I will be forever grateful for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to bringing so many of my favorite characters to life in such fun and faithful ways, it also served as my main connection to all the superheroes I loved as a child. During my seventeen year absence from reading comics, the MCU let me grab glimpses into the lives of all my favorite characters. It felt like coming home whenever I’d get to see Thor or Iron Man do their thing :). So no one was more surprised than I when my favorite film in the MCU became (and still is!) the one about a ragtag band of space misfits that I’d never even heard of before. That’s right Guardians of the Galaxy, I love you. And this is my proclamation of undying affection!
Ah, yes…it was the summer of 2014. Captain America: The Winter Solider had already wowed me and I was happily immersed in the beauties of summer vacation. I had taken an amazing trip to New York City with Mom and my brother David to see an advanced screening of Zach Braff’s new film Wish I Was Here (which I helped fund via Kickstarter) complete with a Q&A with Zach after the film! I was working my way through incredible novels with no worries of lesson planning or grading. The weather was warm, the sun shining, and I was spending lots of quality time with the people I love. Life was just about perfect. And I had no idea James Gunn was about to make everything so much better with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, a talking raccoon, and a dancing tree.
In my defense, how could I have been ready for what was coming?? Yes, I was an avid comic reader as a child: Spidey, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the New Warriors, Thor, the Spirits of Vengeance (remember them?!?), some Avengers, Captain America and more. But I’d never heard of the Guardians of Galaxy. Well, I take that back. I had a Marvel trading card that depicted the team but they never seemed very interesting to me. I enjoyed my cosmic adventures with Thor and the Silver Surfer thank you very much. In fact, they were so off my radar as a kid, when I first heard the news about the film I thought they were a team Marvel designed after I’d quit reading comic books.
So I went into the movie excited but 100% certain I’d already seen the year’s best comic book movie. (I mean, c’mon! It was Captain America: The Winter Solider! It seemed like a lock!!) Still, I was looking forward to learning who Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon were. In a lot of ways, I got to experience Guardians of the Galaxy like your “normal” non-comic obsessed reading movie-goer. I had no understanding of/expectations for the characters. I had no knowledge of any backstory. I just loved Marvel stuff so I went…and it blew my mind.
Why did I end up loving Guardians of the Galaxy so much? I don’t know if I can capture it exactly, but I’m going to try. I know my reaction to the film was shared by many. It was so much better than I ever expected! I’ve always enjoyed the lightness and humor inherent in the Marvel movies but this one was hysterical. I’d never encountered a comic book movie before that needed a second viewing because I was laughing too hard at one joke to hear the one that came next. Few straight comedies are funny enough that you laugh all the way through and it’s unheard of for a comic book movie to be that funny. But it was! From the very first scene, with Chris Pratt dancing through the ruins of the planet Morag, they had me. It was so funny!
Full disclosure, I love Chris Pratt. I have for years. He was always my favorite part of Parks & Recreation and I’ve never seen a film of his where I didn’t find him stealing every scene – Take Me Home Tonight, Moneyball, The Five-Year Engagement, Her, The LEGO Movie, etc. There’s something about him. I don’t know what it is exactly but…he’s just funny. I love everything about him. My personal opinion is that Chris Pratt should be cast in just about everything. Are you listening Hollywood? I’d like some more Chris Pratt please. Okay, thank you! Moving on…
But the movie wasn’t just funny; it was funny and smart and had a surprising (and welcome) emotional depth to it. The casting was flawless too! To combine that sort of chemistry with such fully fleshed out characters was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment. There wasn’t a one-dimensional character to be found! I cared about all of them and was invested in each of their stories. The writing felt different from any comic film I’d seen before. It was fast, funny, exciting, and just…impressive. It was so impressive! Guardians of the Galaxy was wildly unique. As someone who grew up loving comic books and Star Wars, the film was still different from anything I’d ever experienced before. Everything seemed to come together to make a perfect movie. From start to finish, every moment of the film made me happy. What more can I ask for?
What makes it a particularly great film is how it holds up over many, many repeated viewings. Every moment of the film still makes me happy! The jokes still make me laugh. The emotional core still affects me. I still love the characters. And I will never tire of trying to increase my knowledge of and competency in using the brilliant quotes that fill this film. David and I love quoting films. It dances back and forth from hobby to devoted way of life for us. Kalie often tells me that I use movie quotes as a sort of second language. After our two years together she’s gotten good at identifying when and what I’m quoting, rarely having to ask anymore, “Sigh…what are you quoting from now?”
The lines from Guardians of the Galaxy have joined the ranks of films and shows I quote most often (Dumb & Dumber, Anchorman, Scrubs, Seinfeld, The Office, Eurotrip, Gilmore girls) allowing the movie to become a part of my daily life and the way my brain thinks. BY FAR my favorite line is when Gamorra tells Peter he has “the bearing of a man of honor,” and he replies, “Well, uh, you know, I wouldn’t say that. People say it about me, all the time, but it’s not something I’d ever say about myself.” I use that one all the time in any circumstance where I can remotely connect it :). Second place has to be the countless variations I love to use of Corpsman Dey’s line, “He’s says he’s kind of an a-hole but not, and I’m quoting here, 100% a dick.” Honorable mentions go to Quill’s, “Oh, I’m…I’m sorry. I didn’t know how this machine works,” and Rocket’s, “I need that guy’s leg;” “You just gotta suck the joy out of everything;” and “First of all, you’re just copyin’ me from when I said I had a plan.” There are SO MANY good lines!!
Also there is SO MUCH dancing!!! How can I not love a movie with such great music AND so much dancing?!?
For me, Guardians of the Galaxy has become the MCU gold standard. Is this because I had no comic background with the Guardians of the Galaxy, allowing it to be a new, exciting experience? Or is it because the script, cast, directing, and everything about the film was just absolutely perfect? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Regardless, I go into each new Marvel movie with this being the one to beat. And nothing’s taken the crown! I’ve loved everything Marvel’s offered me (yes, I even think Thor: The Dark World has its bright points) but nothing’s captured my heart like the misadventures of Peter Quill and his crew. I just adore this film. In fact despite or because of my love for the film, I can’t bring myself to read the comic books. I’ve tried a few times…but the interest just isn’t there. In my heart I know they can’t match what James Gunn’s given me. The movie is my definitive version of these characters.
Yes Guardians of the Galaxy, you hold a special place in my heart. You were a completely unexpected bright spot in the summer of 2014. Your soundtrack is still in heavy rotation. Most important of all, you always make me happy. I want the art I experience to do many things – make me think, challenge me, test me, teach me, move me, push me, elevate me, and help to transform me. But the most important thing I look to find in the movies I watch, the music I listen to, and the books I read is happiness. There is so much darkness in the world, I place the highest value on those artistic experiences that lead me into the light. You do that Guardians of the Galaxy, every time. You suffuse life with joy, making things better and brighter with laughter, optimism, and heart. You know, now that I’m writing it out, I think that’s probably why you’re my favorite entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe too. And I can’t thank you enough!