‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ delivers humor with a purpose


Killian Johnson

From Starlord’s mask to Yondu’s arrow, the world design of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is scrappy and inventive.

Venkata Sri Saiveer Chelliboyina, Perspectives Reporter

It takes a specific mix of ingredients to create something as idiosyncratic as “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Not a lot of movies can confidently have their main character in a leather jacket dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” by RedBone on an alien planet.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” starts with the chronic death of Quill’s mother causing the abandonment of the little boy. The dramatic and emotional tone that the beginning creates lingers through the rest of the film.

At the same time, this film is high on comedy. The vibrant colors, quirky characters and high-spirited music establish a playful mood, letting the audience know that they are here to enjoy the show.

However, other Marvel movies do this too. They often, usually too often, undercut big story beats and character moments with a funny line. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” featured an entire storyline around a character that existed purely because he looks hysterical.

But “Guardians of the Galaxy” is no “Ant-Man.”

The difference here is that the humor is not throwaway. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” most recently demonstrated the comedic flaws of Marvel’s mass-produced formula. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) quips a cheap one-liner that undoes hours of buildup for the sake of mindless entertainment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy”, on the other hand, commits to its humor.

When Peter Quill sings into an alien rat like it is a microphone, the movie tells us that he is an idiot. When Drax openly admits to not listening to the plan, the movie develops how comically dense he is. Every word that comes out of Rocket, a smart and sly talking raccoon obsessed with stealing, is hilarious and his character is seen as a jerk.

Most of the humor comes naturally from developing these characters as losers. That fact alone elevates the quality of the comedy in this movie above regular Marvel shenanigans.

It is the difference between Paul Rudd making a purposeless pun that does not know it was cringe-worthy, and a thought-out bit with Dave Bautista not being able to grasp the concept of a metaphor, which makes sense as he is depicted as an idiot.

Yet, for all the lively silliness and mischief, this franchise does not lack substance.

Drax lost his wife and children to an extremist dictator. Quill lost his mother to a brain tumor and Gamora has father issues. These characters are losers, not only because they are so comically incompetent, but because they have all lost very real things in the past. They have a weight they carry, and a prime example of this is when Rocket complains that the prison guards folded up Quill’s clothes, but crumpled his.

Rocket’s remark is one of the funniest lines in the first film, but it also subtly conveys the raccoon’s lifelong insecurity about his size and the way he looks, implying that he has been mocked his whole life. So he develops an arrogant, self-conceited personality to hide his insecurity.

James Gunn brings this balance to “Guardians of the Galaxy” that no other Marvel movie can quite replicate: Good comedy that genuinely makes us laugh out loud while getting us to somehow care about these losers.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” develops character dynamics between Yondu and Rocket, exploring their comical arrogance to counter-weight their dark pasts. The trailer for the upcoming third movie in the franchise promises to delve further into Rocket’s disturbing origins.

The second movie also delves into Gamora’s bond with her sister, Nebula. The sisters have fought each other their whole lives for their father’s attention, and reconcile after Nebula attempts to kill Gamora. These are not Marvel’s typical one-dimensional roles.

At the same time, every baby Groot scene matches the charm of baby Yoda from “The Mandalorian.” A blue space pirate controls an arrow by whistling to it as if it were a pet. There are so many moments that can only work within this extremely unique premise.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” shows that comic book movies do not have to force a multi-dimensional plot to develop multi-dimensional characters.