Guardians of the Galaxy could come across as kind of an oddity in terms of Marvel’s films. It doesn’t open with a superhero coming to terms with their new abilities, neither is it based on earth, or is even concerned with earth (constantly referred to as “Terra” in the film). However, like other Marvel films it is an origin story, it’s just it’s concerned with the origin of a team, rather than the origin of a character’s abilities.
The film opens with Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt) stealing an orb which everyone in the film wants their hands on. This includes Gamorrah (Zoe Saldana), Rocket the Racoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). However, their attempts to get if off Starlord land the four of them in jail. They attempt to escape and are helped by Drax (Dave Batista) who joins their newly formed merry crew.
In terms of tone, the film has a similarity to Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity as a group of misfits go on adventures through space. There are also similarities with Star Wars as they have to fight off evil and prevent a planet from being annihilated.
The problem with these comparisons, is where as Firefly and Star Wars actually caused us to care about the characters, and allowed us to get behind what they were doing, Guardians of the Galaxy gives us little reason to do so beyond the fact they have the occasional one-liner.
To put it another way the first half of the film sees a bunch of criminals put into jail for stealing an orb, and causing lots of damage to civilian property. They then decide to escape. Why? Because they realise the orb could be dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands? Because they have heard about an evil plot that could cause the end of the universe? Nope, none of these things, just so they can make a huge amount of money from the sale of said orb.
Does it matter if they injure, maim or kill loads of prison guards along the way? Probably not, because it’s a talking racoon with a cool gun! Who cares about these boring guys in uniforms?!
As such, Guardians of the Galaxy is a bit like Star Wars with Han Solo is the main role instead of Luke. This sounds great in theory until you realise that all the stuff that actually matters in the story comes through Luke and his view on the world. Han Solo is one of the all-time great science fiction characters, but he is only allowed to be so because he inhabits the same world as Luke does.
Guardians of the Galaxy then is Star Wars without Luke. It has a similarly well-drawn, deep universe; similar menacing villains; and a similarly varied crew. However, for too much of the film it has no reason for being, it struggles to find something to fight for.
The point of Guardians of the Galaxy is supposed to be that anyone can become superheroes, anyone can change and decide to do the right thing. The problem is it seems to have no consideration that sometimes doing the right thing involves doing boring stuff like taking responsibility for the havoc you caused to the innocent people you hurt along the way. Why bother when you can just listen to 70s pop tunes and listen to a wise-cracking racoon some more?