While The Fantastic Four are Marvel Comics‘ first family, the Guardians of the Galaxy are the MCU’s first band of lovable misfits brought to life by director James Gunn. Marvel Studios earned an unprecedented amount of creative freedom from previous hits like Iron Man and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but a movie based around these (largely unheard of at the time) characters was anything but a guarantee.
Getting the audience to care so deeply for a group of characters they’re not familiar with is incredibly difficult (see Eternals), but Gunn executes this concept flawlessly. The Guardians have gone on to become arguably the most beloved team in the MCU, as evidenced by the critical and financial acclaim of the trilogy’s conclusion, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and that all began in 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy relays its powerful message through beautiful music and cathartic storytelling — there’s a family for everyone.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review: James Gunn Leaves His Creative Stamp on Every Scene
Directing, like all art, is a form of expression. Every James Gunn movie is unafraid to be weird, whacky, and hilarious, and Guardians of the Galaxy boasts all these qualities proudly. It’s a common criticism that superhero movies, more specifically Marvel movies, are very cookie-cutter (they all feel the same, just with different ingredients). The first film in the Guardians trilogy breaks out of every mold with a uniquely styled approach to storytelling. The action, music, cinematography, and so much more all stand out as something never seen before to this point in the MCU.
Never has music been used to compliment a story as well as it is in Guardians of the Galaxy. Both the jubilant score composed by Tyler Bates and the soundtrack work on unparalleled levels in unison to amplify emotion across the spectrum. It’s easy to throw classic songs into a movie to deliver a good soundtrack but to have those songs mean so much to the characters is special. Like so many of us, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) uses music as an escape from the hard times and a reminder of the good ones. His love for song transports him and his friends to a better place, and you can’t help but feel the rhythm penetrate your soul.
Another area where Gunn excels is getting the audience to invest in characters we have no business caring about. Similar to his other projects like Peacemaker and The Suicide Squad, there are no obvious heroes; each character in this story is deeply flawed, but everyone can find someone to relate to. Many of us have felt like we didn’t belong at some point or another, so to watch characters in this same predicament come together and find family with one another is genuinely touching. Give Gunn any group of characters, and he’ll find a way to make you love all of them more than you can imagine.
When you bring together a talking tree, Groot (Vin Diesel), a cybernetically enhanced raccoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and characters like Gamora (Zoë Saldaña) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), there’s going to be an undeniably different feel to the action. Gunn is the perfect man for this job, not limiting or changing anyone’s power set and getting unapologetically weird with the action sequences. Every character has a distinct fight style that’s apparent throughout, and all are equally entertaining to watch. Everything about Guardians of the Galaxy is unique compared to the larger MCU, and Gunn leans into that not away from it.
The ‘GOTG’ Cast Is What Ties Everything Together Exquisitely
It was crucial to find the best person for each role in this movie, and that’s what casting director Sarah Finn did. Finn has been the casting director for the MCU since Iron Man and has been perhaps the most important cog in the Marvel machine for over 15 years. Marvel has an incredible track record of always finding the right people for their roles, and Finn worked her magic again by putting together a cast with generational chemistry. From the onset to the conclusion, the Guardians develop and grow both individually and as a team, thanks in large part to the talented actors bringing these characters to life.
As the leading star, Pratt has a rapport with his co-stars that he’s spent years developing, despite this being their debut project together. His ability to chop it up with Rocket and Drax then turn around and activate the Star-Lord charm on Gamora is second only to Robert Downey Jr. in the MCU hierarchy. Saldaña also displays a remarkable range, able to play the most dangerous woman in the galaxy while also sharing some tender moments with Peter. Gamora doesn’t open her heart up to just anyone, and it’s satisfying to watch Peter peel back those layers as Guardians of the Galaxy progresses.
The only weak link in the film is Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), who is inarguably one of the worst MCU villains ever. Ronan is uninspired, unrelatable, and straight-up boring. Lee Pace is a phenomenal actor, and the faults of his characters can be blamed more on the story than on him. Yes, his performance is dreadfully bland, but that’s in a failed attempt to make his character more menacing. Ronan’s only motivation in Guardians of the Galaxy is to decimate Xandar for some unclear grudge, and it becomes progressively less interesting to watch his quest the more you learn about him.
Nearly 10 years after its official release, somehow Guardians of the Galaxy manages to get funnier with each rewatch. James Gunn has a special ability to convey that wry humor in unexpected moments that don’t subtract from the story. The humor at play in this film is simply effortless, and it feels as if the cast is barely working at all to bring out the laughs. The Guardians can’t help poking fun at one another, and their heavily contrasting personalities mesh so well to bring that humor to life.
The Legacy of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
Guardians of the Galaxy maintains a massive legacy, both in the scale of long-term MCU continuity and in fan’s hearts. This is the first time Thanos (Josh Brolin) makes an appearance in something more than a post-credit scene, and also the introduction of another Infinity Stone, which will go on to become important figures in their own right. What seemed at the time like a silly little group comedy set in space was a crucial leg for the overarching MCU story.
But most importantly, this movie serves as the preamble for five of the MCU’s most essential and beloved characters, extending into Phase 5. Everyone loves the Guardians, and while they may not be universally at the top of everyone’s trilogy rankings, they have as good a first film as any other MCU character. Guardians of the Galaxy holds a special place in many fan’s hearts, offering a constant reminder that no matter how much it feels like you don’t belong, there are people out there who will accept you.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘The Winter Soldier’ Are the Strongest Back-to-Back MCU Movies
For two movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy to be set within the same universe and released within the same year is proof that Marvel was firing on all cylinders at this point. Although the Guardians won’t have a role to play in the conclusion of Phase 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, it won’t be long before they get to run with the rest of the team. The Avengers may be the MCU’s first family, but Guardians of the Galaxy will forever be a treasured step in the Infinity Saga, easily rewatchable at any time to help pick up the mood if you’re feeling down.
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'Guardians of the Galaxy' Review'Guardians of the Galaxy' Review
- The soundtrack is pure joy.
- The cast has incredibly potent chemistry.
- The story is remarkably fluent and well-paced.
- The action is unique and fun to watch.
- Ronan is one of the worst MCU villains.