With Avengers Endgame currently in theaters we’re looking back at the MCU thus far. Next up is introduction of our favorite group of A-holes, Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel’s entire cinematic universe rests on the idea of taking gambles. It’s something we’ve touched on previously with the Phase One films, especially The Avengers. But the benefit of the Phase One films- and nearly every film up until this point was a slight amount of brand recognition. Even if people didn’t fully know Thor or Captain America, they may have heard of them before. The Guardians of The Galaxy were a group of heroes only die-hard marvel fans knew when the film was released. Guardians of the Galaxy would test whether or not Marvel could release a film with no real brand recognition, and still find success.
Guardians was not only a success, it was a near masterpiece of comedy and action. The film is weird and wonderful in all the ways you could want a film to be. It helped expand the MCU and leaned heavily into the comic book world of the Marvel universe. The film brought us into the more cosmic side of the MCU and the layout of that end of the MCU established in Guardians would continue on as the MCU continued to expand.
At its core, what truly made Guardians great, wasn’t the expansion of the MCU, or the weirder elements. The best part of Guardians of the Galaxy was the use of it’s characters and their own individual stories. They may be “a bunch of a-holes,” but this group of misfits and criminals are just damaged people looking for something good in this world. Each member has a past of trauma and loss that has destroyed them in a way that they can’t come back from. That trauma has redefined their life, and they’ve never been able to recover. But in finding each other, and working together to fight a threat to the entire galaxy, they’re able to begin to overcome their traumas and grow as good people.
It’s impossible to talk about Guardians of the Galaxy without also talking about it’s use of music. Not only is the music a fundamental part of the story for Peter Quill, but it’s perfectly curated in a way that isn’t often seen on film. Many directors will try to incorporate classic rock and pop songs into their films to try to create a specific feeling or enforce certain themes. James Gunn’s work on the soundtrack, and the curated selection that he uses is the type of mixtape or playlist you want to listen to over and over again. It’s not only great music, it’s music that makes you feel a very specific sort of way, and his use of that music in the film is on par with the men and women who have crafted some of the greatest musicals of all time. If Peter Quill or Gamora started singing these songs out loud as the film went on, it wouldn’t even feel out of place. The film is moved significantly by the music, and it’s done so in a way that will be copied for years to come.
Guardians was a gamble for Marvel. Just as many of their moves have been. But they succeeded this time because at it’s core Guardians isn’t just a superhero film. Guardians of the Galaxy is a tale of broken people coming together to accomplish something greater than themselves. It’s about finding your place and your family in unlikely places. It’s a reminder that no matter how broken you may be, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve amazing things.