Marvel’s latest superhero movie Morbius broke box office records but, according to CBR online "in the worst way.” It’s abysmal box office profits and comically abusive online reviews has caused online media critic Razorfist to ask whether superhero movies have “gone the way of Hanson’s Mmmbop.” His point being that these over-CGI’s costumed battle-fests have “gone through the [literary] cycle of the early nascent years, the golden age, deconstruction, and finally the decline. And any way you prepare and slice this pineapple pizza, it all ends the same as the final season of Friends: a thing we once enjoyed, is stretched to its saddest extremity all in the name of cold calculating commercialism.”

This has certainly been the been the case with a lot of Marvel’s movies which, from my jaundiced point of view, started out great in the early 00’s with the original X-Men series and Ironman, but gradually held less and less interest for me. Either it was the panoply of superheroes who I had no knowledge or interest in or, more often than not, it was all the “woke” that kept creeping into the storylines. In fact it almost seemed that there was a direct correlation between increased profits at the box office and the more preposterous the stories became. It’s as though the producers thought, “The fans really love what we’ve been giving them, so here’s a thought, let’s start giving them not what they want but what they need!”

However, despite an arguable decline in the quality of superhero flicks over the last decade, not all of them have been bad and some I downright liked. One of them was 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

A Spectacular Story well Worth the Watch

Peter Quill, aka “Star Lord”, is a human Ravager (a group of pirates) who is trying to find a metal orb in order to sell it, when he learns that a powerful alien named Ronan is also looking for it. Unable to sell it, he meets an assassin named Zamora who tries to take it from him, while at the same time two bounty hunters, a raccoon named Rocket and a tree-like creature named Groot, nab Quill because of a price on his head.

All four of them are caught by local law enforcement, the Nova Corps, and sent to a high security prison where they meet Drax the Destroyer. The five of them agree to help each other escape from prison, if they can split the huge bounty Zamora can get for the orb from a different buyer. They buyer tells them that the orb holds an Infinity Stone, one of six magical stones that possess the power to destroy entire worlds. Realizing that they cannot let the stone fall into Ronan's hands they argue amongst themselves over what to do with it, when Ronan arrives at their location and takes the Stone.

Realizing the danger Ronan poses while possessing one of the Infinity stones, the five of them once again agree to join forces and even convince Quill's fellow Ravagers to set aside their differences to come to the aid of the Nova Corps to defeat Ronan. A great battle ensues and after a lot of heroic sacrifice, they succeed in destroying Ronan, and the Infinity Stone is given to the Nova Corps for safe keeping. In the end, Quill and his companions are pardoned and set off for more adventures.

A Stunning Story about Friendship

Without a doubt Guardians of the Galaxy is filled with all of the dazzling special effects, action and battle scenes, and an engaging storyline that make the film a pleasure to watch. However, there were three things that caught my attention in a way that other Marvel movies did not.

The first is the edifying nature of Quill’s character, whose humanity is often contrasted with all the other aliens he encounters. For even though he is presented as a roguish devil-may-care kind of hero, there are times when he steps in to break up a fight or to save someone's life when he really has no cause to. To be fair, his actions are always commingled with a desire for fame and fortune, but he nonetheless is willing to put himself in harm's way on behalf of those he cares about.

Secondly, the dynamics of the characters in the film are an almost perfect illustration of Aristotle's three kinds of friendship. In Book 8 of his Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle lays out the three kinds of friends we all experience in our lives: Utility (the ones we keep around because they are useful to us in some way), Pleasure (those with whom we find pleasure in their company), and the Perfect Friendship (those who, according Aristotle, we “wish well to their friends for their sake” and for the “good which they get from each other.”).

When we first meet the primary heroes they are a rogues gallery of headstrong, self-centered, and emotionally isolated individuals who are always looking over their shoulder or for that big score. However, as the film progresses we see them move from friends of utility when they agree to help each other escape prison, to those of pleasure when they stick together to collect the bounty for the orb, when they comfort Drax when Ronan beats him up, and rescue Zamora when her sister Nebula leaves Zamora for dead in a smashed up ship.

We see the last stage of friendship, when they have a meeting right before their attack on Ronan's ship to get the Infinity Stone back. Quill makes the comment that “We are all losers”, which he appears to mean at face value, i.e. they are a bunch of misfits whose individual lives have not amounted to much. However, seeing the chagrin on his comrades faces, he changes his angle and says,

“I mean like folks who have lost stuff and we have man, all of us. Our homes, our families, our normal lives and usually life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it has given us something, it has given us a give a s*** for once, and not run away.”

Rocket, who has enough insight to see what Quill is saying, responds, “But Quill, stopping Ronan. Its impossible. You're asking us to die.” But in the end they agree to go through with the mission and to stick with one another to the bitter end. And in this way they not only illustrate Aristotle’s highest form of friendship, but even elevate it to the theological virtue of Charity, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13).

And it is that sealing of their friendship which leads to the last aspect of the film that I found endearing: the idea of sacrifice. The battle to stop Ronan is a massively confusing mess and the many lives that are lost are keenly felt by the characters. When Ronan’s ship is so damaged that it begins to crash to the planet, Groot who says nothing but “I am Groot”, envelops his companions in a protective bower. Rocket knows that this act will kill him and begs him not to, but Groot accepts his fate and for once says something different, “We are Groot.”

The scene is a touching one as it exemplifies the epitome of friendship, self-sacrifice, and that rare kind of trust where you are forced to put your trust in the hands of others with the understanding that they too will do the same for you. It is for all this that Guardians of the Galaxy is well worth the watch. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, while offering a few robust topics of conversation afterwards. It’s still one of my favorites!

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