Short answer: nope!
That said, The Guardians of the Galaxy was the jolt of energy the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU) arguably needed at the time. And the time I’m referring to, of course, is the year 2014. A time when MCU movies were growing stale. Boring. A dark time.
To be fair, it’s not that the MCU movies have been bad up to that point. It’s more that few of them have been particularly noteworthy or memorable – especially when compared to incredible comic book-based films like The Dark Knight, which really pushed the envelope in the superhero genre. Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and the first two Captain America films were all decent, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately, they were all forgettable – each new entry more so than the last (looking at you, Iron Man 2).
You could certainly make the argument that it was Marvel’s the Avengers, released in theaters in 2012, that gave the MCU its much-need jolt back then. After all, it was well-received, and currently sits at the 91% approval rating, with both critics and audiences, on Rotten Tomatoes (a rare feat). However, you’d be wrong.
It was a good film, sure, but it didn’t really redefine the MCU. Not the same way Guardians did, anyway. Avengers’ biggest attraction, and achievement, was that it had brought together a cast of disparate superheroes from several different films. Films from different directors, writers and so forth. It did what I thought, at the time, was the impossible. And it succeeded. So, credit where credit’s due.
However, Guardians proved more influential in the long run. Unlike Avengers, it had an entirely new cast of characters and a story mostly disconnected from the rest of the MCU – other than having Thanos play a minor role in it (first introduced in Avengers). By being so detached, it injected new life into the MCU and made it fun again. Or perhaps, fun in the first place for some.
What made this film special, first and foremost, was writer/director James Gunn’s special brand of humor – quirky, dark and endearing. Not cringy, like Joss Whedon’s (shots fired!). The movie was so humorous, in fact, that one could easily mistake it for a comedy. And yeah, if you’ve seen his 2006 horror flick Slither, then you know what I’m talking about. That movie, despite all the gore and nasty stuff, was hilarious.
Secondly, what’s great about Guardians is the overall tone. It’s funny, yes – way funnier than anything that came before it in the MCU – but it’s also colorful and relentlessly creative. Instead of taking place in a dreary, realistic setting, like the majority of comic book adaptations at the time (including Thor and Thor: The Dark World, sadly) – Guardians hops from one wacky planet (or asteroid, or ship) to another, all of which are populated by even wackier denizens (most of whom are, if not funny, then very distinct). On top of that, you have crazy concepts like talking animals, a tree-man that only says “I am Groot,” infinity stones, god-like celestials and so on and so forth. You get the picture.
Since Guardians, we started seeing a lot more movies in the similar vein – both humorous and creatively wacky. And while humor has been in the MCU movies from the start, they started leaning into it more and more thanks to Guardians (for good or ill). Ant-Man and Thor: Ragnarök are practically comedies, as far as I’m concerned.
However, what appeals to me the most about the post-Guardians MCU era, is the wackiness, not humor. I love the new and creative worlds/concepts these movies bring to the table. I’m talking about the heavy metal album-inspired cinematography in Thor: Ragnarök. The Quantum realm in Ant-Man. Wakanda in Black Panther. The time-travel ideas in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. The multi-verse. The list goes on.
Guardians has opened the door to all of this stuff, and the MCU has been better for it. By the looks of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, the zaniness isn’t leaving the MCU any time soon.
So, why am I talking about Guardians all of a sudden? Because of The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special came out on Disney+ today (aka November 25), that’s why. No, I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s 92% on Rotten Tomatoes (according to critics), so I’m very much excited for it. And yes, James Gunn was involved, so I trust that it’ll be good. After all, his take on the Suicide Squad in 2021 was insanely good, so the man hasn’t lost touch at all. Long live, Guardians of the Galaxy!