Imagine that you had to pick someone you didn’t know personally that you’d have to depend on to save your life one day. What kind of person would you look for? What qualifications would you seek? Would you want someone with a history of criminal activity, greed, and general selfishness? If you’re anything like, you know, all of mankind, you’d want somebody who’s brave, kind, and selfless. Unfortunately, the galaxy has no time to be selective, so they’re stuck with a band of criminal misfits to be their guardians.
And it’s not even that these are people who have been wicked but are on the path to redemption. With the possible exception of Gamora (an assassin who’s plotting to betray Thanos), the guardians are still in their selfish ways as the movie begins, and even as the threat of the galaxy’s destruction becomes imminent and apparent. Drax is a vengeful maniac bordering on psychopath, Rocket and Groot are bounty hunters, and Star-Lord is just an all-around baddie of sorts, primarily as a thief. But when they got caught in the crossfire of the evil Ronan’s quest for a stone that allows him the power of a god (think a miniature tesseract), they’re left wondering if they’ll choose to just get outta dodge or stay and fight.
This film is one of the most enjoyable that Marvel has put out yet, primarily because it’s the most unique film that Marvel has put out yet. The studio has become successful largely by keeping with a pretty safe formula for their films, where the superhero becomes aware of some impending evil, experiences some personal difficulty (for Thor losing his hammer, for Captain America being relegated to circus clown, in Iron Man 3 Stark losing his suit and thereby his powers, etc.), and then conquers the evil in an epic battle scene at the end, all with a slightly above average amount of comic relief, bundled with just a few choice profanities and the occasional innuendo for a nice little wrapped PG-13 box. This film breaks that mold.
The first thing to note is that these guys aren’t superheroes. Drax is incredibly strong, and Groot has some incredible talents that come from being, you know, a tree mutant giant or whatever, but the context of the story taking place in space means that, relatively speaking, they aren’t superheroes. In fact, Peter Quill himself, the eventual leader of the guardians, displays the least amount of talents of the crew. His guns, jetpack, and protective mask are all that he has to put him ahead of any other human male.
Secondly, there’s the humor. As previously noted, Marvel movies are well known for their humor, but this film takes it over the top. There are more belly laughs, more ridiculousness, and more comic relief. In fact, I’d venture to say that this is a comedy with some action relief, instead of the other way around. The funny moments vary from Drax’s inability to understand metaphors, Groot’s narrow vocabulary of three words, and Rocket’s prankster-like demeanor (when he isn’t yelling and shooting stuff, that is). All of that makes for what is arguably the most enjoyable Marvel movie to date.
But that’s not without its issues along the way. This film pushes the envelope far more than any of the studio’s films before it, with close to double the amount of profanities, not counting a cut-off f-word. There’s also more sexual innuendos than normal. While the film is lacking in the overt sexual content that kept me from going to see Iron Man, there’s plenty of innuendo to go around. There’s insinuation of Quill sleeping around, and Gamora refers to this as his “pelvic magic.” So while this may be an enjoyable film to a certain degree, it’s not one for the kids, no matter how the trailer may cause you to think otherwise.
But there are noteworthy themes, too. All of the guardians eventually learn to put others first, even the rambunctious Rocket. By the end of the film, they’ve all made remarkable sacrifices for others, both on their team and for the innocent people they’ve never met. But while there’s redemption from that aspect, the audience is left without any misunderstanding that these so-called guardians will never be the Steve Rodgers type. Drax will still seek revenge. Rocket will still be a bit greedy. As with the film’s beginning, it seems the quiet Groot will be the most honorable among them, even if they have learned to sacrifice themselves for others when it matters most.
It seems fitting, then, that at the film’s end, Star-Lord and the team settles doing a little good, and a little bad. Because that’s a very apt description of the film itself.