Amidst a creative blend of eye-popping special effects (complete with Bradley Cooper’s CGI Rocket “I’m Not a Raccoon” and more battles than Star Wars and Star Trek combined) and poignant story lines about different individuals of various races seeking family and meaning, Marvel/Disney prove that they can take a group of unknown comic book characters and turn out a blisteringly funny adventure of epic proportions.
The first time I saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy, my wife turned and looked at me, and said, “Please tell me you don’t think that looks cool.”
To which I replied: “Honey, ok, I don’t …think that looks cool.” (And I winked, but it was dark and she might not have seen that.)
Having seen the movie, which shocked me with a 92% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com, I will confess: this movie is flat-out cool.
The plot: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) plays Indiana Jones/Han Solo and snatches an orb that possesses the power to destroy whole planets. He’s intercepted first by world-killing villain Thanos’ cohort, Ronan the Accuser’s (Lee Pace) henchmen, then Thanos’ ‘daughter,’ Gamora (Zoe Saldana), then Rocket and the tree-like Groot (Vin Diesel), and finally, the Nova Corps (headed by a clever John C. Reilly). Sentenced to imprisonment in space, they realize they must break out together to get the orb away from Ronan. Along the way, they pick up Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who wants revenge on Ronan for killing his wife and child.
You can tell early on that this is headed for a Guardians versus Ronan collision course. [Of course, a Bautista’s Drax versus The Rock’s Hercules would be very entertaining.] But while you can read about how funny and exciting the movie is somewhere else, thanks to the 1960s soundtrack Quill plays to and things like his giving himself the ‘code name’ Starlord, but I’m most interested in the deeper stuff.
This is ultimately all about family. Quill loses his mother to cancer and never knew his father. Drax lost his family to Ronan, and was basically held together by his desire for vengeance, until he meets the rest of the Guardians. Rocket is angry at being a scrapped together blend of cyborg parts and … raccoon. Groot has more to him than we can hear, but when he finally breaks his cycle of “I am Groot,” we know that this family is what he’s been looking for. Nowhere else has it been more blatantly hammered home that “everyone has lost some family” and that we need each other to make it through. [As an aside, it seems that we do church best when we actually take care of each other… like a family functioning the way it should.]
In the end, heroism is a choice. This writes itself from a theological perspective. Quill wants to be a superhero but has never been a leader, yet, he’s the one who recognizes that the ragtag group can’t run from their obligation to stop Ronan. Rocket says, “so you’re asking us to die?” incredulously, and Quill-turned-Starlord says, “Yeah, I guess I am.” In John 15:13, Jesus said, “greater love has no man than this that he lay his life down for his friend.” Each character makes a decision at one point or another in the climax to put their own life on the line (not unlike Tony Stark/Iron Man’s decision at the end of The Avengers.) But the fact that each of them chooses to follow Quill’s call to action proves that he is a leader, and that they are sacrificial even if they can’t see it yet.
Jesus also said, “If any of you wants to be my disciple, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). It’s in that moment of the movie, when these gunrunning smuggler-murderer-thieves turn from their own self-centered lifestyle and live for each other and for the world Ronan intends to destroy that they become the Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s then that they become heroes, that they stop living for feelings and momentary happiness, and start living for the greater good.
Guardians of the Galaxy is the best movie I’ve seen this summer, and I’ve seen my share. But it’s also the movie with the most meaning of the group of Marvel movies I’ve seen, too. It proves that you don’t have to be a Guardians fan to enjoy the film, or even a superhero fan. You just have to be ready to dream, ready to laugh, and ready to hope that you too would step up when the universe is on the line.