As Marvel fans, we’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment over the last decade with introducing our kids to these stories; first watching at home, then as they got older, seeing them in theatres and witnessing them flip out with giddy excitement at character reveals and plot twists. But recently we realized: we’ve never watched all of them as a family, and certainly not in release order. And that’s left some gaps in their understanding of the relationships between all these heroes.
Thus, as a family, we pledged to embark upon an epic MCU rewatch before we see Avengers: Endgame in the theatre, and answer the all-important question: should you watch these with your kids?
ICYMI: read our thoughts on Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
It’s hard to believe that just five years ago, these now-fan-favourite Marvel heroes were pretty much unknown to anyone other than hardcore comics fans. Which is why this movie, and its playful sensibility and lovable and unique characters, so surprised and delighted fans, making it the highest grossing superhero film of 2014.
A young Peter Quill runs out of the hospital after witnessing his mother’s dying breath. In tears, he rages at the heavens… when a beam of light reveals a hovering spacecraft, and he’s brought up into it and taken away.
Raised to adulthood by an interstellar group of honourable thieves and pirates known as Ravagers, Quill – now going by the moniker Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) – travels through the galaxy retrieving valuable artifacts for shady buyers. He finds an orb on a dead planet, but encounters danger when another group arrives to retrieve the orb. Star-Lord escapes their clutches, and travels to Xandar to sell the object, cutting out his Ravager boss Yondu (Michael Rooker). Yondu puts a bounty on Quill’s head as revenge.
Meanwhile, Ronan (Lee Pace), a fanatical Kree warlord bent on destroying Xandar, has promised to get the orb for Thanos (an uncredited Josh Brolin). Thanos’ adopted daughters, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) have been working for Ronan, and Gamora volunteers to go to Xandar and get the orb. On Xandar, she grabs the orb from Quill, who gives chase.
Their back-and-forth foot race is muddied when Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) asks his companion Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) to grab Quill, so they can retrieve the bounty from Yondu. Before anyone can come out a winner, the four of them are apprehended by the Nova Corps, the law enforcement of Xandar, and end up in the Kyln, a maximum-security prison in space. And that’s where the action really steps up.
I don’t want to bore you by recapping the entire plot here, but I will say that on rewatch, I was delighted all over again by the action and humour in this movie. Especially right on the heels of the previous five Marvel movies (Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) with more serious themes and often portentously dour characters, it felt good to laugh and just enjoy the action.
It’s not just a fun movie to watch. The story arc in this film is, in a subtle way, really about how five characters with nothing in common can start off as enemies and wind up as loyal friends. In the end, only by working together selflessly can they hope to stop Ronan from destroying an entire world. Which is a great message, delivered in a highly entertaining package.
So, should you watch it with your kids? Hell yes. It’s tons of fun, it’s nonstop action, it’s got humour and heart, and it sets up some key intel for Infinity War. With just one caveat, that this movie has by some accounts the highest onscreen death count prior to Infinity War. Most of them are bloodless, but still, YMMV. (On a personal note: This is the movie that our then-nine-year-old couldn’t sit through, it disturbed her so deeply; while our then-five-year-old happily saw it in theatres twice! So, every kid is different.) That said, it’s streaming right now on Netflix, so access is relatively easy and you can always pause or fast forward through any parts the kids might not like.
Bottom line: A must-see, for the way in which director James Gunn imbued the movie with a playful, fun attitude that changed the superhero game, and also for the setup of Thanos’s obsession with the Infinity Stones.