Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - MCU Retro Review

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel's Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it's untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

WRITTEN BY: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
STARRING: Chris Pratt (Star-Lord/Peter Quill), Zoë Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Vin Diesel (Groot), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Lee Pace (Ronan the Accuser), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), Benicio Del Toro (Taneleer Tivan/The Collector), Glenn Close (Irani Rael), John C. Reilly (Rhomann Dey), Peter Serafinowicz (Denarian Saal) and Josh Brolin (Thanos).
STORY: After coming across a powerful Orb that is being sought after by powerful forces, an unlikely band of thugs, thieves, and general assholes must band together to keep the power inside the Orb safe. This means putting their differences aside to stop an evil warlord from attaining the Orb and using it to conquer the galaxy. 

When I wrote my retro review for Avengers I said it was the riskiest part of Marvel's risky plan – and it was – up to that point. But if Marvel ever decided to play the most expensive game of Russian roulette ever it was with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Had this movie featuring a talking raccoon, a tree that could only say “I am Groot”, and a litany of strange sci-fi characters failed like people thought it would an entire section of the cosmos would’ve been closed off to us. But, what would have been worse, is that Marvel and Disney would be less brave to take on risks.

But the movie didn’t fail. In fact, it was really fun. Scratch that, it was absurdly fun and an incredibly strong film. No, not even that. This movie is, in the words of legendary critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, this movie mind-f**kingly outstanding. And it doesn't take long to realize this. There' no waiting through a good chunk of the movie to get a grasp on the tone and the characters to think to yourself, "Wow, this movie is pretty great." The effects of its amazingness are almost instant. Not only does the movie start off with - at that time - the most emotionally resonant scene in the entire MCU, but it then transitions to Peter Quill walking along a mysterious alien planet (very reminiscent of the intro of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), only to start boogying to Redbones' "Come and Get Your Love." This is all before the six-minute mark and by the time the title card comes up you're completely sold on James Gunn's goofy, outer space adventure with the heart to spare.

Almost four years later the movie has lost none of its spark, and that's in large part thanks to the infectious energy and humor that makes the movie so delightfully weird and endlessly entertaining. There's not a scene that goes by without a laugh or some sort of technical marvel to, well, marvel at. We had spent so much time on earth in Phase 1 (and a rather bland trip across the cosmos in THOR: THE DARK WORLD) that seeing the alien worlds and futuristic tech is just what Marvel needed to progress into the greater frontier of its universe. What's better is that because the Guardians are not even close to household names there was a freedom to play with the world they live in, letting Gunn and Co. make the movie their own and giving it a distinct vibe.

This brings me to my next point and the movie's strongest factor: the characters. None of this works for a second if the characters could not break the mold of obscurity and get you to give a shit about them. A talking tree that can only say "I am Groot" seems genius now, but trust me, it could've been very easy to f**k that up. A less passionate, by-the-numbers writer would've stuck the characters into stereotypes. Quill would've been the bland, hot hero; Gamora the sexy, female member who loves the hero for no reason; Drax would've been the stoic muscle and; we would've been lucky to have Rocket and Groot at all, instead replaced by boring human characters named, I don't know, Blaze and Duke.

But Gunn loves these characters so dearly, so not only does he seem to have an insanely fun time writing for them he never forgets to give the characters their own voices, motivations, and flaws. Quill is the snarky, charming hero with a heartbreaking past; Gamora has a tough shell but craves for a family; Drax has the muscle and rage, but deep down is a giant goof; Rocket exudes gleeful assholery, which he uses as a defense and a way to lash out as a result of feeling unloved and unwanted and; Groot is pure love and joy (okay, he's flawless). Every time I watch this movie I uncover a bit more about these guys and find new nuances in the performances from the incredible cast, as well as the impeccable character effects for Rocket and Groot. 

With them is one of the better supporting rosters in the MCU, including Michael Rooker's Yondu and Karen Gillan's Nebula. Like Loki, Yondu is a character you love and root against in equal parts, to the point where it's understandable to leave the movie with him being your favorite character. Hat's off to Rooker for so expertly being able to balance toughness with softness. Then there's Nebula, another character who could've been a throwaway, but is played with enough pain and aggression by Gillan to make you feel a bit sorry for her as she goes about working with Ronan. This is a character who deserves to be explored, and I'm glad we have gotten that opportunity. Together these two make for more interesting antagonists than Ronan, who is a solid baddie but isn't nearly as dynamic as the rest of the characters. Sorry, Ronan, but Rooker is a tough act to follow.

Looking back on this movie it's no wonder why it's still so beloved by the fans, almost always making their top five on their MCU list. After their solo movies, other Marvel characters like Iron Man grew more popular, and ones like Thor and Captain America finally got their time in the spotlight. But the Guardians became immediately recognize able as cultural phenoms. Everyone has their favorite Guardian just like they have their favorite member of the Avengers or Justice League. This isn't just because they got their own movie; it's because they got an amazing movie that will remain a timeless entry in the superhero genre. Not too bad for a movie people thought would fail starring characters no one expected anything from.  


Like many people, I was sold on the whole spirit and tone of GUARDIANS when we first see adult Quill booging to his music as he searches for the Orb. It instantly sold the movie's unconventional, quirky, meta approach, while at the same time proving why Pratt was the perfect choice to play Star-Lord/Peter Quill. What helps is that this funny scene was followed by even more jokes and an exciting set piece as Quill races to his ship.

Much like THE AVENGERS, the Guardians don't take kindly to one another when they first find themselves together. In fact, the characters are downright hostile towards each other, and it's pretty great. Their fight on Xandar is a highlight of the movie, and a great way to get these characters together for the first time (sans Drax). 

After the scuffle on Xandar, the gang is taken to the Kyln, the maximum security space prison. Here we get a more detailed info on the characters, including their backgrounds. This is the beginning of us learning more about them and coming closer to them as three-dimensional characters, and this also includes meeting Drax for the first time. Of course, this also leads to one of the movie's biggest action set pieces, which finds the team working together instead of against each other. This big scene contains several cool moments, including Rocket getting his hands on a big gun, the characters fighting the guards, and the assembly of the team at the doorway to the control station.

After continuing to be one step behind the Guardians, Ronan has an unpleasant encounter with Thanos, who we see in full for the first time as played in motion capture by Josh Brolin. This is but a taste of what we will see of him in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

The Guardians make their way to Knowhere, where they have a little break. Here we see a bit more vulnerability to the team, as Gamora an Quill share a little dance, and where Rocket and Drax have a bit of scuffle. We see a more emotional side to all of them, and it's here we start to sympathize with them in deeper ways.

They then meet up with Taneleer Tivan a.k.a. The Collector, where we learn about the Infinity Stones. The room of Collector is a feast of little Easter eggs, which we will get into later. As well, after one of the Collector's slaves tries to use the stone herself, the whole room explodes in purple fire.

After meeting with Collector, the team faces off against Ronan after Drax calls him for a challenge. There's aerial combat as well as a very one-sided fight between Drax and Ronan, which finds Drax being tossed into a pit of...I wanna say lemon Jell-O? Also defeated, Quill near-sacrifices himself to save Gamora, all before being taken by Yondu and his crew.

In perhaps one the movie's best scene, all the Guardians are together in a circle on the Ravager ship. Their personalities collide as they decide what to do about Ronan and Xandar. There are tons of great line, and funny and tender moments as the Guardians finally decide to unite as a dedicated team. This is followed by a super sweet suit-up montage. Everyone loves a suit-up montage.

The battle of Xandar is pretty epic. There's a ton of space crafts fighting in the air in a special effect spectacular, filled with color and detail.

Soon the battle moves onto the Dark Aster, where there's a brief moment of beauty, thanks to Groot lighting up the area. Then we see Drax, Groot, and Quill taking on a horde of Sakaarans, with Gamora taking on Nebula.There's also a little bit back on the ground, with Yondu wiping out a whole squad and a ship with the use of his whistle-controlled arrow. 

Ronan is almost unfazed when the Hadron Enforcer is fired at him, but his ship still manages to go down after Rocket crashed into it (and Ronan and Drax). In order to save his friends, Groot encases himself around them. They are saved but he, sadly, dies.

Ronan still needs to be defeated, and when on the ground, he is distracted by Quill's epic dance fight, which allows Rocket to fire a weapon at him so Quill can grab the Infinity Stone. In order to wield its power, all the Guardians link up and harness its energy. Ronan dies, and the Guardians win! 

As the ending comes to a close, Quill learns a bit more about his dad and discovers a second mix his mother made him before she died. Now heroes and not outlaws, the Guardians get some new duds and prepare to blast off for more adventures with a young baby Groot growing away!

Mid-Credits: Dancing Groot. Priceless

End-Credits: The Collector sits among some ruins, drink in hand, only to realize he has a pal nearby in none other than Howard the f**king Duck.

Groot: "I am Groot."
Peter: "Well that's just as fascinating as the first 89 times you told me that. What is wrong with Giving Tree here?"
Rocket: "Well he don't know talkin' good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to "I" and "am" and "Groot," exclusively in that order."

Rocket: "There's one more thing we need to complete the plan - that guy's eye!"

Rocket: [getting tossed a gun] "Oh yeah!"

Peter: "Yeah, I'll have to agree with the walking thesaurus on that one."
Drax: "DO NOT ever call me a thesaurus."

Ronan: "You're mortal! How..."
Peter: "You said it, bitch. We're the Guardians of the Galaxy."

Peter: "They got my dick message."

Peter: "There's one other name you may know me by: Star-Lord."
Korath: "Who?"

Peter: "I dunno... Twelve percent?"
Rocket: "Twelve percent?" [starts laughing]
Peter: "That's a fake laugh."
Rocket: "It's real!"

Gamora: "I am going to die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy."

Peter: "What should we do next: Something good, something bad? Bit of both?"
Gamora: "We'll follow your lead, Star-Lord."
Peter: "A bit of both!"

Yondu: "I may be as pretty as an angel, but I sure as hell ain't one."

Gamora: "I know who you are, Peter Quill, and I am not some starry-eyed waif here to succumb to your... your pelvic sorcery!"

Gamora: "We're just like Kevin Bacon."

Rocket: "Oh, I was just kidding about the leg. I just need these two things."
Peter: "What?"
Rocket: [laughing] "No, I thought it'd be funny! Was it funny? No, wait, what'd he look like hopping around?"

Peter: "Really? Well, on my planet, we have a legend about people like you. It's called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that, dancing, well, is the greatest thing there is."
Gamora: "...Who put the sticks up their butts?"

Thanos: "The only matter I do not take seriously, boy, is you. Your politics bore me! Your demeanor is that of a pouting child. And apparently, you alienated my favorite daughter, Gamora. I shall honor our agreement, Kree if you bring me the Orb. But return to me again empty handed and I will bathe the star-ways with your blood."

Gamora: "I let you live once, princess!"
Drax: "I am not a princess!"


In the ruins where the Orb is located, there appears to be a skeleton with a horse head attached, which signifies it's the remains of a member of the Kymellian race.

The thugs of Ronan, the ones Quill refers to as "Ninja Turtle" are Sakaarans, who play a big role in the Planet Hulk storyline, which takes place on the planet Sakar. They didn't make a big appearance THOR: RAGNAROK as many expected.

Quill's alien lover at the beginning of the movie is named Bereet, who in the comics is a famous Krylorian movie star.

Yondu Udonta is the leader of the Ravagers in this movie, but in the comics, he was a prominent member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, he won't be able to be a full-fledged member of the team in the future. It still stings.

The Guardians at one point travel to a place called Knowhere, which is a real place in the comics that is located in the head of a dead Celestial, a mighty race that once ruled the galaxy. 

Located inside the silver Orb is a purple stone known as the Power Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones Thanos is after and will get come AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

One of the Collector's servants, Carina Walters, is based on a real character in the comics of the same name who happens to be Collector's daughter. 

Cosmo the Space Dog, a Marvel character, is seen in one of the Collector's cases in his hall of collectibles, as are a Chitauri warrior from THE AVENGERS and a dark elf from THOR: THE DARK WORLD.

Quill saying he has "12% of a plan" is a nod to THE AVENGERS where Tony Stark says Pepper Potts should give herself 12% of the credit for Stark Tower.

Marvel cult favorite Howard the Duck makes an appearance at the end of the credits and is voiced by Seth Green.

Rhomann Dey and Denarian Saal are both big figures in the comics, with the former being an ally while the latter turned into a villain.

And, of course, we get the first full look at Thanos, the big bad for the next two AVENGERS movies. 

There is one hidden Easter egg in the movie that no has found yet, but that James Gunn said is indeed there, and will only reveal it when someone comes forth to claim what it is. So far, Gunn has said people have come close, but have not gotten the whole thing. 


Every character in this movie is a new addition to the MCU, including Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. These characters have become major fixtures in the MCU after years and years of being in the shadows of bigger comic book characters. They (swapping original Groot for Teen Groot) will soon team up with the Avengers to take on Thanos in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Ronan the Accuser is introduced here, and though he was blown up by the Guardians, he will show up once again in CAPTAIN MARVEL, which takes place in the 90s.

Nebula starts in this movie as a villain, being the jealous sister of Gamora, who teams up with Ronan to take over the galaxy. We see her switch sides (temporarily?) in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL.2, and will presumably help the team take on Thanos' forces in INFINITY WAR.

Also a baddie in the first movie, we meet Yondu, the leader of the Ravagers and sort of adoptive father to Quill. Though he's a character you love to hate in this first movie, he becomes a hero you simply love in the sequel. 

Other side characters include Rhomann Dey, Irani Rael and The Collector, all characters who may show up again in later films. 

Then there's the Stan Lee cameo, as he plays an old billionaire hitting on a young woman on Xandar.

The main villain in the movie is Ronan, and he's not exactly one of the series' best. Granted, he's not the worst either. He just can't seem but bland and blunt compared to the dynamic of the Guardians. But he's a solid villain performed with gusto by Lee Pace. There are some others here too to present more interesting conflicts, like Yondu and Nebula, with Thanos lurking in the background with malicious effect.











Source: JoBlo.com



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