I mistakenly assumed was a children’s film.

Judging Guardians by a child-friendly lens makes it seem worse, but in truth, I actually liked this grittier movie. Marvel is branching out and taking risks with this, which I appreciate. I liked the many villains, both primary and secondary, but I also loved the heroes. Seeing these heroes, flaws and all, shows us that even the worst of the worst can rise above themselves and save the world. Showing us these people in shades of gray rather than black and white shows that the power of redemption transcends everything. And finally, I think it results in multifaceted, interesting characters because of their deep flaws.

In conclusion, Guardians of the Galaxy is a solid beginning to what will hopefully be a new franchise. It’s given me characters to root for and plot details I’m wildly curious about. (Will we ever find out about: Quill’s father? Groot’s backstory? Quill + Gamora? Poor Rocket?)

Simply put, I’ve fallen in love with these idiots, and I can’t wait to see them on screen again.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will premiere May 5, 2017.

Facts & Theories

  • This was the first Marvel movie to have a female writer credited, and in fact, Nicole Perlman is responsible for bringing this movie to the screen at all. She brought Guardians of the Galaxy from the depths of the comic vaults and wrote the first draft. Without her, this movie would probably not exist, or at least be very different. As a female Marvel fan who’d love to write for them someday, I was highly inspired by her story. You can read it here.
  • The casting combines so many fandoms that it makes my little nerdy-heart explode. Andy Dwyer, Uhura, Thranduil... I almost can't handle it.
  • Karen Gillan (Nebula) actually shaved her head for the role, and unveiled her new look at 2013’s comic con.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy’s plotline will be especially influential later, as it set up Thanos, one of the worst villains in Marvel history. It also set up the Infinity Stones, a major feature in the comics and the plotline I assume Avengers 3: Infinity War Parts I & II will center around.
  • It’s been said that an Avenges/Guardians crossover will happen, so if it doesn’t happen sooner, I predict some Guardians characters will be making an appearance in Avengers 3. Here's what that might look like.
  • This was our first look at the Kree, an alien species who play majorly into the comics. Not only that, but the serum that saved Coulson and Skye’s lives in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was taken from the blood of a blue Kree alien. (Additionally, Carol Danvers will be featured in Marvel’s 2018 movie, Captain Marvel. In her comics origin story, she was turned into a human-Kree hybrid.) It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and what roles the Kree will play in future movies. 
  • Speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., now that we’ve had Skye’s big reveal, I’m almost positive they’ll bring her into the MCU at some point. I’m picturing her interacting with both the Guardians and the Avengers, and my brain is kind of exploding from all the awesomeness that could occur on screen. 
  • Several fan theories are speculating on who Peter Quill’s dad could be. In the comics, it was J’son, but a statement from James Gunn seems to imply it may not remain true to the comics. Due to this statement, other fan theories are being presented as to who could be Quill’s father--including Thanos, Loki, Starfox, Adam Warlock, Michael Korvac, and even Thor. (An Asgardian is doubtful, but hey, it could happen.) You can read more about this here
In the coming months, I’ll be writing more about the relationships in Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as continuing my series on the relationships in The Avengers. Stay tuned!

What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy?


  1. Oh my GOODNESS, so many perfect gems here.
    - "Where is Groot?" More to the point, where is Baby Groot?
    - "a mysterious orb, which is reminiscent of the Tesseract, in that we don’t know what it actually does just yet." (Other than allow suicide or proclaim friendship, that is.)
    - "The casting combines so many fandoms that it makes my little nerdy-heart explode. Andy Dwyer, Uhura, Thranduil... I almost can't handle it." I COULD NOT.
    I watched Guardians on a flight, so it was on a purely entertainment level, and it was a fun movie. My favourite character was actually, for some reason, Nova Prime. I can't even figure out why. Great recap/review!

  2. I was late to the game on this one, too--I never got the chance to see it when it was in theatres, so when I got it for Christmas, I was pretty pumped to watch it. I really didn't know what to expect from it, but I love the direction they took it in. Antiheroes are my favourite, and like you said, it was great how they flipped so many heroic tropes with the Guardians. I love that it managed to resonate on some deep levels without taking itself too seriously--overall, I think it was pretty hilarious, so it won me over on that front alone.

    Favorite part? "I'm gonna need that dude's eye." Ah, Rocket.