Marvel Studios found great success with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers films, not just financially but critically. Both found a way to marry humor with epic action, truly bringing the comic book stories to life. Joss Whedon kickstarted the Avengers train and followed it up with Avengers: Age of Ultron before handing the reins over to the Russos, who basically took them into new territory via Captain America: Civil War. They’re set to deal with the fallout of this fracture in Avengers: Infinity War, which finally brings Thanos’ wrath to Earth, but while this corner of the MCU has been about disassembling heroes, Gunn’s all about building his ensemble like a family.
In two movies, he set the Guardians up as cosmic protectors and in many ways, like some sort Avengers unit in space. With the third chapter also poised to be written and directed by him, now’s as good a time as any to weigh up how both franchise movies stack up against each other. Gunn has the edge because his squad appears more of a unit, powering through squabbles, to safeguard the greater MCU. That said, CBR dives into 15 reasons why the GotG movies trump the Avengers!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers movies
15. THE MISFITS FACTOR
We love how the Avengers go about policing Earth, even if it costs a lot of collateral damage, but at the end of the day, they are soldiers trained to do so. Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye are disciplined warriors and they eventually got the likes of Iron Man and Scarlet Witch to do the same. They all ended up being conditioned to save the day. The Guardians, on the other hand, are an obnoxious band of ragtag misfits who learn as they go along and don’t really employ military strategy or tactics.
As seen in Gunn’s Vol. 2, some of their problems include having music during battle or how Baby Groot should handle explosives! It’s quite quirky and charming how they fumble through these battles, and in a sense it’s so relatable. They’re not the team we deserve but they’re the one we love seeing emerge on top.
14. FUN WITH THE POST-CREDITS & CAMEOS
Whedon’s movies usually point to the big threat of the MCU in their post-credits scenes. His first movie revealed Thanos as Loki’s puppet-master and the follow-up had the Mad Titan donning an Infinity Gauntlet to get the Infinity Stones himself. As for cameos, there really aren’t any that stand out. However, Gunn takes a different approach. His first film actually had Thanos laying out plans for galactic conquest, which allowed a silly Howard the Duck post-credits cameo, while the sequel had five quirky ones.
Gunn doesn’t take these, nor his cameos, too seriously, and we saw him mixing in fun stuff like Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster and Groot being a teen with the debut of Adam Warlock and previously, how the Celestials and Infinity Stones tie into the MCU. Gunn knows how to merge the not-so-serious material (as per Starhawk and the Watchers) with the graver elements, showing he’s all about balance.
13. FEELS MORE LIKE A COMIC
Both franchises subvert comic lore quite a bit to tailor stories for cinematic audiences. Barring Civil War, both Whedon and Gunn changed their plots from what the comics offered, however, Gunn’s films feel much more comic-oriented. This isn’t to knock Whedon’s material, which is decent, but rather with Gunn, this can be chalked down to the expansive world-building and roaming cosmic storytelling he crafts.
His galactic movies put the ‘U’ in the MCU as they go to all corners of the universe, whether it be with Xandar and the Nova Corps, or to fend off the Ravagers, Sovereign fleet, the Kree, Nebula or Ego himself. The Guardians are all about planet-tripping and boldly going where no heroes went before, mixing in space saga elements from Star Wars and Star Trek to great effect, giving us the feel of what Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin and Steve Ditko did for comics in general.
12. UNAFRAID TO THROW OBSCURE FACES IN
The Avengers franchise doesn’t really throw obscure faces in. In both movies, we saw Scarlet Witch, Vision, Quicksilver and Ultron in the fray, but they’re all big names. Gunn, however, is unafraid to deal with characters that aren’t mainstream. The Guardians on the whole weren’t that popular except with comic diehards, and after making them a hit Gunn went a step further.
He made Nebula and Yondu bigger characters, used Ego (who really isn’t an A-list villain in comics), and even bumped up the likes of Kraglin to hero status. The fact that Gunn also used the Nova Corps, the Collector, Howard the Duck, Cosmo and Mantis shows he is up to the challenge of bringing small players into the MCU and transforming them into heavy-hitters. His movies illustrate that there are no heroes or villains too small in the galaxy, making Gunn’s vision truly all-inclusive.
11. DEATH RESONATES MORE
Whedon’s movies didn’t touch the subject of death until Age of Ultron when Quicksilver took a hail of bullets to save Hawkeye and an innocent bystander. However, there wasn’t any emotional connection or depth that made us feel this loss, given that he was a villain mere minutes before. Gunn’s films do the exact opposite, as per the first film which saw Groot save his team and sacrifice himself in the process. He ended up being reborn as Baby Groot, but fans shed tears when they saw Rocket Raccoon grieving for his buddy.
The sequel upped the ante with Yondu redeeming himself as he died saving Star-Lord, who then acknowledge him as his true father figure. Seeing Peter Quill distraught over Yondu meant a lot, especially after Ego’s schemes, and it continued to add layers to Gunn’s theme of family. It was a big loss that brought immense tribute at the end.
10. KICK-ASS LANGUAGE
It’s apparent that Cap doesn’t like the Avengers swearing, as seen when they attacked Baron von Strucker’s forces in Age of Ultron. He wants discipline, order and proper language, like a true boy scout would. It’s quite the opposite with the Guardians as the likes of Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon love throwing obscenities at each other, as well as at their enemies. This is all part of their chemistry and work-flow, and to each their own, because at day’s end, they all get results via these unconventional methods.
Even Drax has no filter as he rants about sex, human anatomy and romance in the most uncomfortable manner. Profanity is part of their team essence and it’s engrained in almost every character, so if it ain’t broke, why attempt to fix it? This builds the charisma and lighthearted allure of what makes the Guardians so humorous and so likeable.
9. EPIC MUSIC
Few properties on the big or small screen can touch what Gunn does in terms of music. It’s not just his trailers, but also how he uses sound as a character in his film to accompany Quill as his tether back to Earth, and the mother he loved and lost. It’s such a distinct trait of what Gunn does, and we saw the likes of Logan and Deadpool trying to follow suit. Luke Cage successfully did it, but Gunn’s style remains light years ahead.
The way he used Sam Cooke’s music for Ego to tell Quill about loving his mom, and Cat Stevens to elaborate on father figures. Gunn gets you hooked on so many feelings when you hear the likes of Cheap Trick, Fleetwood Mac, David Hasselhoff, David Bowie, Rupert Holmes and Marvin Gaye. It’s not about being triumphant, but rather about emotional notes.
8. VARIETY OF CHARACTERS
With the Avengers, whether it’s heroes or villains, you kind of know what you’re getting, not just in terms of design, but also in personality. Apart from the Vision, nothing really surprises fans. However, Gunn’s movies boast so many different characters, no matter if they are big players in the plot or minor ones. You get tons of aliens that look very differently from each other, you get a boatload of monsters, and even the villains evolve into something new (as seen with Ego’s various forms).
This builds up the ensemble factor in these movies and even when we see the oddness and variety in designs, we’re still waiting to see what kinds of personalities these new faces possess deep down. It’s all about the outer and inner aesthetic with Gunn’s characters, and not the one-dimensional look and feel of the MCU on Earth, which is expectedly grounded and a tad boring.
7. HIGHER STAKES
In the cosmic realm, it feels like anything that goes bad will have dire repercussions on the MCU. This may well be because it’s so close to Thanos and we all know he’s marching on towards cosmic conquest. Gunn’s first film saw the Guardians and the Nova Corps trying to protect the Orb (an Infinity Stone) from him, and we learned the importance of the Celestials and these gems as weapons of mass destruction.
The sequel then touched on Ego as a Celestial and the potential power Quill had, which may have come in handy later on against the Mad Titan. The Avengers movies were more confined and at home, even though the Chitauri and Ultron tried for world domination, but with the Guardians, there are bigger enemies, meaner armies and much greater superpowers lingering around space waiting for their chance to enslave, colonize and rule.
6. LARGE-SCALE ACTION
The action sequences for the Avengers movies aren’t bad, but the GotG films are blockbuster spectacles that require buckets of popcorn. It was awesome watching Whedon’s team finally assemble against the Chitauri and their masses, and later on rallying against Ultron’s robot army. But that pales in comparison to when we saw the Guardians and Nova Corps team up against Ronan and the Kree, Quill withstanding the power of an Infinity Stone, and of course, that epic battle with Ego.
The sequel’s final act is arguably one of the MCU’s best as they took on a living planet, with father and son using their Celestial and planet-shaping powers to pummel each other. There’s no greater action-packed wow factor than seeing Ego form up with giant rocks and going up against Quill, who himself used rock formations to turn into a giant Pac-Man! Try topping that!
5. THE VISUALS
Whedon’s films were tight, well-paced and neatly done, but they’re nowhere near the level of cinematography that Gunn laid out. The latter’s films have a visual aesthetic that oozes coolness, from the color palettes to designs of everything considered outer space — aliens, planets and spaceships. Gunn captures you from the get-go, as seen with his opening sequences that always act as visual hooks, most recently with Quill’s team fighting a creature that looks like it dropped from the Cancerverse.
Even on Ego’s planet, you saw a lot of beauty that usually doesn’t work its way into action blockbusters. Whedon’s aesthetic was more along the lines of conventional flicks but with Gunn, there’s an otherworldly and ethereal essence, which adds to the grandeur of what a comic book event should feel like when brought to the big screen. Visually, the GotG films are some of Hollywood’s most artistic and alluring.
4. THE CUTENESS FACTOR
The Avengers focus on gritty stories. There isn’t much time for cute, apart from maybe eating Shawarma. With the Guardians, the cuteness factor is built on that of Groot’s. Baby Groot takes the cake with his innocence and stubbornness, but even adult Groot gives you feels. What’s pretty cool is that both can quickly transition into ass-kicker mode! While it will be interesting to see how teenage Groot evolves, we still have that furry Rocket — when he’s not blasting opponents into oblivion that is.
There’s also Drax, whose literal nature does have a warm presence to it because you can tell he, much like everyone else on board, fights the good fight with heart and soul. Amid all the blasting, slicing and dicing, together they form up as a team that you can’t help but gush over because of how loyal and lovable they are.
3. A GRANDER SCOPE
When the Avengers save a country, the Guardians save a world. When the Avengers save a world, the Guardians save a galaxy. And so it goes. This will always be the trend because of the nature of both teams and what they police. The Guardians follow a more extensive scope with a larger reach into the deep, dark recesses of space. While on Earth, it’s all about politics, armies and robots. Meanwhile, the cosmic grandeur focuses of Celestials, planet-eaters and godlike entities with the power to undo creation.
When there’s a civil war or invasion in space, it will most likely be larger than on Earth, and this alone makes Gunn’s posse resonate with a bigger spotlight than the Avengers. Just the fact that they’re in space shapes Quill’s posse as all the more grand, as they partake in stories whose magnitude are off the planetary charts.
2. BETTER TEAM BANTER
The team banter with the Avengers just feels so formal and like office chatter. With the Guardians however, everything is so much more natural and organic. This makes for a cooler team dynamic because it’s more human and relatable. The Avengers come off like the military, albeit a bit more laid-back though, while the Guardians are that slick, awesome bunch of space pirates that kick ass while doing so with substance and in style.
Their interactions and banter swing from comedic to dramatic to shocking to obscene at the drop of a hat, and this is because Gunn’s roster is so diverse and filled with characters of such flair! No one comes off as run-of-the-mill, boring or cookie-cutter. This is in stark contrast to the Avengers, whose characters seem so by-the-numbers at times, which feels like they’re just going through the motions. You can have fun while saving the day, you know!
1. A BIGGER SENSE OF FAMILY
The Avengers are a dysfunctional team and they give the impression that they have to be together, as seen in Civil War, which split them into two factions. Conversely, despite their problems, the Guardians work through them because they want to be together. Every member longs for family because they know and experienced loss. Drax lost his daughter, Rocket was a lonely science experiment, Gamora has never known love under Thanos, and Quill’s always been craving family. Even with Mantis, Nebula, Yondu and Ego, we understood how important togetherness was.
Gamora actually chastised Quill when she thought he was abandoning them and it showed that they all meant something to each other. These values popped up with Cap, Bucky and Falcon on Earth, but again it feels more like a strike force in the larger scheme of things. Gunn’s posse, no matter the ups and downs, genuinely love and fight for each other.
Let us know in the comments which film franchise you prefer — the Guardians or the Avengers — and why!