At first glance, there is nothing special about Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a superhero movie. In the last five years, there have been approximately 2,384 superhero movies released into theaters. I love comic books and even I think we should cool it with super powered derring do.
But there is something slightly…different about Guardians. Comic book movies typically center around three archetypes: nearly perfect men who wield super strength (Superman, Captain America, Thor), billionaires with nearly unlimited resources (Batman, Iron Man), or angsty super-powered teenagers/young adults (Spider-Man, X-Men).
The Guardians consist of an orphaned outlaw intergalactic junk collector, the green-skinned assassin who is the daughter of an almost god-like space despot, an escaped prisoner seeking vengeance for the death of his wife and son, a violent talking raccoon, and a sentient tree. The Avengers or the Justice League, they ain’t. They are outcasts and cast-offs. Some would even call them freaks.
"We’re all losers," Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/Star-Lord says to the team at one point before recognizing the offense in everyone’s eyes. "No, I mean we’ve all lost something," Quill clarifies. But the filmmakers are also quite clear: these guys are losers.
"I liked the fact that they were broken." EA said that after we viewed Guardians last week and I think it’s why many people like it. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a blast. Where many superhero movies of late have piled gravitas on top of somberness, GotG is often hilarious and pure popcorn-flick fun.
Yet beating beneath the surface is a wounded heart and despite each character’s best efforts to cover it up (well except for Groot; the talking tree might be the most emotionally well-adjusted character in cinema), the hurt eventually finds its way to the surface. Flawed characters who are striving for something more resonate with people.
It is not a coincidence that the unveiling of this brokenness represents a turning point. The commonality of their weakness helps this gang of misfits band together for a cause bigger than themselves. Though they are outcasts and freaks, their motley crew becomes a family. They make mistakes, keep moving, and they (spoiler alert) save the galaxy.
There is a lesson that the church can re-learn here. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus preaches sermons in which he tells us that those without, those that do not measure up to the world’s standards, those that are often looked upon as outcasts and freaks, all of these are blessed. God is close to these women and men. God often works through them in unexpected ways. In other words, the losers matter a great deal to God.
But many in the church sweep this message under the rug. We hide our brokenness. We yearn for our churches to be cathedrals of cool. Certain segments of Christianity have nearly burned the whole thing down in the eyes of others out of a desire for political power. We neglect the vulnerable in our society: the immigrant, the oppressed, the alienated, the impoverished. We marginalize those individuals that we view as outcasts.
And I wonder if Christians were more honest and vulnerable, might we not help save our corner of the galaxy spiritually, physically, and relationally? If we were at the point at which we realized that we were poor, broken losers, then might we not rely on God all the more? Might we not band together with our fellow losers for a cause greater than our own?
I am not saying that we should mimic Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket, and Groot. Not all of their actions are entirely ethical, but there is still something to learn from them: not just in the movie itself but in the way these C-list heroes are resonating with people. It seems to be another reminder that outcasts, losers, and freaks might be more blessed and more of a blessing than we realize.