The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

| April 16, 2019

For better or worse, a generation is now growing up with the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and whatever that says about the direction of Western Civilization will be left to history depending largely on who writes it.  Avengers: Endgame brings the hammer down on this series on April 27th, so for the next few weeks I am going to take a look back at the films that have built a massive phenomenon.  Are they any good?  Let’s take a look . . .

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When it arrived late into the summer of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy dropped on me like a ton of bricks.  I confess that I had heard of this particular Marvel property only maybe in passing.  I’m not a comic book guy, and so these characters were new to me.  Plus, it was the first time that the MCU had cast itself adrift from the Avengers and by doing so Disney took a risk.  The Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t exactly household names and so any outsider approaching this movie would do so only because it was attached to the MCU.  There are no attachments here, no Iron Man, no Hulk, No Captain America, no Thor.  We know that this is the same universe, but it’s dealing in a different neighborhood.

It’s also a different kind of film.  First of all, Guardians of the Galaxy is the MCU’s first comedy.  Yes, it’s an action movie but largely it’s a comedy and surprisingly a very good one.  It’s characters – which comprise of curious names like Star Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket Raccoon and Drax – are one of those rag-tag groups who are thrown together by circumstance but all admit they’d be better off on their own.

Let’s put it this way: If the MCU was a circus and the Avengers are the acrobats, then the Guardians would be the clowns.  They’re heroes but they aren’t exactly heroic.  They’re self-serving, faithless, honor-less and each is really out for themselves.  That’s not to say that they are hateful or off-putting.  I’ve tried to land on an accurate description and the best I could come up with was ‘endearingly self-centered’

Setting itself apart from the world of The Avengers, the terrain of Guardians of the Galaxy is curious too.  It doesn’t take place in our solar system, rather it takes place in a far-flung section the galaxy that owes more than a little to Mos Eisley – scum and villainy are the normal walks of life here.  Of course, the galaxy is steeped in darkness thanks to a power-mad villain, a loathsome snort named Ronan who, of course, seeks to possess the ultimate power in the universe.  That’s kind of a requirement but it doesn’t feel like forced march through villain clichés.  Ronan is interesting.  He’s humorless but he’s also pouty and loaded with merciless proclamations of doom.

My feelings for Guardians of the Galaxy have moved back and forth.  When I saw it in August of 2014, I admitted that I enjoyed but complained that it suffered under the weight of a weak villain.  By the end of the year, those objections had dried up and, in a moment of madness, I put the film on my 10-best list.  I don’t know if I would have made that same decision now, but the movie is still very endearing to me.  It’s a strange off-shoot of a series that sometimes tends to get too caught up in itself.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.