Read This Before You Watch “Guardians of the Galaxy”

And so we reach the final film in our five-week media studies series about the hero’s quest. This week we consider “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). Perhaps it’s fitting that we finish on a Marvel movie. With all that company’s extended universe of superhero franchises that have come to dominate the box office during these past couple decades, we would almost be remiss if we didn’t watch at least one of these grandiose cinematic productions.

Do I sound cynical? I hope not. I really like “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s funny and exciting and has a great soundtrack. There’s a lot to enjoy here!

Chris Pratt is awesome (and hilarious) as Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord, a larger-than-life nom-de-guerre that he gives himself and has a bit of trouble getting others to adopt. After his mother dies in the late 80s, Quill finds himself abducted by space aliens and taken on grand adventures through the far reaches of space. Along the way, he meets a bizarre collection of characters, faces all sorts of challenges, and shows off his dance moves.

It’s a great ride! Plus, a lot of the hero’s quest elements we’ve learned to expect seem to be here in one form or another.

And yet…

I’m not entirely sure this really is a hero’s quest.

So, I need your help. You’ve spent the last five weeks watching movies, reading my posts, and answering a bunch of discussion questions. You know this stuff now. You have all the tools you need to go out into the world, watch a movie or read a book, and decide if what you’re seeing is indeed a hero’s quest. You know the essential elements and you’ve all amply demonstrated your ability to make an informed and convincing argument.

What I want to know from you is just one thing: Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” a hero’s quest movie? Why or why not?

I promise this not another trick question. I honestly want to hear what you think because I can’t decide. Sometimes I think this movie obviously follows the model of a hero’s quest. Other times I think this movie is something else entirely. It’s as enigmatic as the repeated mantra of one of my favorite characters: “I am Groot.”

And that’s it. That’s our project this week. I won’t even ask you any other discussion questions because you already know what they would be. What’s the Call to Adventure? Is there a Talisman? Etc.

Watch “Guardians of the Galaxy” this weekend. Think it through. Maybe talk about it with your friends and family. Then write a short argument of like maybe 4-5 paragraphs convincing me that this is a hero’s quest. Or, that it’s not.

This is a tough one. But working together, I think we can solve it.

Good luck. Keep your wits about you and have fun!

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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