Guardians of the Galaxy is a 2014 film set in the Earth-11584 continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by James Gunn, it is the 5th film in Phase 2 of the MCU, and the 12th film released overall. It is also the first iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, which is based on the modern day lineup of the comic book. The film was released to both critical and financial success, racking up nearly $800 million dollars at the worldwide box office.
Thoughts of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie had percolated in the nascent days of the MCU, when it wasn't exactly clear what heroes Marvel had the rights to and which ones they didn't. Executive producer Kevin Feige had said previously that the Guardians film might act as a sort of stop-gap measure, in case the Avengers film proved to not meet financial expectations for the studio. However once Avengers broke box office records worldwide for comic book films, production on the Guardians film went forward, acting as an avenue for more cosmic elements of the MCU. Chris Pratt and WWE superstar Dave Bautista were the first to be signed to the film, which also was based on a story concept and directed by James Gunn. John Malkovich soon signed on to play the villain Maelstrom, while Josh Brolin confirmed that Thanos would have a brief appearance in the film as well.
Filming began in Atlanta in September of 2013, with filming ending in November of that year. The film required extensive post-production work, incorporating the most special effects of any MCU film up to that point, including extensive motion capture work for the characters of Thanos, Rocket, Groot and others.
In 1988 Missouri, young Peter Quill is sitting bedside with his mother, who is dying of a brain tumor. Meredith Quill comes out of her vegetative state for a moment, long enough to speak to her son and give him his 8th birthday present. She starts to die, and Peter, unable to cope, runs out of the room from his family to the outside. Outside the hospital though, he is surrounded by a bright blue light, and disappears from view.
26 Years Later...
On the Planet Morag, a grown up Peter Quill, listening to older pop music on a Walkman at his side, searches through the ruins of a temple for an artifact called the Orb of Morag. He no sooner finds it then he is approached by a group of mercenaries named led by Korath, a Kree mercenary who demands that Quill turn over the orb. Quill reminds them that technically his name is "Star-Lord", and fights his way out of the situation to his ship, the Milano. After escaping Morag, he is contacted by his boss with the Ravagers, Yondu Udonta. Yondu demands that Quill turn over the orb for payment of some outstanding debts, but Quill blows him off and plans to sell the orb himself for a high price on Xandar. Yondu, frustrated, puts a bounty on Quill's head.
Elsewhere, Korath is castigated by Maelstrom, an outcast from the lunar city of Attilan, who has become something of an interstellar pirate. Maelstrom says that the Orb was the Key to getting Thanos to destroy the Nova Corps, who are currently trying to hunt him down. Maelstrom is contacted by a member of Thanos' Black Order, Ebony Maw, who demands that Maelstrom come before Thanos to explain his lack of progress at retrieving the Orb. Maelstrom argues back that he already has minders, in the form of Nebula and Gamora, the latter of whom he has sent to try and obtain the orb from the "Terran scum who has it." Maw says that it is not what he thinks is happening, and orders him before Thanos anyway.
On Xandar, the homeworld of the Nova Corps, Quill attempts to sell the Orb to a jeweler in town, but the man wants no part of it when he learns that Korath the Pursuer was after Quill. Frustrated, Quill is approached by Gamora, who feigns romantic interest in him long enough to trap him in some kind of net and steal the orb from him. Quill breaks free, and in his rush to chase down Gamora, is caught by Rocket and Groot, a cybernetically enhanced raccoon and his partner/bodyguard who is a Flora Colossus. The four continue their chase and fight until they are captured by Nova Corpsman Rhomann Dey. With bounties and charges on all their heads, the four are arrested and sent to a maximum security prison called the Kyln before they stand trial. While there, they meet another prisoner named Drax, who seems to have a vendetta against Gamora.
Back in the domain of Thanos, Maelstrom is being castigated by Ebony Maw for his failure, and for the fact that Gamora has turned on them. Maelstrom absorbs a blow from Maw, and then focuses it back at him, demanding that Thanos address him as an equal. Thanos replies that Maelstrom is far from an equal, he is more of a child who's constant need for approval would be amusing...if it weren't so pathetic. He reminds Maelstrom of their bargain; he will destroy Attilan and the Nova Corps in exchange for the Orb, which now resides on the Kyln. If Maelstrom fails, though, then he himself will embrace the Oblivion he seeks for others.
Inside the Kyln, Drax makes an attempt on Gamora's life, but Quill is able to get them to work together long enough to try and escape and sell the Orb that Gamora has managed to maintain in her ownership. Utilizing a plan concocted by Rocket, they take out the artificial gravity inside the facility and then escape to the Milano, remotely controlled by Quill. The group make their way to a place called Knowhere to track down Gamora's buyer. Meanwhile Yondu has tracked down Quill's buyer, and manages to find out about the other man wanting the Orb. Maelstrom destroys the Kyln out of frustration of being unable to find Gamora and the Orb.
Inside Knowhere, a disembodied head of a Celestial, the team wastes time at a bar where we get more of their backstories; how Gamora was raised from childhood by Thanos to be an assassin, how Groot may be the last of his kind, and how Drax was spared while his family was randomly chosen to be massacred by Thanos' Black Order. Gamora and Quill also seem to bond over Quill's love of Earth Music. Eventually they come to the lair of the buyer, revealing it to be Taneleer Tivan, also known as the Collector. He explains the background of the Infinity Stones, that each one was created by the personifications of the six fundamental forces of the universe: Eternity created the Time Stone, Infinity created the Space Stone, Chaos created the Reality Stone, Order created the Mind Stone, Oblivion created the Power Stone and Death created the Soul Stone. He also mentions that this particular one was the Power Stone.
Outside, Drax finds a radio transmitter and summons Maelstrom to Knowhere, thinking that will also summon Thanos as well. Before Tivan can pay the ransom to the Guardians, his assistant grabs the stone in an attempt to break free of his collection, destroying herself and wrecking it. Maelstrom arrives with Nebula. Drax and Nebula fight briefly, but with Maelstrom and Korath's help, she makes quick work of Drax. Gamora and Quill try to escape with the orb in some mining equipment, but Korath's troops give chase. Eventually they shoot down Gamora outside Knowhere, exposing her to the vacuum of space, and steal the orb. Quill transfers his spacesuit to try and save her, and just before he dies they are scooped up by Yondu and the Ravagers.
On Maelstrom's ship, he contacts Thanos, saying he has the orb. However he says he now has no need for Thanos, now that he is in possession of an Infinity Stone. Maelstrom grabs the Power Stone from the Orb, using his own natural ability to control kinetic energy to house its power within a weapon of his own design, appropriately enough, looking like a scythe. He says first he will use its power to cleanse Xandar, than Attilan, than he will destroy Thanos himself. Thanos merely does not reply. Nebula swears allegiance to Maelstrom, out of a desire for revenge against her "father." Back at Knowhere, Drax, Rocket and Groot fight among themselves, before resolving to take Quill's ship and go after the Ravagers. On the Ravager's ship, Yondu threatens to kill Quill outright, before Gamora manages to make a deal with him: Quill's life in exchange for the Orb, which they need to reacquire from Maelstrom. Yondu agrees, at which point the Milano rendezvous with them. They realize Maelstrom is headed for Xandar, and set course there immediately.
The Ravagers contact the Nova Corps and, through Rhomann Dey, convince the head of the Nova Corps that they want to help them capture Maelstrom. Maelstrom's ship approaches Xandar and Korath's minions fight the Ravagers and the Nova Corps, while the rest of the Guardians all sneak aboard to try and fight Maelstrom. Gamora is separated and fights Nebula one on one, with neither gaining an advantage, though in the end Nebula falls off Maelstrom's ship into the ocean below on Xandar. Maelstrom himself, armed with the Power Stone, is more than a match for most of the Guardians, until Rhomann Dey flies his ship into the Maelstrom's ship and causes it to crash land. To save his friends from destruction, Groot shields them all in a cocoon made of his own body, proclaiming that "We Are Groot."
Maelstrom survives the crash landing, and prepares to cleanse Xandar in the name of Oblivion. He is distracted though by Quill, who uses a primitive "dance off" to allow Rocket and Drax time to rebuild a weapons that destroys Maelstrom's scythe. Quill grabs the Power Stone in his bare hands and nearly dies himself much like the Collector's assistant did, but the remaining Guardians hold onto Quill, allowing them to all share the strain long enough to destroy Maelstrom. Gamora sets the stone back in the Orb, when Yondu shows up demanding payment. Reluctantly, the Guardians hand over an Orb, only when Yondu leaves he reveals that it was really a fake.
In a post-script, Quill opens his birthday present from his mother, revealing another mixtape like the one he's had all these years. Dey is treated for his injuries during the Battle of Xandar and promoted. Groot is reborn from a twig he had planted before departing on the final mission. Yondu opens the orb to find out its a fake, but smiles at Quill's ingenuity nonetheless, while the Nova Corps seals the Power Stone away in their vault. The Guardians travel on a rebuilt Milano, eager to find their fortune elsewhere.
[We fade in on the ocean on Xandar, seeing Nebula slowly crawl from the muck up onto the beach, warily scanning the horizon for any sign of the Nova Corps. She is aided to her feet by a man in pink armor.]
High Evolutionary: Allow me to aide you.
Nebula: I don't need your help old man.
High Evolutionary: Oh to the contrary, we need each other's help. You need help off this planet, and I need help with my scientific studies. I think this is a mutually beneficial association, don't you?
[Nebula eyeballs him with trepidation, but then ducks behind a sand dune when she hears a Nova fighter flying nearby. Nonchalantly, the High Evolutionary waves his hand and the Fighter seemingly explodes and crashes nearby. Nebula looks at him peculiarly.]
Nebula: What are you?
High Evolutionary: I am simply a humble scientist my dear...made into a God by the power of Evolution. A power you will help me understand further.
[Nebula slowly approaches him and smiles.]
Nebula: I am eager to serve...if you can complete a job for me.
[The Evolutionary regards her briefly, before nodding his head as we cut to black.]
/ = / = / = /
[We fade on the ruins of the Collector's museum, seeing all the various exhibits in broken tatters from the explosion earlier in the film. We find Taneleer Tivan himself, bandaged, sitting amidst the rubble slowly sipping a cocktail, with a look of annoyance on his face. A voice chastises him from off screen.]
Howard: Personally, I would have let the lady have a day off once and a while. Maybe bought her a nice begonia or something?
[Tivan turns and stares at the voice, and we cut over to see Howard the Duck sitting on his pedastal, sipping a margarita.]
Howard: You know what happens. Leave them unappreciated long enough and blam...blow up the universe time.
[Howard takes another sip of his margarita, and Tivan begrudgingly does the same as we cut to black.]
Summary of Changes
- Korath is depicted as a traditional Kree mercenary, complete with the usual blue skin appearance he had in the comics.
- The primary villain of the film is Maelstrom, rather than Ronan the Accuser. Maelstrom here is also a slight difference from his comic book incarnation, where he is a Deviant/Inhuman hybrid turned mad scientist. Here, he is depicted as a Space Pirate, with vague hints to his Inhuman past through mentioning the city of Attilan. His goal is to eliminate the Nova Corps only as a tribute to the Cosmic Entity he worships, Oblivion, which is another nod to the comics.
- The Other does not appear in this film, due to being killed off in The Avengers. Instead, it is Ebony Maw of Thanos' Black Order that summons Maelstrom to the meeting with Thanos, which plays out with slightly different dialogue.
- The bar scene on Knowhere plays out differently, with more of an emphasis placed on the backstories of the other Guardians. Rocket's origins are briefly explained, as are Gamora's, while Groot is specifically said to be possibly the last of his Kind. Drax's family's death is said to be specifically done by Thanos' Black Order, rather than Maelstrom (Ronan in the original film), and is said to be done at random. Nebula is also the one who defeats Drax when Maelstrom's contingent arrives at Knowhere, with some assistance from Korath.
- The bar scene also features Stan Lee's cameo for the film, which is fleshed out as a gambler who Rocket swindles out of money.
- The backstory for the Infinity Stones is given in greater detail, with each stone said to be the work of one of the Six Fundamental Forces of the Universe (Eternity, Infinity, Chaos, Order, Oblivion and Death). The Power Stone is the work of Oblivion, hence Maelstrom's interest in it.
- Korath and his troops are the one's who retrieve the Orb from Gamora, rather than Nebula.
- Rhomann Dey plays a larger role in the film's climax, being the one who crashes his ship into Maelstrom's flagship instead of Rocket, and he plays a larger role in convincing the Nova Corps to work with the Guardians. There is also a scene near the end where he is seen getting promoted while recuperating. He will also play a larger role in future MCU films of this Universe.
- No mention is made of Peter Quill's father in this film, though that will play a larger role in future films.
- There is an added Post-Credits Scene featuring the High Evolutionary, who rescues Nebula from Xandar, setting up for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
- Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord- A former Ravager pirate who was kidnapped from Earth at age 11 by his mentor, Yondu Udonta. Quill has broken off on his own away from Yondu, and wants to sell the Orb of Morag in an attempt to make a name for himself.
- Zoe Saldana as Gamora- A former assassin and "daughter" of the Mad Titan Thanos, who seeks the Orb of Morag both to break away from Thanos and to keep it out of his hands.
- Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer- A convicted murderer and criminal who seeks to destroy Thanos and his minions, as revenge for the deaths of his wife and daughter.
- Bradley Cooper as Rocket- A cybernetically enhanced Raccoon who acts as a bounty hunter and thief in the galaxy. Cooper provided the voice of Rocket, with motion capture provided by Sean Gunn.
- Vin Diesel as Groot- A Flora Colossus, possibly the last of his kind, who can only speak in the terms I Am Groot. Acts as the muscle for Rocket. Diesel provided the voice of Groot, as well as some of the motion capture work.
- John Malkovich as Maelstrom- An Inhuman hybrid who was exiled from his home and became obsessed with the concept of Oblivion. Has declared war on the Nova Corps of Xandar in recent years.
- Josh Brolin as Thanos- A Mad Titan who seeks the 6 Infinity Stones for his own purposes. Employs Maelstrom to try and recover the Power Stone contained within the Orb of Morag.
- Karen Gillian as Nebula- The second daughter of Thanos, who has a rivalry with Gamora and is assigned to watch over Maelstrom.
- Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta- The leader of a group of pirates and mercenaries known as the Ravagers.
- John C. Reilly as Nova Corps Leftenant Rhomann Dey- A member of the Nova Corps.
- Benicio del Toro as Taneleer Tivan/The Collector- An eccentric cosmic being seeking to collect the Infinity Stones.
In addition, Laura Haddock plays Meredith Quill, the mother of Peter Quill. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor plays Ebony Maw, a member of Thanos' Black Order. Glenn Close cameos as the head of the Nova Corps. Sean Gunn plays Kraglin, the first mate of the Ravager crew of Yondu Udonta. Djimon Hounsou plays Korath, a mercenary hired by Maelstrom. Seth Green voices Howard the Duck in a Post-Credits Scene, while Jeffrey Combs voices the High Evolutionary in the other Post-Credits Scene. Stan Lee cameos in a bar inside Knowhere, as one of the gamblers that Rocket and Groot hustle out of money.
Critics heaped praise upon Guardians in its initial release, with the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 91% with an average rating of 7.7/10 based on 297 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads "Guardians of the Galaxy is just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect—as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor." Critics praised the natural chemistry of the team members, the surprisingly touching pathos in the film, and in particular the performance of Michael Rooker as Yondu. Critics did say that Malkovich was "wasted" in what amounted to a "thankless, garden variety villain."
The film earned 94.3 million dollars in its opening weekend, earning the #1 spot at the box office. Though it would relinquish that #1 ranking in its second and third weekends, it would regain it for the next three weeks combined at the end of the summer movie season. All told the film made $333.2 million in its domestic run, becoming the third highest grossing film of the year. It finished with a worldwide box office take of $773.3 million dollars.