Guardians Of the Galaxy (2014)

There was a lot of talk when this came out that this was the big risk for Marvel. But really, it was such a confident, crowd pleasing work full of such charming characters and wonderful action, I’d be surprised if anyone at Marvel was truly worried. In fact, this served as somewhat of a palette cleanser – no decades of reverence, no fanboy expectations. This was just a big old romp.

All credit must go to James Gunn. Marvel has worked with talented directors before (Branagh, Whedon), but Gunn brought his madcap style to the table, as well as much of his regular actors. Like in the comics, when you hire a new creative team, you let them be a new creative team. Gunn was brought on and rewrote an existing script from page one. This is his film.

Gunn also manages to sell us on the oddball aspects. It’s not just the racoon and the tree, but this intergalactic council, the variety of aliens, weapons, and the dead Celestial head. He may not have come up with this himself – all these films benefit from the imaginations of Marvel comic book artists and writers of the past – but he sells them to us, and we don’t ask that many questions.

On rewatch, some of the cracks do show. Chris Pratt is so charming that he sells a character that honestly has little to do. The pain and complexity of the characters are only hinted at – and the cast elevates it. That’s true of the team, but not true of the villains. Ronan, Nebula and the Kree are about as badly formed baddies as any superhero film. And it’s still an origin film, and still a lot of set up.

It may be feint praise to call this film style over substance, but what it really means is we’d much rather have characters we love than anything else. Audiences will put up with a paper bad guy and some generic plot machinations if we can escape to some far away galaxy and go to on a fun adventure.

Best bits

  • The cast. So much charm.
  • The Nova Corps. So much charm
  • The soundtrack. Epic
  • That dead celestial skull. That live celestial footage
  • We are Groot

Not best bits

  • Star Lord saving Gamora in space.
  • Ronan
  • Thanos
  • A generic origin story at heart
  • CGI fights CGI

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