Every movie faces the challenge of engaging and immersing its audience, but comic book movies have two groups to satisfy; the devoted fans and the casual viewer. Ideally the film will be detailed enough to honor the source material, but accessible enough to appeal to those who don’t know the back story. Though I fall into the latter category, I feel fairly confident in saying that Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds on both fronts.
Twenty six years after being abducted by aliens, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) makes his living as a treasure hunter. After being tasked with tracking down a mysterious orb, Quill finds himself in a heap of trouble. The evil Ronan wants to get his mitts on the orb and basically end civilization, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) wants to keep it out of his hands, and two genetically engineered oddballs, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) just want to capture Quill and collect the bounty that’s been placed on his head. Chaos ensues when the four collide, but none of them bargain on winding up prison together.
Though driven by seemingly disparate motives, the foursome band together out of necessity and orchestrate a prison break. Joined by their newfound friend, Drax (Dave Bautista), this ragtag group ventures back into the world with the power to save or destroy the universe in their hands. Villains are confronted, space pods are flown, and every sort of peril imaginable is faced by our heroes. It’s a fast-paced adventure and a classic tale of good versus evil, but the characters are what make the movie work.
All five protagonists bear the distinction of being outcasts who have suffered profound losses. Peter Quill lost his mother (and his home planet) as a child. Gamora lost her parents and was raised by enemies. Drax lost his wife and daughter at the hands of Ronan. And poor Rocket and Groot are essentially walking experiments, a talking raccoon and tree, respectively, though it must be admitted that Groot’s only words are, “I am Groot.” Their damage makes them relatable and compelling, as does their humor, their stubbornness, and their slow journey toward true friendship. The events unfolding may be fantastical, but the emotions they evoke are very much rooted in the human experience. Whether you go for the action, the quirky jokes, or to have a little cry, Guardians of the Galaxy delivers.