Where The Incredible Hulk has a tendency to be forgotten in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—or, at least, where it has the tendency to seem out-of-place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—last year’s blockbuster smash Guardians of the Galaxy seems equally out-of-place. And, just as is the case with The Incredible Hulk, I couldn’t support that out-of-place-ness enough.
Where Hulk was a little more dramatic and melancholy, Guardians is everything but. It features a talking raccoon, an animate tree, a professional wrestler, the fat guy from Parks and Recreation and Zoe Saldana covered in green. It also stars John C. Reilly. Definitely an odd-ball (dare I say, screw-ball????) science-fiction comedy if I’ve ever heard of one. But unlike Lost in Space or the works of Ed Wood, this movie comes together perfectly.
Remember a few reviews ago, when I said that Thor was a huge gamble for Marvel? Well, it paid off; and because it paid off, we have been able to get into the fun cosmic worlds of Marvel comics in ways that few ever thought possible. I’m pretty sure that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning first created the Guardians team as we love them in 2008, they didn’t think in a million years that any studio would be willing to make a movie about their team of fugitives/vigilantes. But, it happened.
The first incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy was created in 1969, and was led by Major Victory. The story was popular, but never quite gained the traction of other comic series because it took place a thousand years in the future, after Major Victory’s millenium long space journey to a distant star. Because of this, it wasn’t associated with the superheroes that were so popular. When Guardians of the Galaxy was rethought in a comic series back in 2008, it featured the team of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon (is that at all a Beatles reference?), Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Groot. Unlike the previous Guardians, they existed in the same universe and time frame of the rest of the Marvel universe. They found Major Victory in a floating block of ice after he had been somehow displaced by time and he inspired them to take on the name of his original team. The movie version does not mention Major Victory at all, but that doesn’t really matter. No one knows the story anyway.
Other than the first Iron Man movie, I think that Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the most funny chapter in the MCU. It has elements of screwball comedy that reminds me of the sort of banter you’d get with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. (Did anybody else notice in Age of Ultron that Tony’s new assistant, now that JARVIS is no longer in play, is named FRIDAY and has a female voice…His Girl Friday, anyone?). It’s also got those more modern comedic elements that play out visually—mostly involving crazy sights you’ve never seen before or funny fidgets and idiosyncrasies in its animation. And ultimately, all that comedy plays out very well.
It plays out so well precisely because it’s different. It takes place out of this world, so it has to be out-of-this-world. It has to hold little in common stylistically to the content that preceded it, while laying just enough of a trail that we can tie it all in together. Obviously, the Infinity Stones are the primary connectors. Already, we had been exposed to two Infinity Stones: the Tesseract and the Aether. In Guardians, we get to see the Orb of Power. By the time Age of Ultron comes around, Thor receives a vision of the Infinity Stones and learns that the three aforementioned ones have all turned up in the last few years…and the fourth is very close by.
But there is more than that connecting the Universe. There is the Collector, and his obvious relation with the Asgardians established at the end of Thor: The Dark World. And Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives us even more as we see that Kree blood (Ronan the Accuser is Kree) was used to bring Phil Coulson back to life, and that the Kree’s presence on the earth thousands of years ago gave rise to the Terrigen mist and the origins of the Inhumans.
All of this is me trying to prove one point: that besides the boldness, the style, and the humor, what really propels Guardians of the Galaxy to the upper echelons of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the fact that it has ensured the Universe will survive for a while. With Guardians of the Galaxy, the potential for growth is massive, with countless possibilities with which Marvel can operate. I don’t know if Marvel plans to be done making movies after Inhumans comes out in 2019, but if it plans on continuing, it owes a whole lot to Guardians of the Galaxy.
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