There is no denying it: Marvel Studios has churned out a hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie before DC could treat the world to a big screen “Justice League” adventure. Director James Gunn was asked to deliver a box office smash with a relatively unknown product (to those who don’t read comic books), and he gave the studio a $94 million opening weekend. Not too shabby. The question still remains: Is it any good? Short answer: Yes. The longer answer is that Marvel played with fire in terms of language and content that could scare off those looking for “family friendly” fare. More on that later.
For those unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team consists of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). While the whole lot of them are technically misfits and scoundrels, the audience knows that deep down each character has a heart of gold. They’re all heroes who don’t quite know it at first because their horrific and tragic pasts shielded them from acting upon virtues like honor, integrity and self-control. Their initial thievery and selfishness brings them together, but it is their slow-burn heroism that keeps them together. Their task: The Guardians of the Galaxy must save an entire planet from an alien known as Ronan.
In order to avoid spoiling certain parts of the movie, I’ll try and explain everything that I liked and disliked about the movie by discussing the scene where the team officially forms:
Peter Quill: I need your help. I look around at us…you know what I see? Losers. I mean, like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have. Man, we have — all of us. Our homes. Our families. Normal lives. And usually life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it’s given us something. It has given us a chance.
Drax: To do what?
Peter Quill: To give a shit. For once. And not run away. I for one am not going to stand by and watch as Ronan wipes out billions of innocent lives.
Rocket Racoon: But Quill, stopping Ronan — it’s impossible. You’re asking us to die.
Peter Quill: Yes. I guess I am.
Gamora: Quill. I lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.
Drax: You are an honorable man, Quill. I will fight beside you. And in the end I will see my wife and daughter again.
Groot: I am Groot.
Rocket Racoon: Oh what the hell, I don’t got that long of a life span anyway. Now I’m standing. Y’all happy? We’re all standing up now…a bunch of jackasses.
Guardians of the Galaxy is funny. It has heart. It’s irreverent. It sends a message that redemption is possible and that there are things that transcend the self that are worth fighting and dying for. Overall it succeeds in all of those aspects, but one of the virtues that is lacking appears to be prudence. Writer and Director James Gunn did a commendable job, but there were times where harsh language was used that was completely unnecessary for a film marketed on many levels to kids. Was it really necessary for Peter Quill to say “You said it yourself, bitch — we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy,” at a key moment in the film? Probably not. As a 35-year-old man with no children, I can shrug it off. If I did have a little one running around, I’m inclined to believe I’d have a very different opinion.
And finally, there is the climatic show-down with Ronan. Once again, Mr. Gunn’s judgment seems off. In fact, there will probably be as many moviegoers who are as embarrassed over how it was handled as there were Iron Man 3 fans upset over how The Mandarin turned out. All I will say is “‘O-O-H Child’ by The Five Stairsteps,” and that there is a time for jokes and a time to be serious. My personal opinion — again, while I enjoyed the film — is that a very large ball was dropped during the creative process on that one.
If you get a chance, you should definitely check out Guardians of the Galaxy while it’s in theaters. Just don’t give the DC fans in your life too hard of time over the movie’s success.
Related: Marvel announces ‘I am Groot’ for Phase 3; DC scrambles for response