Editor’s Notes: Guardians of the Galaxy is currently out in wide theatrical release.
First of all, let me first say that I greatly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. It ended up taking the model Joss Whedon first developed in his glorious and truncated Firefly series and followed with Serenity (which was in a lot of ways a more Western version of Star Wars without the Force) in great fashion and wound up being a very fun time at the movies, more fun than I’d expected it to be and in all honesty, I’m in for quite a lot of comic book adaptations these days. Lots of people bemoan them, but they’ve gotten so much better than the first attempt to make lots of them back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Sure, there are a fair number of bad ones, like the Fantastic Four films (which are getting a reboot) and The Green Lantern and many others.
Of course, then there are the great ones like The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spider-Man 2 (not to be confused with the good but unnecessary The Amazing Spiderman 2) and of course The Avengers. There are as many other good ones as there are bad ones and that leads to the question of where does Guardians of the Galaxy fall and what can and will it do for the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (hereafter to be referred to as the MCU)?
I can’t say that I’d put Guardians in the great category, but it definitely transcends the dreck. It’s fast paced, very funny and action packed. It has the virtue of never being boring, even when it gets convoluted. For comic book readers, especially those that were reading in the early 1990’s, the concept it puts forth of the Infinity Stones and what that will ultimately lead to with the introduction of Thanos (either voiced or motion captured by Josh Brolin) is kind of exciting. Years from now, after the planned Doctor Strange film and leading into the third Avengers picture, there will be the introduction of a character named Adam Warlock and that will send us into a cinematic version of The Infinity Gauntlet, something that has already been hinted at, because said gauntlet can be seen in Asguard’s weapons vault in one of the Thor pictures.
So where does this put us and the MCU? Guardians certainly expands the canvas already set by the Avengers-centric films starting in 2008 with Iron Man all the way through 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The expansion set up with the alien invasion and the mid-credit sequence in The Avengers explodes with Guardians, painting on a canvas as big as the galaxy at the very least and the entire universe at most. It also gives the MCU room to breathe and bring in more supernatural elements, beyond Thor and the Asguardians (which sounds like it could be odd indie band).
There are also some possibilities with the briefly seen characters, notably Thanos as I mentioned above. He’s one of the Avenger’s primary villains and he has an interesting backstory. He’s the ruler of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn and the only other body in this solar system with a dense atmosphere that could possibly sustain life. He is in love with Death, not the idea or implementation of it but the actual entity Death. He is so in love with her that he causes many deaths as gifts to her, making him ruthless and terrifying. Where he’ll next turn up is anybody’s guess, since the Avengers are going to have enough trouble battling Ultron in their next get-together. He could pop up anywhere, since this film basically reveals him to have been the mastermind behind the invasion of earth led by Loki in The Avengers, something hinted at but not particularly confirmed by that mid-credit sequence I’ve also already mentioned.
Another character that is briefly introduced in the post-credit sequence of Guardians is, as Doug Benson described him in a recent episode of his Doug Loves Movies podcast, troublesome. I say who it is because there are still a few people who haven’t seen the film, but suffice it to say I was equally troubled by the inclusion of this character, and no it was not Benicio Del Toro’s Collector, who appears in the middle of the film and in one of the credit sequences of Thor: The Dark World.
The film also gives us the hope of having this rag-tag group team up with the Avengers somewhere down the line. I think it will be an amazing trip when it does eventually happen, since neither group is particularly cohesive. Such a pairing has already been seen on television in the animated series Avengers: Assemble and it was one of the better episodes of that fairly new show (I believe there has only been one season). The cavalier attitudes of both Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord (played by Chris Pratt) and Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (the incomparable Robert Downey, Jr.) would be a blast to see on screen together, let alone what I imagine Hulk (played most recently by Mark Ruffalo)’s reaction to Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel in his finest performance since The Iron Giant).
So, does Guardians of the Galaxy succeed in bringing a wider scope to the MCU? Yes. With all of its planet hopping and mysticism, it really opens up a vast array of new opportunities for the MCU. It also does what some of the MCU films have struggled with and that is to make the intricately detailed comic book ideas, like the infinity stones, easy to understand. While it still takes the obligatory scenes to explain something that is fairly complicated and took several months and even years in comic books and tries to condense that history into five or less minutes, it does so without bogging down the film. On the whole, the MCU films have been pretty good at working in their exposition in an entertaining way, but sometimes the scenes can get overlong and serve to complicate rather than enlighten. Guardians of the Galaxy serves as a great jumping off point for an even wilder MCU and could be its own raucous franchise. It seems this gutsy move by Marvel chief Kevin Feige, making a tentpole film from a very little known property, will pay off in spades and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.