With the new year approaching, we celebrate our films of 2014. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy is up.
I was born in 1991. I never experienced the 80s, but I was lucky enough to have a young mum who gave me a first class second-hand education in what the 80s felt like. I was schooled in the power of love, the teachings of the force and that Indy was a cheat. If you didn’t get those references, then you obviously never saw Back To the Future, Star Wars or Indiana Jones. If this is so, please find a wooden cabin and spend a week catching up.
Guardians filled a hole for light-hearted flicks in a genre which has recently been dominated by post-apocalyptic and dystopian films
Guardians of the Galaxy was the movie of the year because it felt like it should have been released 30 years ago, yet it’s opened the gates for superhero movies in the 30 years to come. Guardians had everything you’d expect from an 80s movie, and everything you need from a great sci-fi: phenomenal characters, astonishing worlds and the only soundtrack album in history to hit no.1 without featuring any new songs. There’s rebellious ruffians saving the galaxy, cool leather jackets and awe inspiring space fights.
Many proclaimed it as the Star Wars of this generation (well, except for the actual new Star Wars, which will be out later this year), but The Mix Tape Vol.1 is more reminiscent of Back to the Future. Where Marty McFly made The Power of Love cool, Starlord brought back piña coladas. And Chris Pratt makes the best bumbling space Indiana Jones you’ve ever seen. They even visit space skull island. Guardians filled a hole for light-hearted flicks in a genre which has recently been dominated by post-apocalyptic and dystopian films, where the only adventure is staying alive in a hostile universe.
As much as it feels like a relic of the past, Guardians uses all the methods of the modern superhero genre to suck the viewer in. The core of Marvel movies will always be the characters - they succeed over the competition because the studio deliberately takes the time to develop heroes into likeable characters first, and admirable characters later. Tony Stark is the ‘genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist.’ Captain America is the heart of the soldier given the body to do good. And the Hulk… Well, he’s a natural success because he appeals to our dionysiac Id – subconsciously we all want to see any movie he’s in. Guardians is no different.
There’s no superhero absolutism; this is a chance to do “something good, something bad… A bit of both.” It’s all so grey and human
It says something that one of the most comedy-driven Marvel movies to date starts with the death of a mother and the abandonment of a child. But in retrospect, the opening scenes are probably more important as an introduction to Peter Quill then the now famous dance scene. This is a character constantly operating on a loss. He’s an underdog, like Guardians’s other, unexpected characters. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the independent space woman who don’t need no space Indiana Jones. Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), the complete opposite of the Ewoks, cute and furry and in need of your fake leg. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), the tree with such a small vocabulary that we were nearly brought to tears when he learnt a new word.
Special shout out goes to Guardians member Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) here, partly down to the role actively parodying stereotypes of macho figures. The reason these characters are so appealing is because they all have a cute, beautiful, lost and soft side to them. As Quill says, they’re all “losers… But life’s giving us a chance.” And there’s no absolutist “I’m Batman” or mind-numbing symbolism of ‘Superman = good’; this is a chance to do “something good, something bad… A bit of both.” It’s all so grey and human.
Cinematically, it is undeniable that Marvel is currently owning the superhero universe. The studio now seems to be moving further in to innovative realms. Just as Captain America 2 abandoned SHIELD and Iron Man 3 abandoned the arc reactor, Marvel seems to be abandoning expectations and pushing to ever surprise us. Guardians is not just the first Marvel movie to abandon Earth, it is also the first Marvel movie since the Avengers to bring new property in to the franchise.
The success of Guardians of the Galaxy is not just evidence of how a brand sells, it is evidence of Marvel’s dedication to innovation
The introduction of new worlds and new characters, especially ones which not many people - and basically nobody in the mainstream – had heard of was a risky move. But it paid off. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy is not just evidence of how a brand sells, it is evidence of Marvel’s dedication to innovation in its cinematic universe. The studio has created a tremendous platform for bringing previously obscure comic heroes in to the mainstream, and it knows it. Guardians of the Galaxy has paved the way.
All images: Marvel