Honestly, when I first heard about Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), I had no idea what I was seeing when I viewed the preview. You see, there was an era in Marvel comics during the 1960s and 1970s when they did this whole space thing. Historically, this was in response to the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. There was probably drugs involved too. How else do you explain a cast of characters with a sentient tree, a talking raccoon, a green woman, and a dude with a purple mohawk? Given that my reading of comics came during the 1990s, I was not into illegal substances, and I mostly collected X-Men books, I had trouble believing that this was coming from my favorite purveyor of superhero stories. I was delightfully surprised when I went to the theater to see it.
Guardians of the Galaxy starts off serious. The boy Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleff) stands outside of the hospital room of his dying mother, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock). Not being able to take her hand in her final moments, young Quill runs outside where he is abducted by aliens. Neat, huh? Fast forward to the present day and we find a grown up Quill (Chris Pratt) on a far off world. As he enters a cave of some kind, he calmly takes out a Sony walkman and places the headphones on his ears. “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone starts playing and the film’s title is splashed in giant letters across the screen. It was at that moment that I thought, “Yes, this is going to be great!”
The rest of The Guardians of the Galaxy is a standard origin story/getting a group of individuals to work as a team plot. There is an Infinity Stone thrown in too. You remember those, right? The magical ingots that can do seemingly anything and everything? At least this one (the Power Stone, apparently) has a sort of defined ability, and that is to destroy all that it touches. A particularly bad Kree named Ronan the Destroyer (how Metal is that name?!) (Lee Pace) seeks to find the stone and use it to wipe out Xandar, which seems to be both a planet and a culture. Originally, Quill is trying to obtain the stone too, but purely for profit than any sort of design on planetary conquest. But when his deal for the gem is reneged, he ends up in a prison called the Kyln with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). These are the aforementioned green woman, raccoon, and tree. While incarcerated, they meet the very literally minded Drax (Dave Bautista). These become the titular Guardians of the Galaxy. Together they escape from space jail and attempt to sell the Infinity Stone to The Collector (Benicio Del Torro). Yet that transaction sours when Drax lures Ronan to their location in his foolhardy desire to get revenge on the Kree for killing his family. This results in Ronan obtaining the Power Stone. Realizing they are overmatched, Quill employs the help of the Ravagers who are led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), he of the purple mohawk. With a fleet of ships, they come to the rescue of Xandar. However, the final encounter with Ronan involves Quill employing a dance off to the sweet melody of “Ooh Child” by The Five Stairsteps.
If you have never seen Guardians of the Galaxy and are reading this review, you may be thinking this sounds like a fevered dream. Did I mention there is a cameo of a dog in a Soviet space suit? Talking trees and raccoons? The Five Stairsteps? What is going on here? I am not sure anyone can really describe in words the plot to this film. It is something that needs to be experienced. And because it has such strange elements, it does not take itself too seriously but instead maintains a humorous tone throughout. What really gives the film its emotional grounding, though, is Groot. Yes, the thing made of wood, and who only speaks three words, “I am Groot.” He(?) is the only one that attempts to see all five very different characters as a unit from the beginning. Indeed, as a family. Though clearly interested in a buck, Groot behaves in a truly Christian, altruistic way. He is literally a light in the darkness (another Jesus reference), and he most directly lays down his life for others. He also brings comfort to the poor by giving a flower to a little street girl while on their way to attempt to sell the stone for the second time.
If you watch Guardians of the Galaxy, even if you have seen it before, you will not be disappointed. It is funny and sweet. It has action and a little bit of romance. And it has pretty, flashing colors to distract the drooling masses. But, most importantly, it is a good story. The PG-13 rating should not scare anyone away.