MCU Retrospective: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan

The Overview
A group of intergalactic criminals must pull together to stop a fanatical warrior with plans to purge the universe. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
Full disclosure upfront: I thought Guardians looked crap when I first saw the trailer! Having been on a massive high from The Winter Soldier I was eager for the next slice of that story, and Guardians just looked like a diversion. Oh how wrong I was!

Guardians is and isn’t a diversion though. It is certainly a huge change in pace and something completely unlike any of the MCU films seen previously. However it also feels like it is part of the wider narrative and it opens it up beyond Earth, and beyond Asgard to new world’s, new races, new heroes and new threats. With much of the plot centred around an “orb” (later revealed to be another Infinity Stone), it already feels like it is part of the story, and of course this film is notable for being the first time we really get to see Thanos. Whilst he is more of a background player, we get more of a sense of the person he is through some of the people surrounding him, most notably his “daughters” Gamora and Nebula, and Ronan who at least initially appears to be working for him. 

Gamora and Nebula become particularly important later on, and this film really gives us the sense of their animosity and rivalry, and Gamora’s hatred towards the Mad Titan. He has essentially groomed her to be a cold-hearted assassin and whilst she may be the favourite daughter, there is still the sense that his parental methods were questionable to say the least. 

So much about Guardians shouldn’t work, and yet it absolutely does. An eclectic 80s soundtrack and a group of heroes that includes a space pirate, an assassin, a dim-witted mountain of a man, a talking raccoon with a penchant for weapons, and a sentient tree. On paper it reads like the scraps of the Marvel universe were thrown into the air and whatever landed was what stuck. But that is essentially the point of the Guardians. They are the Universe’s outlaws, the misfits, the group of people that really shouldn’t work, but for whatever reason, it absolutely does work and it feels like it was always meant to be this way.

From the start, Guardians has a weird, wacky and off-beat feel to it which totally sets it apart from any of the MCU films that preceded or followed it. It is also easily the funniest film in the MCU and this is something which it still holds now. It’s full of memorable moments (the prison break-out scene, all of the stuff on Knowhere, the dance-off…) and quotable lines and because of this, it is a really easy film to go back and revisit. I would argue it is the film in the MCU which has the most standalone rewatchability…if that is even a thing. It totally works as an odd and unique space adventure on its own merit and contrary to what my first impression of this film was, it remains one of my favourite MCU films to date.

The Rating

MCU Ranked
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review. 

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – ★★★★
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – ★★★★
  3. The Avengers (2012) – ★★★★½
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 
  5. Iron Man (2008) – 
  6. Thor (2011) – 
  7. Iron Man 3 (2013) –  
  8. Thor: The Dark World (2013) – ★½
  9. Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★½ 
  10. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 

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