The original Guardians of the Galaxy movie’s success was a big surprise for pretty much everybody. It was based on a team of Marvel characters unknown to anyone who didn’t read comics. It was a straight space opera sci fi action adventure instead of a contemporary hero story like much of the other movies had been. It starred that funny dumb guy from Parks and Recreation fighting alongside a talking tree and raccoon and it was being directed by the guy who wrote the first two live action Scooby Doo movies. It was probably Marvel’s biggest risk since the original Avengers. It was basically riding on the strength and trust of the MCU branding alone.
And yet it worked. Somehow it actually worked. It has the highest worldwide box office gross of any post-Avengers MCU film not starring Robert Downey Jr. It’s received enough critical acclaim to rate a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. It got two sequels greenlit right off the bat along with a crossover with the Avengers coming up next year. It’s turned leading man Chris Pratt into an action star, the phrase “I am Groot” into a meme, and got co-writer Nicole Perlman the job of co-writing the upcoming Captain Marvel movie. The team has become a breakout hit in the MCU and has encouraged Marvel to take more risks, giving us more and more movies about heroes most people only barely know about. You actually think Marvel would have gone through with Ant Man if this hadn’t been a huge hit? (Yes, I know the film was in development back in 2006 and had a screenplay and lead by 2013, but, let’s be honest, the only reason that had lasted as long was Edgar Wright was directing and after he left do you honestly think Marvel would have gone ahead with it if they hadn’t proven that one of their bigger unknowns could rake in a ton of cash?) The big question on everyone’s’ minds: Could they make lightening strike twice?
The Guardians of the Galaxy are a thing that’s existed since the late 1960s, one of the few in the 60s NOT at least co-created by Stan Lee, but the current version has existed since 2008 as the second team to carry the name. Comprised of a team of characters who have mostly been around since the 70s and 80s (Groot (or at least his species) actually predates both teams), the team, with some additions, has remained mostly the same since then and if one of the core five do leave, it’s only temporary. They’re currently the only members of the team in the comics. As of this post, Marvel’s just now given them a new book so check it out. Their last one was good too, at least until the last volume. Various members of the team have also gotten their own book, most prominently Star Lord and Rocket. Anything with Rocket and Groot is always fun and Gamora’s comic’s good too. Can’t say anything about Star Lord’s since I haven’t read it or Drax’s.
Shortly after the first film, the Guardians have established themselves as protectors for hire, currently hired by a stuck up gold species called the Sovereign to protect their batteries from an intergalactic threat in exchange for Gamora’s sister Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, so the guardians can claim the bounty on her head. When Rocket steals the batteries and the Sovereign attack them, they crash land on another planet where they are found by Quill’s long lost father Ego, played by Kurt Russell, and his empath Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff, who take Quill, Drax and Gamora back to Ego’s planet while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to fix the ship and watch Nebula. They’re found by Yondu’s crew who mutiny and capture the three, freeing Nebula. As they slowly learn something’s wrong with their situation, the Guardians must save the galaxy again.
Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, Baby Groot is adorable and you will love him. Holy Shit!
The main story is one that was alluded to in the last film and pays off in a big way. Ego, for those who don’t know, is not Quill’s father in the comics, but I honestly like him better. It’s just more interesting. It also wouldn’t have happened if not for one movie: Deadpool. Deadpool wanted to change the powers of Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Who’s just a precog in the original comics) and had to negotiate with Marvel over it. Marvel allowed it in exchange for Ego (I guess it’d been asking too much to ask for the Fantastic Four villains (again, don’t care about the heroes, just the villains)). I know nothing of him from the comics, but I liked what we got. Mantis is a recurring member of the Guardians from the comics and, though I know nothing about her, I’m fairly certain this is meant to be a younger version who’s still learning about her place in the universe. She works well off the blunt and literal Dax.
The Guardians themselves follow up on motives and subplots from the first movie and further their character arcs, particularly Star Lord, Gamora, and Rocket. Star Lord’s is obvious, he’s found his father and is learning what that means for his life. Gamora has to deal with her relationship to Nebula and their shared traumatic childhoods at the hands of Thanos. Rocket is raising a Baby Groot and is having trouble having a place he belongs. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of pathos for Yondu and his relationship with Star Lord that I will not dare spoil.
The comedy for the film is still top notch and Guardians is still the funniest part of the MCU. You will be quoting lines from this film that don’t include the words “I”, and “Am”, and “Groot” in that order, I swear. Plus, a follow up to a joke from the first film that with have you busting a gut.
Not counting the mutiny, the main villain of this (who is spoilers) is probably the best MCU villain since Loki and Fisk. The villains in the MCU have almost never been that great except as devices to oppose the leads. It’s a character integral to the Guardians’ mythos with a personal connection to them, the twist is built up (you know something’s off from the start but you’re not sure what), everyone has a stake in the fight, and he’s a legitimate threat to the galaxy. He’s not gonna be recurring like Loki and Fisk, but in terms of one off villains, he’s definitely better than the usual fair.
I don’t think I even have to mention the music. It’s classic stuff and it’s a fun soundtrack. If you liked the first soundtrack, you’ll like this one. The opening number is both hilarious and adorable. Have fun with that.
With the exceptions of the Captain America movies, the Marvel sequels are usually vastly inferior to the original (especially the Thor films, but I never liked those films as much as the others anyway). I wouldn’t say this is better than the original, but I’d say its either as good or almost as good. Definitely watch this film. We need more levity in our lives.
Oh, one last thing, there are FIVE end credit sequences so have fun with that.
Okay, that’s finished. Now let’s get to Doctor Who. Finally.