Got all that? Looking back on it, there is a ridiculous amount of world building going on in the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy. While Avengers had the luxury of using characters who had first appeared in their own films, the entire roster of the Guardians and the universe they live in has to be introduced. The movie accepts the challenge and throws a ton stuff at the viewer.
And it doesn’t stop with the first act. As the film progresses we’re familiarized with the likes of another demigod known as The Collector (remember him from the post credits scene in Thor: The Dark World), a moon sized space station called Knowhere carved from the head of a giant celestial being, an explanation behind the all-powerful objects which have been popping up in the various Disney/Marvel movies, and three or four other things which will certainly help drive the plots of future films. The filmmakers have gone out of their way to craft a cosmic space opera of Dune-like proportions.
Not to worry, though, only the very young and the short of attention will likely stand a chance of getting lost amongst all the story elements. Every time the movie threatens to derail because of plot overload, it sets things right with a well-timed joke. Humor plays a big part in Guardians of the Galaxy, probably more so than in any other Disney/Marvel production to date. Admittedly, a few of the punchlines lean toward the raunchy (writer/director James Gunn has never completely escaped his Tromaville roots), but still, it’s a funny movie. I suppose it’s hard for a film to get too dark when 40% of its titular team is made up of a raccoon and a tree.
Which is not to say that the raccoon and the tree don’t have their serious side. Along with its wit, what ultimately makes Guardians of the Galaxy succeed is that it finds a way amongst all the chaos to make you invest in the main characters. Each of the Guardians, in their own way, is a broken person who has allowed their pain and loss to lead them down some of life’s less than savory paths. Alone, they’re kind of losers
But we weren’t made to live alone. One of the oldest teachings in the Church, going all the way back to when God created our first parents as a complementary pair, is that we best recognize our dignity as persons through our relationships with others. Community brings support, strength, and yes, even correction. What, you thought God only commanded us to assemble as a Church because he arrogantly demands worship? The fact is, even if we’re just C-listers, we can be better people when we’re together.
This is what the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy come to realize and the climax of the film depicts this realization in the simplest, most obvious fashion imaginable. Nobody said the movie was deep. But that’s okay, not every superhero film needs to be a Nolan-esque Dark Knight style melodrama steeped in the intricacies of the real world. It’s perfectly acceptable for a comic book movie featuring a talking raccoon to keep things on the light side.
Guardians of the Galaxy does just that. The heroes are heroes (eventually), the bad guys are bad, and the moral of the story is a basic one. Take those ingredients and throw them into a mix with one of the most fully realized far away galaxies since the original Star Wars trilogies, and you’ve got one of this Summer’s most enjoyable films.
And, yes, there’s a post credit scene. You’ll never see it coming, not in a million years.
David Ives reviews new releases for Aleteia and spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.