Guardians of the Galaxy: Indiana Jones in Space
By A.D. Poole
One can be forgiven for scratched one’s head after seeing the theatrical trailer for “Guardians of the Galaxy” and thinking, “Have the folks at Marvel lost their minds?” The trailer lacked a compelling premise, showcased weak humor (including once situation that was out of its proper context), and ended with the characters looking clueless. Undeniably, though, it was clear that Marvel was taking a new approach. Sometimes different works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The story is about a motley crew of space criminals who reluctantly set out to save the known universe from planet-destroying fanatics. Peter Quill, a human abducted from Earth by space pirates in the 1980s, double-crosses their captain, Yondu, by taking a mysterious artifact for himself. Outraged at this betrayal from a man he had brought up as a son after abducting him, Yondu puts a bounty on his head—a bounty that a talking tree creature (Groot) and a genetically altered raccoon (Rocket) are more than happy to collect. The warlord Ronan the Accuser has plans of his own for the artifact, and sends his assassin Gamora after Quill. Quill, bounty hunters, and Gamora converge on a collision course that lands them in a space prison. There they meet Drax, who is bent on killing Ronan to avenge his wife and child. This assortment of rogues forms an unlikely alliance and work out an escape plan to stop a plot in which the fate of an entire planet hangs in the balance.
The strongest element in the film is its characters. Early on, there is nothing heroic at all about the Guardians, but purely mercenary motives give way to heroism and self-sacrifice as the characters grow over time. The heroes each have a unique personality and each have a moment to shine. Quill is a roguish treasure hunter, but he quickly steps up from his companions’ target to their natural leader, becoming the glue that keeps the contentious band together. He is constantly listening to his Walkman that his mother gave him, even dancing through ancient ruins while listening to a cassette tape of her favorite pop songs from the 70s. The Rocket and Groot are partners in crime. Rocket is sensitive but has no problem dishing out insults of his own. Groot, in contrast, knows only three words: “I am Groot.” Groot easily steals the scenes in which he’s placed. He has his humorous moments like the rest of the Guardians, but he is also responsible for some of the most beautiful and touching moments in the film. Drax is a killing machine that takes everything literally yet his direct manner of speaking sometimes evokes feelings of an ancient poetry. The villains fulfill their function in the story, but they do not have as compelling a presence as the heroes do. The full purpose of Thanos in the Marvel film series has not yet been revealed, and Ronan, while not particularly original, serves the purpose of his role.
The storyline is a lighthearted pulp adventure set in a science fiction universe. It would not be accurate to say that “Guardians of the Galaxy” never takes itself seriously—there are very beautiful and emotional moments in the film. One can feel the sense of camaraderie that is built between this band of misfits as they put aside their differences for a common cause. The frequent bickering between them grows tedious after a while, but the arguments do present some clever banter. The action scenes are very well done with the typical comic-book fistfights and science fiction gunplay and explosions. There are some exciting dogfights in different spacecraft and even a little bit of swordplay. As is becoming common in modern superhero films, the climactic battle near the end is overlong and can feel anticlimactic. Visually, the film is chock full of eye candy, from ancient ruins colorful vistas in space.
While not without its flaws, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a strong extension of the Marvel film universe with a tale that serves plenty of adventure, humor, and characters that are lovable in spite of their moral flaws and. Families should be cautioned that “Guardians of the Galaxy” does contain more vulgar language than a typical Marvel film, so parents may want to consider carefully whether to take younger children.
Guardians of the Galaxy is in theaters NOW!
A.D. Poole saw no reason to choose between the sword and the pen when he could wield both. He writes historical fantasy tales of courageous cavaliers and redeemed rogues and lives the adventure in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) where he studies Italian rapier fencing and portrays a German mercenary from the late Renaissance. As a “free lance,” A.D. Poole works as an editor at Illuminated Marginalia (http://www.illuminatedmarginalia.weebly.com). He is currently working on his Master’s Degree in History through Wayland Baptist University. You can contact him via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/writeradpoole, Twitter @writeradpoole, and email at IlluminatedMarginalia@yahoo.com.