The past decade or so has been saturated with superhero films. Evidenced by the blockbuster success of the Marvel franchise (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor), they are wildly successful and loved by audiences of various ages. Even with the litany of hero films with comic book origins increasing, we don’t seem to be experiencing superhero fatigue just yet. In spite of the monumental success of this genre, some films rely on a predictable formula, resulting in bland and predictable storylines with pat characterization.
But amongst the plethora of superhero-themed movies that are out right now, there is one that has come to save us from the cinematic sameness of these films. Guardians of the Galaxy has blown-up the internet with rave reviews from audiences and critics alike. And I see why. It simultaneously feels inventive and nostalgic with echoes of classics like Star Wars. It takes risks using the Guardians, a ragtag team of unfamiliar heroes, unlike the Avengers, and it moves galaxies away from previous Marvel adventures on earth.
Sure, it undeniably has all the formulaic plot points found in this genre, but despite its cliche moments, Guardians avoids being trite. Outstanding performances, a compelling storyline with in-depth mythology, and a magnificent score and visuals that add to the grand cosmic adventure make it irresistibly captivating.
More than strictly super heroes
Part of what makes Guardians work is its willingness to break out of the confines of the superhero genre. Movies inspired by comic book heroes sometimes stay in the dull lane of bombastic action-filled scenes with an anemic plot and one-dimensional heroes. Guardians brings more to the table than action and comedic one-liners; it brings substance.
Guardians is elevated by the complexity and development of its characters. The back story of the five intergalactic characters doesn’t exist to serve as an emotionally manipulative tactic to attract sympathy from moviegoers; the pathos of their pasts is essential. Including a hero’s tragic story is a necessary trope of this genre, but Guardians still manages to surprise us.
Redemption is one of the thematic threads of this film that connects the characters’ pasts and final scenes of the movie where they all achieve personal evolution. When we first meet them, they are lone wolves with self-serving agendas. The unconventional super heroes are made-up of Peter Quell A.K.A Starlord (Chris Pratt), an incurable asshole; Rocket, a genetically altered wisecracking raccoon whose partner-in-crime Groot (Vin Deisel) is a tree with a 3-word vocabulary (I am Groot!); green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who seeks redemption from the evil deeds of her foster father Thanos (Josh Brolin), and the hulking, brooding Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who only lives to avenge the deaths of his family. All have experienced loss or injustice and carry a deeply rooted loneliness.
Peter Quell, in particular, experiences a sharp shift in character. A philandering playboy and a mercenary thief, he’s what one might call a scoundrel. Marked by extreme loss with the death of a loved one and suddenly snatched away from his home on Earth, the finale is symphonic in the way that it reconciles him with his past traumas. In a pivotal moment in the film, the past powerfully rears up and he must face it. I will remain oblique but suffice it to say that it is powerful and will punch you in the gut with emotional impact.
Fight the Power ( or superheroes fighting social injustice)
The cinematic scope expands with a recurring theme of fighting and defeating oppressive forces who subjugate others. Decidedly devious characters like Thanos and the Collector (Benicio del Toro) are both dominating people albeit with different objectives. Thanos seeks to mercilessly destroy whole worlds just for the sake of it, while the Collector wants to own sentient beings like commodities simply because he’s fascinated with them. In our own world ridden with injustice, the Guardians’ mission to save the universe from villains resounds with us.
Visuals & Music That Makes You Marvel
The merit of the film can also be attributed to its extraordinary visual art. I’ve watched too many blockbuster movies filled with mind-numbing action, bolstered by bothersome CGI effects that ruin my interest because of an emphasis on spectacle rather than substance. On the other hand, Guardians is a visually majestic experience, filled with incredibly inventive imagery. Cosmic cities, grim interstellar wastelands and varied alien species color the film. With an equally impressive soundtrack, the music is a wonderful mix of an original score and old school songs (The Jackson 5, David Bowie, Marvin Gaye). Together, music and visuals add to the unique experience of the film; they help create a sense of wonder as the heroes of the film embark on their outer space quests.
The Guardians Will Return
Guardians of the Galaxy is a refreshing installment to the Marvel cinematic universe. It contains familiar elements of what we love about these types of films, while creating an adventure that feels original. This film also raises the bar because it’s undoubtedly a fun, humorous hero movie, but it also speaks to the human experience. Characters grow and revolutions are fought. With a sequel already slated to be released in July 2017 , we can hopefully look forward to more extraterrestrial adventures that contain the ingenuity of the first film.