Thanks to Master Cat! Cory Milles for letting his Guard down:

Marvel took a chance when it decided to film Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s different from the company’s previous films in both tone and scope. However, its box office numbers indicate that it’s a gamble that has paid off. The movie is an origin story that doesn’t quite feel like an origin story, which is a good thing. It feels fresh. It’s been called a “space opera,” much as Star Wars was decades ago, and understandably so. From beginning to end, the story packs in a large plot weaving together the backgrounds of many characters and featuring numerous references from the Marvel universe. While a synopsis could be written including the minutia of events and characters, this Beat Sheet focuses on the basics. One thing is clear, however: Guardians of the Galaxy is a good film because it uses good story structure. From start to finish, audience members can emotionally identify with Peter Quill and his companions.

Written by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, based on the comic by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Directed by: James Gunn
Genre: Buddy Love / Superhero

Opening Image: Sitting alone outside a hospital room, a young Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) listens to a cassette tape labeled “Awesome Mix Vol. 1.” He is lost in the music as his grandfather comes out to get him.

Theme Stated: Peter is led into the room of his dying mother to say goodbye to her. It is here that we have a brief “Save the Cat” moment; Peter’s mother asks about his black eye, and he tells her that some kids “squished a frog and killed it for no reason.”  This shows that deep down, Peter Quill is a protector, even though he might not realize it until later.

His mother hands him a final gift while reassuring him that she will be okay as she goes to a better place. Peter, she says, reminds her of his father, an angel from the stars. She tells Peter that his father will come to get him one day soon and admonishes him to hold her hand as she passes.

Peter is afraid to and holds back, refusing to take her hand. As the life leaves his mother, he becomes despondent, crying out and rushing out of the room, taking only his backpack with him.

Having courage to trust others will be what Peter needs to learn in his quest. Only by doing so will he be able to conquer the greatest threat the galaxy knows.

Set-Up: As Peter hurries outside the hospital, a brilliant beam of light shines on him, beaming him into the craft above as he is taken from this planet.

Twenty-six years later, Peter Quill is on the planet Morag searching for a valuable orb. In a Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque moment, Quill obtains the orb, which he hopes to sell to an interested buyer. He is confronted by Korath, a servant of Ronan the Accuser. With others desiring to obtain this object, Quill knows it must be worth quite a lot, and he escapes Korath and returns to his ship, the Milano.

On the ship, Peter communicates with his partner/mentor, Yondu, about the orb. However, instead of sharing it with Yondu, he betrays him to collect the money all for himself.

The planet Xandar has signed a peace treaty with the Kree race, but there are still those who do not agree with the treaty. Ronan the Accuser is a Kree zealot who will use whatever violence he can to demonstrate Kree power and dominance. When Korath reports that Quill has the orb, Ronan turns to the adoped daughters of Thanos to retrieve it. He asks Nebula to obtain it, but before she can go, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) volunteers.

Catalyst: Quill tries to sell the orb to his buyer on Xandar, but when he reveals that one of Ronan’s servants was also after it, the buyer wants no part in the deal, pushing Quill out. Gamora meets him outside, then steals the orb from him.

Rocket and Groot
Rocket and Groot

Debate: A fight breaks out between Quill and Gamora as each takes possession of the orb in turn. Meanwhile, Rocket (voice: Bradley Cooper), a genetically-engineered raccoon, and Groot (voice: Vin Diesel), a tree creature and Rocket’s companion, learn about the bounty on Quill. As Quill fights Gamora, Rocket and Groot join in the fight, too. They continually best each other until the Nova police force arrests them all.

After the Nova arrest, each of them is sent to the Kyln, a space prison. In the prison, Quill and company are out of their element (except for Rocket, who has escaped from prison multiple times). Whereas Peter Quill was once so confident in his abilities that he called himself Star-Lord, in the Kyln he is nothing, threatened by the other prisoners. When he catches one of the Kyln personnel listening to his music, he threatens him but is quickly put in his place. After a shower, he sees Rocket’s back, covered with scars and remnants of experiments.

Break into Two: Peter Quill is officially a prisoner in the Kyln, with little hope of escaping.

B Story: While at first hating Gamora, Quill starts to develop feelings for her. This is part of the B Story, but the larger B Story will focus on the group as a whole as they come together, learning to trust one another and to show the courage that is necessary to do what is right.

Fun & Games: In the prison, Quill notices that Gamora is the focus of many of the prisoners’ attention, but not in a good way. Several of them take her away to kill her, knowing that she is Thanos’s adopted daughter. As many races in the galaxy have lost loved ones due to Thanos’s evil deeds, the prisoners plan to exact their vengeance on her. Quill follows them, as does Rocket, but the plot to kill Gamora is interrupted by another prisoner, Drax (Dave Bautista). Known as Drax the Destroyer, he reveals that he is the only one who has the right to kill Gamora; Ronan killed his wife and daughter, and he wants to return the favor. Gamora reveals that she was planning on betraying Ronan, and that is why she stole the orb, to sell it to another buyer. Quill convinces Drax to let her go, and if they escape, they can split the reward and Drax can have his revenge on Ronan himself.

Meanwhile, Ronan reveals to Thanos that Gamora has betrayed them. Thanos is dismayed, as he considered Gamora his favorite daughter, a fact that upsets Nebula. He orders Ronan to retrieve the orb.

Escaping the Kyln
Escaping the Kyln

Under Rocket’s leadership, the five enact a plan to escape from the Kyln. Taking control of a guard tower, Rocket flies it out of the prison to where they can board the Milano. Peter Quill briefly goes back in to get his Walkman from the guard and escapes with the others.

Midpoint: Having escaped, the five sit aboard Quill’s ship. Their next destination will be the mining colony at Knowhere, the remnants of a severed Celestial head. For now, they are free, they have the orb, and they are about to collect their reward.

Bad Guys Close In: On board the ship, the five start arguing. Rocket takes pieces of the ship apart to make devices and finds the unopened present Peter’s mom gave him the day she died. After asking about it, Quill yells at him to leave it alone. No one else seems to get along; Groot is viewed as stupid, only able to say the three words, “I am Groot,” and Drax feels disdain for Gamora.

Arriving on the planet, Drax, Groot, and Rocket go to a bar while Gamora and Quill wait for the buyer to meet them. Quill teaches her about music and how it makes people feel emotions.

Drax, Groot, and Rocket, drunk, get into a fight. When Quill confronts him, Rocket says that he is tired of all the names people call him, that he never asked to be taken apart and experimented on. His tough guy exterior sheds as he reveals his emotions. Drax wanders off as the others go to meet the buyer, an individual known as The Collector.

The Collector reveals that there is an Infinity Stone inside the orb, and proceeds to describe its history and immense power. Quill becomes concerned, knowing that Ronan was in pursuit of it, and possession of this Stone would allow him to destroy the galaxy. One of The Collector’s servants attempts to take hold of the Stone, and it destroys her and the building. Quill and the others escape with the Stone inside the orb, with Quill saying that it needs to be taken to Nova Headquarters where it will be safe.

As they escape, they are confronted by Ronan and Nebula, along with other ships. In his desire for revenge, Drax had summoned Ronan. Gamora attempts to escape in a ship and is pursued by Nebula. Meanwhile, Drax meets his match in Ronan and is bested by him. Nebula pursues Gamora’s ship and shoots it, expelling her and the Infinity Stone from it.

All Is Lost: Peter Quill watches as Gamora’s body is hurled into space and Nebula obtains the orb for Ronan. Quill, using his mask, leaves his ship and calls Yondu, who was after him for being double-crossed. It will mean certain death for him, but it will mean death for Gamora and the universe if he does not call. Yondu’s ship arrives and abducts them, saving them.

Dark Night of the Soul: Drax admits his pride caused this, and with Rocket and Groot, they confront Yondu on his ship. Quill tells Yondu that he has a plan to get the orb back from Ronan and needs the help of Yondu and his men.

Meanwhile, Ronan confronts Thanos and declares that he will use the Infinity Stone himself, destroying Xandar, and then will destroy Thanos.

When Peter finally has time to speak with the other four companions, he reveals that he only has about “12 percent of a plan.” They know that if they try to stop Ronan, that it will most likely mean certain death for them all. However, he has also realized that they are all a bunch of “losers,” individuals who have lost something in their lives. And right now, they have a chance to do something good. The others agree, with Gamora stating that she has lived most of her life with her enemies, and she would be honored to die amongst her friends.

The Guardians team up to stop Ronan
The Guardians team up to stop Ronan

Break into Three: Quill and the others prepare their plan of attack. Alerting Nova Headquarters, they face off against Ronan’s ship, the Dark Astor.

Finale: An aerial battle ensues, and with the help of Rocket, Quill boards the Dark Astor with Groot, Drax, and Gamora. Nova ships head off the enemy fighters as Gamora battles Nebula. Drax and Quill confront Ronan on the bridge of the ship, firing a weapon at him that Rocket made. Ronan survives, and while enemy ships dive bomb the city below, Rocket crashes his ship onto the bridge, saving Quill and the others.

The Dark Astor falls to the surface below, and Groot begins to grow a giant cocoon around the other four. Rocket knows that this will mean death for Groot, but Groot is willing to make the sacrifice. After the ship crashes, Quill and the others emerge from the wreckage, surrounded by the shattered remains of Groot’s splintered form. Ronan stands before the people at the scene, laughing at them for looking toward these “Guardians of the Galaxy” and for thinking they could stop him from destroying the planet.

Peter Quill enacts a unique method of distracting Ronan, and it works long enough to allow Drax and Rocket to fire a shot at him, knocking the Infinity Stone from him. Peter grabs it before Ronan can, and just like with The Collector’s servant, it begins to destroy him.

Gamora urges him to take her hand, and Peter recalls his last moments with his mother and how he did not have the courage to do so. This time, he reaches out, joining hands with Gamora. Drax takes his other hand, and Rocket does so, too. Soon, they are able to control the power of the Infinity Stone. They destroy Ronan and emerge victorious.

At Nova Headquarters, Quill learns that he is only half-human, and the fact that he was able to survive the Infinity Stone’s power must mean that his father is also something more powerful and ancient. Rocket boards the ship with a stem from Groot’s remains, and there are signs of renewed life emerging already.

Final Image: Inside his ship, Peter reads an old note from his mother in which she calls him “my Star-Lord.” He finally takes hold of the present his mother gave him. Opening it, he finds another cassette tape entitled “Awesome Mix Vol. 2.” He smiles, and whereas at the start of the story he was listening to the first tape in isolation, now he can listen to this one surrounded by his new friends as they take off to protect the galaxy.