Guardians of the Galaxy came down like a tornado on the superhero cinematic universe that, let’s face it, for too long, was now repeating the same pattern over and over again.
Although part of the Marvel universe, the humor and light tone that are director James Gunn’s trademark have made the films more enjoyable by broadening the audience to a much wider audience.
This does not mean that these films are silly; on the contrary, the characters are funny and charismatic in an irresistible mix of crazy personalities who manage to work together despite their differences.
Gunn has forged out of cosmic emptiness the madness of a visual aesthetic that manages to look at once retro and futuristic, blending to perfection the old craft of on-set trickery with some of the best special effects of recent times.
Equally crazy is the soundtrack, composed mainly of songs from the 1970s and 1980s, traveling from one star system to another inside Earth mercenary Peter Quill’s faithful walkman.
So let us prepare to embark on an adventure among distant galaxies, where fantasy and the absurd become one beyond the confines of our small reality.
Suppose you can leave the known behind and embrace this extraordinary odyssey’s bizarre and eclectic cinema; in that case, we will discover how genius often travels hand in hand with the genuine innocence and silliness typical of children’s imaginations.
Will you dare to be idiots? Then let’s look together at what makes the adventures of this colorful and aggressive family of mercenaries so unique.
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James Gunn began far back in the movie business working with Troma Entertainment, an independent studio known for its low-budget films and outlandish, often provocative stories such as The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High.
After that, he moved on with other productions, such as Universal, for movies like Slither and Super, the latter an absurd superhero flick that laid the groundwork for Guardians of the Galaxy.
No doubt in this director’s artistic vision, we see the influences of that unadulterated sci-fi adventure of the 1970s and 1980s, such as the more inspired early days of the Star Wars saga, before it became a colossal franchise to be squeezed into the bone for every last dollar.
In this spirit, Gunn worked hard to bring to life the Guardians of the Galaxy, the lesser-known superhero of the Marvel Comics universe who have now become popular and unanimously loved by all fans.
The third chapter of this saga is paramount in this sense, marking the director’s redemption and return after Disney fired him in 2018 for some stupid tweets that triggered an equally ridiculous avalanche of online controversy.
However, in 2019, fortunately, this bubble of stupidity dissolves when the producers put him at the helm of the new film, thanks in part to pressure on the producers from his trusted team of leads.
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper, indeed, had made it clear that they would not continue with anyone else but Gunn, trusting only the instincts and creative insight of this quirky and irreplaceable director.
So we can appreciate the Guardians-worthy irony of how these pointless protests to the director, in a way, made him more prosperous and more famous than ever.
The worlds of madness
After briefly discussing the brilliant mind behind the Guardians, shall we look at the colorful geography of the worlds in this universe?
It all begins on Morag, an uninhabited and inhospitable planet filled with ancient ruins and a landscape dominated by sandstorms and stormy oceans, where Earthling Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, lands to retrieve the Orb, an artifact of immense power that contains the Gem of Power.
This Gem will be the first Guardians movie’s triggering event and the crucial element that will lead to the final mega show against the evil Thanos at the climax of these Marvel Universe stories.
It is to steal this treasure that our heroes end up together after the police arrest them on the planet Xandar, the capital of the Nova Empire, an intergalactic organization that maintains peace and order in the galaxy.
Of course, it takes the group only a short time to escape and then arrive at Knowhere, a mining station inside the head of a Celestial, a now-defunct race of mighty and ancient cosmic beings.
Next, we arrive at the planet Sovereign, home of the space house of the same name, rich and arrogant golden beings who consider themselves genetically perfect and look down on other races.
These naturally conflict with the Guardians, attacking them with their fleet and crash-landing them on Berhert, a forested planet where we finally meet Star-Lord’s father, Ego.
Ego is not just a man but an entire living planet capable of manipulating its own form and resources, which, of course, hides another demented plan to conquer and control the whole universe.
Finally, almost the entire last chapter takes place in and around the headquarters of Orgocorp, a mad corporation pursuing genetic perfection, even at the cost of destroying every other living race.
The crew of the Milano
We will visit the above worlds aboard the Milano, the iconic Guardians starship captained by Peter Quill.
Played by Chris Pratt, Quill likes to call himself Star-Lord, although he is just a petty thief who grew up from a young age among the space pirate Ravagers.
At his side as ally and partner (at least until the second chapter) is the fierce Gamora, played by the sexy Zoe Saldana, in this case, a green alien instead of bright blue as in the famous Avatar.
Gamora is a deadly assassin and adoptive daughter of Thanos, who rebels after discovering his plan to destroy half the universe to restore balance among the galaxies.
Even crazier, though naive and kind-hearted, is the giant warrior played by Dave Bautista, Drax the Destroyer.
Consumed by a desire to avenge his family, Drax contributes his ferocity in battle and the humor of a screw-up behemoth who does not understand metaphors and always speaks how he thinks literally.
The three are joined by the mercenary couple Rocket and Groot, brought to the screen in CGI and voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (although the latter says nothing else except I Am Groot).
These are a raccoon modified for combat and a creature/tree with childlike behavior but equally deadly and destructive in battle, who close the initial group that makes up this dysfunctional space family.
During their travels, the crew of the Milano is later joined by Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff, an alien with powerful telepathic and healing abilities, and later by the dangerous Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, full of envy and resentment toward her adopted sister Gamora.
Together, this strange crew will save the galaxy several times, although they will always remain freaks living on the illegal fringes of society.
Having talked about the characters and worlds of this saga, why don’t we now look at the actual movies?
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
As mentioned, the adventure begins on the remote planet Morag, where our heroic Peter Quill prances to the beat of his Walkman music as he steals the precious Gem of Power.
His happiness does not last long, as on his trail comes both the assassin Gamora, charged by his adoptive father Thanos to retrieve the Gem, and the mercenaries Groot and Rocket, wishing to capture Quill and collect the bounty on his head.
They all end up locked up in Kyln’s space prison, where they meet the fierce Drax, who desires revenge against Gamora, the daughter of the man who destroyed his family.
However, the warrior will have to put aside his grudge and team up with the others to manage to escape, then fly to the distant Knowhere, where they will try to sell the Gem to make enough money to be able to disappear.
Of course, the plan ends in disaster when the ruthless Ronan, a subordinate of Thanos who, however, has his own mass extermination agenda, starting right on the hated planet Xandar, lands on Knowhere.
The fledgling Guardians of the Galaxy must therefore fly in a hurry to the heart of the Nova Empire, the very people who arrested and imprisoned them, to try to save their entire civilization.
Fortunately, they will not be alone in this endeavor, as the space pirate Ravagers is on their side, led by Yondu Udonta and his faithful whistle-commanded laser arrow.
The latter is another complex father figure, driven by greed to sell the Gem on his own and by feelings toward his adopted godson Star-Lord.
But it seems impossible to defeat the Dark Aster, that is, Ronan’s warship, so all of them will have to give it their all in the spectacular final battle of this story.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
The second chapter begins with the merry brigade on a mission for the Sovereign, defending a valuable cargo of space batteries from a slimy and aggressive interdimensional behemoth.
However, the mischievous Rocket snatches some of the batteries, incurring the wrath of the Sovereigns, who pursue them by bombarding them with their fleet.
Just when all seems lost, to their aid comes the mysterious Ego, who takes out all the enemy spaceships in one fell swoop as if nothing had happened.
He reveals that he is Star-Lord’s mysterious father and invites them to visit the world that humbly bears his name.
Half of the Guardians stay to repair the starship Milano while the others fly to the Ego/planet. Still, they cannot know that the Sovereigns have instructed their old friends, the Ravagers, to hunt them down.
In fact, old Yondu resents that they cheated him at the end of the first movie by receiving a puppet instead of the precious Gem of Power as a prize.
Meanwhile, Ego introduces the others to his faithful collaborator Mantis, an alien being as a doctor and psychologist to their friend’s mysterious father.
Unfortunately, Star-Lord’s happiness does not last long when he realizes that, in fact, the planet where they have landed is but an extension of Ego himself. This millennia-old creature has littered the galaxy with offspring like him to absorb their power and live forever.
While there is mutiny among the Ravagers, Yondu must join the Guardians and return to his old master Ego, having betrayed him long ago by refusing to hand over the young Star-Lord.
The hero will then have to choose between his true blood family and the new family of his friends, as well as between his birth father, Ego, and the more brutal but honest Yondu.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
With the latest chapter in the saga, we go significantly further in time, years after the final confrontation against Thanos in Avengers Endgame.
The Guardians now live quietly (as quietly as they can be) in Knowhere, where poor Star-Lord is pining because the alternate version of his beloved Gamora doesn’t give a damn about him.
At the same time, Mantis and the redeemed Nebula are now part of this wacky family, although the last one sometimes struggles to adapt to the wacky follies of her new friends.
But as always, there is not much time to relax because young Sovereign Adam swoops into town and tries to kidnap Rocket, succeeding only in seriously injuring him.
At that point, his friends have no choice but to infiltrate Orgocorp, home to the High Evolutionary. This mad genetic perfectionist is the only one who knows the security codes implanted in the warrior raccoon’s body.
From the headquarters of this company, which has produced entire space races and is idolized almost divinely, the group then swoops down on the planet Counter-Earth, an absurd experimental nursery much like our world.
However, the High Evolutionary does not hesitate to wipe out everything to try to capture Rocket, whom he transformed in his youth into an engineering genius whose creative mind is in many ways even superior to his own.
But the Guardians obviously have something to object to this maniac’s insane racial purification plans, although they spend most of their time more bickering among themselves than fighting the enemy.
As the raccoon relives his painful childhood hovering between life and death, the time for the final confrontation approaches when the entire Knowhere space station descends into war against Orgocorp headquarters.
Future of the saga?
Regarding the future of Guardians of the Galaxy, fans will have to be very patient.
Indeed, for now, we know for sure that James Gunn has committed to DC that he will not work on any Marvel projects for at least four years after the third chapter of this saga.
The director has already announced that he is working on Zatanna, a superheroic sorceress from the DC Universe who is a longtime member of the Justice League.
Be that as it may, fans of the Guardians need not despair, as it is official that a series titled I Am Groot is coming to Disney+; where in addition to the protagonist creature/tree, of course, the presence of his trusty friend Rocket is already confident.
A project with no release date for now, just as the release of the spin-off already announced by Gunn starring Dave Bautista, again in the reduced guise of Drax the Destroyer, is still being determined.
Finally, for what screenwriting may be worth, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 ends with a scene after the credits, bearing the hopeful message that Star-Lord will return with new adventures.
That’s not all, because, of course, we also have to hope that it won’t be overdone and these sagas won’t be squeezed to the point where there won’t be a single drop left of the fantastic mixture that made us fall in love with these characters.