Marvel are one of the most interesting motion picture studios there are right now, because everything they release is an adaptation of their comic book lines. In adaptations, source material doesn’t matter. I’ve never read a Marvel comic book, so I’ve never known what to expect. I can also say that I’ve never felt alienated by that, and have never needed to research characters to understand the plot. Guardians of the Galaxy is their strangest release yet, because – I’m informed – not even Marvel readers knew of them. The small number of followers the line has is all that prevents this from being an original production from Marvel, that instead launches a line rather than promoting it. But I only know all this because I follow these kind of circles, and make it my business to know these things anyway. Most people will assume that Guardians of the Galaxy is just as well read as Captain America Comics or Avengers. And because Marvel Studios always hold the interest of Most People, rather than fans, they didn’t need to do anything different this time. By treating Guardians of the Galaxy with the same respect they’d give Avengers, they were able to introduce the audience to more characters for their cinematic universe without them ever knowing they were a special case.
As with every team-up, what their first appearance has to do is introduce the members. What I like about the Guardians of the Galaxy more than anything is the diversity: there’s only one Human. And the other non-Human members don’t look Human either. Which is convenient, since that makes Peter Quill the surrogate character: through him, we experience the galaxy, and the expansion of the MCU.
Quill is extremely likeable, because he isn’t a cliched hero. In fact, he isn’t a hero at all. He’s an idiot. He’s the guy more focused on the music playing in his headphones than the battle taking place around him. But you like him for it, because you know you’d only be doing the same. Casting is the most important factor in the story of a galactic misfit team, and Chris Pratt inhabits the role in a way that shows you, without modesty, that this is a role only Pratt could play. He’s like Henry Jones meets Han Solo meets Chris Pratt himself. You can see that there’s so much of him in the role, that it’s as if the role was created for him. Either way, he’s the first to bring Quill to life in live action, cementing himself in the minds of anyone who saw it as the character. You really want to believe that it was meant to be.
Gamora… honestly, I didn’t find Gamora memorable at all. Zoe Saldana is well-known to fans of science fiction cinema, having featured in Avatar and the Star Trek reboot. I remember Grace Randolph describing her as “Zoe Saldana in space”, and there isn’t really anything I can say to add to that. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything she said in her review, but that also doesn’t mean I can’t still like her as a person.)
Drax now. I liked Drax more than I expected, since actor Dave Bautista’s a wrestler, and that made me really skeptical. But I found him entertaining in what we got of him. Bautista intelligently underplayed Drax to make the character work. Rather than him being a raging fighter with anger management issues (basically, Space Hulk), he gave us a fragile soul in a powerful body. Which isn’t to say I find him a sophisticated actor, but Bautista admits that he only has so much range. Director James Gunn should be congratulated for bringing-out the best of what Bautista could offer, and he became a character that you really grew to like. He’s the biggest achievement of Guardians of the Galaxy, I feel.
Rocket Racoon! He was by far my favourite member of the team, since he’s, without sugarcoating it, a modified racoon that can speak, has an attitude, likes drinking and builds weapons. He’s pissed at his own forced existence, and feels that he has no place in the galaxy, since there really ain’t no thing like him ‘cept him. It’s difficult remembering any one character without the others, but Racoon is the one that just edges forward to be the one that won me over with this one. Plus, I also found him to be closest to the winning idea of Guardians of the Galaxy: that even if you feel as if you don’t belong, there’s someone out there who wants to meet you, and make you feel wanted. He gets by far the best character development, and by the end has learnt to use his anger for good. He’s the story’s character.
And finally, Groot. Groot is the most well-executed character in all of this. The humanoids don’t need to convince us they’re real, we can see that. A talking racoon isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination, but a sentient tree that can grow its roots as weapons and shields requires the most dedication to be convincing. And it worked. By God, it worked. Groot’s earned a worldwide following since his premiere, and that’s totally understandable. I was distracted by Racoon, but Groot is more popular by consensus, especially in the child demographic. I like Groot for no other reason than him being so well realised.
Guardians of the Galaxy‘s most important contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its expansion of that Universe. The Thor series was the first to be inter-planetary, but this is the first time a story’s focused on a planet other than Earth. Thanos was a very interesting villain, and definitely made me excited for Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, even if that was his single purpose. The Infinity Stones are also a fascinating concept, and I’m glad the Guardians of the Galaxy were allowed to be part of something significant, rather than a jolly about the galaxy. They’re now very important characters, as the only people that actually know about the Infinity Stones, and must surely have a role in the future of the MCU. A crossover’s inevitable. Gunn denies it, but they can’t not simply because of their place in events. Not only that, but it proves an ensemble team-up, especially in the superhero genre, don’t necessarily need to have their origin prequel. It’s far more satisfying to see them all being seen for the first time together, and feeling as if you already know them. Which is the only really origins really happen. It’s something I wish would stop cluttering-up the MCU, since the team-ups are far more interesting than something made just to set up events for the main event.
Of all the Marvel releases I’ve encountered in my viewing, this is the most… awesome.
Guardians of the Galaxy: best example of ensemble characters. 8/10