By Craig Martin
Marvel’s latest blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the tenth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an unprecedented series of films which started in 2008 with “Iron Man” and sought to bring together the comic books’ ultimate superhero squad, “The Avengers.” Other films in this series include “Thor” (and its sequels,), “Captain America” (and its sequels), as well as the stand alone, “The Incredible Hulk.”
I first thought that the combination of these historic characters in 2012’s box office smash “The Avengers” would be the limit of this experiment; a way to bring together Earth’s mightiest heroes, but Marvel is not stopping there.
With “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel Studios has added a brand new element to their universe. That being, the universe itself. “Guardians” has managed, for the first time, to center a Marvel storyline away from Earth. None of Marvel’s other movies dared to venture too far from the “geocentric model.” Even “Thor,” a story of Asgardians fighting an inter-dimensional war against Frost Giants—creatures that, last I checked, were not native to our planet—focuses on Earth during the climactic moments.
I honestly thought voyaging far from Earth would hurt “Guardians” at the box office. Not only are the characters relatively unknown even to comic fans, but I was afraid subtracting Earth from the setting would deny the audience a chance to relate. I was dead wrong.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is a massive hit. Co-writer and director James Gunn—of “Slither” and “Dawn of the Dead” fame—has put together a movie that shares Marvel’s universe, but remains wholly original. It is a testament to his skill that this bold new direction has worked so well.
This film had many opportunities to go wrong very quickly. While the average moviegoer can suspend their disbelief for a billionaire in a robotic suit, being asked to buy into a genius raccoon and a tall, powerful, mobile tree is a little tougher, but “Guardians” pulls it off. How? By not sensationalizing it. Instead of treating the strange creatures of the film as caricatures, they are given full story lines, rich with character intricacies and emotions.
The closest thing to an avatar viewers experience is through Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), aka Star-Lord. Although Peter has experienced this strange universe for decades, he sees it as perfectly normal. It speaks to Gunn’s ability in that he can simultaneously craft an alien universe while allowing us to effortlessly see it through Peter’s eyes. The film’s ease in creating such an atmosphere allows us to close in on something all-too-familiar: human emotion. Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is fueled by revenge against the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) while Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) is powered by the wish to get rich. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is carried through the film by her will and pride.
Gunn shows us that it doesn’t matter who they are on the outside. The characters are important because of what they believe in. Their relatability define them and through their personalities the audience finds themselves part of the story, making the crazy ride incredibly fun.