The Guardians of the Galaxy series has become one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most celebrated trilogies, tying up the iconic group’s story in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Since the first Guardians back in 2014, fans of the franchise grew to love the cosmos-faring adventurers thanks to Gunn’s touch of comedy and the great performances and chemistry from the main cast, who have remained dedicated to this trilogy for nine years. Add with those elements a well-developed story that continues to hold its own in the midst of the doubt that came with Phase Five.
A Walkman-wearing mercenary comes across an ancient artifact that leads a lethal assassin, a gunslinging racoon, a sentient tree, and a brutish warrior his way. Uniting to stop an intergalactic warlord, these five come together to become the new protectors of space, challenging the likes of empires to threats beyond their own paygrade. The team is led by the upbeat Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, former Ravager turned heroic leader of the Guardians.
Peter Quill’s history holds a strong influence over this trilogy, with the events of each movie (and the special) tying into Quill’s troubling past and ultimately shaping the caring person he becomes. However, his character development holds much more substance to what could be the trilogy’s most important message: by coming to terms with the past and using what you’ve learned to amend the present, it will only make you stronger.
A Familial Role Unchecked
Peter Quill’s familial past plays an important role in forging the legendary mercenary everyone knows today. Born to Meredith Quill and the celestial parasite Ego, Peter didn’t get to live his full childhood as Meredith passed away, which Peter unfortunately bore witness to. The Ravagers and Yondu eventually took him away after learning what happened to others born from Ego. However, Yondu’s form of teaching never sat well for Quill as it influenced him to take up the criminal lifestyle.
While holding on to the spirit of his mother through his Walkman, Quill essentially had to cope with losing the parental figure that gave him everything through Yondu’s care, which began his hatred for his past. Albeit, Yondu did care for Quill in the end, but the methods he took on to put Quill on this path were questionable to say the least. In doing so, Peter Quill took on a ‘take care of yourself’ personality fans can recognize from the first Guardians movie.
However, once Quill meets the rest of his team, his character begins to shift as their united fight against Ronan influenced him to grow closer to Gamora. Throughout the first two movies, Quill and Gamora’s love for one another became an important aspect of Quill’s life since Gamora helped to fulfill Quill’s need for a strong emotional core even though the two never explicitly shared their emotions until Avengers: Infinity War. This relationship would serve as a catalyst to Quill’s acceptance of what happened in the past since the Guardians and Quill’s mantle as ‘Star-Lord, the leader’ became a cornerstone of the life he missed out on when he was younger.
Two Fathers, Two Lives
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would put his character growth on the forefront as he faced his father, Ego, the biggest threat he had ever encountered apart from Thanos. Since Ego was never truly present for Quill’s childhood, the disconnect between the two grew to a point where Quill didn’t need a parental figure in his life anymore. In the end, his reunion with his father would only prove to Quill that Yondu was a better father in his life than Ego would ever be.
The events of Vol. 2 would bring back Quill’s detestation of his mother’s death and everything about Earth since Ego influenced Quill to believe his truth even though he would reveal he was the one who killed Meredith. In their final battle, Ego destroys Quill’s Walkman, the only thing that helped Quill cope with his mother’s loss, and traps the Guardians, the friends who supported Quill to move past his grievances. With a nice word from Yondu to “use his heart,” Quill finally learns to let go of his personal doubts following Yondu’s death.
However, even after returning to Earth in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Quill had a hard time readapting to the world that raised him since his terrible past resided here. Thankfully, with Mantis’ support as a friend and half-sibling as well as the Guardians as a whole, Quill was better to able to take the time to heal and use their support to face his inner demons head-on.
The Biggest Heartbreak
Even though these events would contribute to Peter Quill’s overcoming of the past, none would compare to the biggest loss that Quill faced as part of the Guardians: the death of Gamora at the hands of Thanos in Infinity War.
While Gamora’s death is very different in comparison to Meredith’s, the impact that Gamora death had on Quill would completely change him deeply. Believing that he was the reason for Thanos taking Gamora at Knowhere, Quill would try to rectify his mistake by ambushing Thanos with Drax, Nebula, Mantis, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange. However, his rage, built from all the heartbreak he’d had throughout the years, finally consumed him and ultimately caused them to lose that battle.
Peter Quill was able to cope with his personal trauma for such a long time thanks to the Guardians’ help, but this inner struggle has created a shell around the once charismatic leader. Following Avengers: Endgame and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Quill became drunken and bitter, almost reminiscent of Thor in the former title. Combined with his hate for Earth, the deaths of his loved ones essentially killed Quill’s optimism for personal resolve. Even with a time-displaced Gamora venturing through the galaxy, Quill is still unable to come to terms with what he’s done because his actions led him down a bad road.
Peter Quill’s story arc with the Guardians has its wrap-up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. At this point in time, Quill is still gripping with his personal trauma which in no doubt has affected everyone on the team in their own way. However, after meeting the Gamora from Endgame, who joined the Ravagers with Stakar Ogord, Quill tries to rectify his mistake by reigniting the chemistry that the two shared before.
Throughout the movie, Quill repeatedly tries to make his move to Gamora, though she continues to shrug him off. Quill believed that he could amend the present by retreading his steps with Gamora, but she doesn’t bear the patience of the old Gamora. However, as Gamora continues to learn about Quill’s familial past, it allows the two to grow a mutual respect for each other. By the end of the movie, Gamora says that they would’ve made a great couple given time, which gives Quill at least some resolution to accept the past.
Where Star-Lord’s Story Goes
Eventually by the end of things, the emotional support of the Guardians and the heartwarming resolve between Quill and Gamora helped Quill to finally accept how things are. By coming to terms with the past and doing what he can to make his present better, Quill is able to emotionally evolve in a beautiful way. In turn, Quill finally makes his way back to Earth to reunite with his grandfather Jason over 38 years since his mother’s passing in a bittersweet moment.
The Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy is much as Peter Quill’s story as it is the rest of the Guardians. His journey throughout these films has been about gradual emotional growth and the ability to overcome personal trauma in the face of all odds. Peter Quill has had to experience more heartache throughout these films and the overall MCU, but as a result of a new strong familial dynamic in the Guardians, Quill is able to become much more than the gunslinger we knew in the first film. There’s no doubt that the legendary Star-Lord will return sooner than expected as he continues to march forward in a new world filled with new cosmic phenomena from The Marvels and Secret Invasion, but that’s for another day.
To sum this piece up, this single quote from Volume 2 can beautifully sum up Peter Quill’s entire character journey: “Sometimes the thing you’re searching for your whole life is right there by your side all along.“
You can read our Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 review here.