Guardians of the Galaxy

Movie: Directed by James Gunn.

Inciting Event: Shortly after the antagonist Ronin the Accuser is introduced to the audience, protagonist Peter Quill also learns of Ronin for the first time when he discovers the orb he has stolen and is trying to sell is being pursued by Ronin. Although Peter doesn’t yet know what Ronin wants the orb for, this is his first brush with Ronin as an obstacle to his goal: Peter wants to sell the orb, but his prospective buyer is too frightened of Ronin.

Grouped neatly in this same timing is the introduction of all the other Guardians (except Drax). Peter quickly meets Gamora who is after the orb, and then Rocket and Groot who are after the bounty put on Peter’s head by his former employer/father-figure Yondu.

The First Act does a great job putting all the important pieces in place for the main conflict, while keeping things entertaining without overwhelming viewers with information.

First Plot Point: After meeting Gamora and Rocket in a three-way fight, Peter and the others are arrested and sent to a max security prison where the orb is confiscated. The change in setting, although not permanent, signals a shift from the Normal World (where they worked against each other) to the Adventure World of the Second Act (where they will work with each other on their way to becoming allies and friends).

Peter learns from Gamora that Ronin is pursuing the orb with the intent of trading it to the Mad Titan Thanos in return for Thanos’s destroying the planet Xandar. Gamora reveals she has lined up another lucrative buyer for it. This prompts Peter to team up with her and Rocket to split the earnings on the orb.

This is also where they meet the final member of their would-be team: fellow prisoner Drax the Destroyer.

First Pinch Point: The turning point comes thanks to their successful joint plan for escaping the prison.

The pinch comes from two directions:

1) The escape is immediately jeopardized by Groot’s initiating the last step in the plan too soon, which creates massive complications that lead to a huge fire fight in the prison.

2) In the subsequent scene, Ronin (in pursuit of the orb) arrives at the prison to discover Peter and Gamora (his former lackey) have escaped. He flexes his antagonistic muscles and emphasizes his destructive power by trashing the prison and everyone in it.

Midpoint: The main conflict finally comes into clear focus when the Guardians take the orb to their buyer—the Collector—and learn its true identity: it is an Infinity Stone, with the ability to destroy whole planets just by touching the surface. This powerful Moment of Truth forces all of the Guardians, but especially Peter, to reconsider their plan for selling it. This marks the beginning of their shift from self-serving motives to more heroic actions.

There are actually a number of very nice Moments of Truth grouped around the Midpoint. Peter and Gamora reveal things about their pasts (and thus their true selves) to each other. Rocket and Drax do the same when they get into a drunken fight.

Second Pinch Point: Determined to personally kill Ronin to avenge his dead wife and child, Drax calls Ronin and tells him their location. Ronin arrives with a fleet. He reclaims the orb and nearly kills everyone. Gamora is stranded, without oxygen or protection in space, and Peter makes the choice to sacrifice himself (nearly his life and ultimately his freedom from Yondu) to rescue her. The Guardians reluctantly team up with Yondu to reclaim the orb and save Xandar from Ronin’s murderous intent.

Third Plot Point: As is too often the case in busy action movies, there isn’t really a solid moment of defeat and soul-searching at the Third Plot Point here. Instead, the turning point merely signals the shift into the final confrontation with the antagonistic force, as the Guardians put their “twelve percent of a plan” into action and head to Xandar to infiltrate Ronin’s ship.

Climax: After crashing Ronin’s ship onto the surface of Xandar, they face down the awesome power of his Infinity Stone (which he decided to keep instead of giving to Thanos). Peter distracts him with a “dance off,” then risks destruction by grasping the stone. He is able to contain it long enough for the others to join hands and share its power.

Climactic Moment: They finally put it in a safe receptacle and dispatch Ronin.

Resolution: The Guardians are all granted a pardon by the Xandarian government. Peter discovers the father he never knew wasn’t human. The Guardians all head off together with Peter promising to keep them out of trouble.

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