When I saw Avengers two years ago, I’m pretty sure I thought Marvel would never be able to make another movie to top it. All of its strengths added up to make a movie that was simply a blast to watch, and to this day I can say that seeing it for the first time was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had at the movies. After seeing the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy, I left with very similar feelings. Guardians is brimming with the kind of humor, heart, and uniqueness that makes it the quintessential comic book hero movie that anyone can enjoy.
Guardians follows the story of Peter Quill, otherwise known as the galactic outlaw Starlord, and a ragtag group of four other shady characters and misfits who unwittingly get themselves involved in a heated battle with the fate of the entire galaxy hanging in the balance. The team members all begin the movie at odds with each other- the humanlike assassin Gamora is seeking a powerful orb that Quill has in his possession while Rocket (a talking raccoon) and Groot (a humanoid tree alien) come across Quill by chance and try to capture him for a bounty that had been placed on his head. Their initial scuffle gets them arrested and they meet Drax the Destroyer in prison, a mighty man with a death wish against the film’s powerful villain, Ronan the Accuser, who appears to be some kind of religious fanatic who wants to destroy a planet he finds detestable. It all sounds very outlandish and strange at first, but it really doesn’t take more than a few minutes with this movie to see that it really is the makings of a great story with a fantastic cast of characters.
The movie juggled all five of its main characters expertly by giving each one of them at least a little bit of background and letting each of them voice their struggles and desires. Quill, Gamora, and Drax have all faced tragic losses in their past, and Rocket was simply the result of an illegal experiment, but what makes the story strong is that this band of outcasts is given the chance to do something that matters. Interestingly enough, they really come alive and band together when they look beyond themselves, throwing aside their faults and risking their lives for each other and for the people they choose to protect. The character arcs are all compelling and redemptive, and they give the film a great sense of championing the underdogs and choosing to do what’s right despite the sins and pains of the past.
But I would be amiss to talk about the film’s heart without discussing its humor as well. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so much and so hard at a movie. There’s just the right touch of humor to balance out every sentimental moment, and then the rest of the film will have you laughing practically nonstop. The action sequences are phenomenal as well, standing out from conventional battle scenes with some unique twists- Quill’s rocket boots and Groot’s seemingly endless talents come to mind. Throw in the 80’s feel exuded by much of the film’s soundtrack (Quill’s own favorite music from his childhood on earth) and on the whole we’ve been offered something really unique- a deft blend of comedy, action, and sci-fi with some old-school vibes.
And that is Guardians of the Galaxy, an unconventional but simply excellent film. It’s funny, action-packed, and emotionally resonant. The characters, writing, acting, visual effects, and pretty much everything else I can think of are simply remarkable. Although I would still say Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, from a more objective standpoint, the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if only by a debatable margin), I think I can confidently say that Guardians is my personal favorite. Here I am less than a day later and I’m already itching to go and watch it again; only a film of an uncommon sort of quality makes me want to go back that quickly. So the message here is simple: go see Guardians of the Galaxy, because it’s fantastic and you will love it.