If you haven’t had a chance to see Guardians of the Galaxy yet, might I suggest checking it out? I have been blogging on Sourcerer about 2 things: comics and music. This movie is a perfect combination of those two things.
Previously, it seems like it’s Zack Snyder who had a hold on good use of music in comic-book type movies, especially Watchmen and Sucker Punch. But those movies were a lot darker: Guardians of the Galaxy has great music, and used it to generate a sense of fun, as well as emotional depth.
You can see some of how they use music in the first trailer, with the now iconic use of Hooked on a Feeling. I also think this is a perfect sort of character: it introduced the characters, the movie, and left it pretty much there without giving much away. I avoided other trailers after this one, and just saw the movie from there!
I will say, I do include the second theatrical trailer below, for music purposes. I’ll hit a spoiler section where this is appropriate; but the second trailer gave a lot away so know that. But for now, a couple of the reasons that Guardians of the Galaxy was good, in relation to its use of music!
Music as a Character
From the first moments of the movie, we can see that our lead character, Peter Quill (played by Chris Pratt), loved and loves music. He was getting lost in music as a kid, and, after being abducted, clearly kept this obsession.
He ends up in space for the rest of his life, or at least so far, and his only connections to Earth are his memories (constantly referenced through pop culture), a couple of artifacts (trolls!), and his music.
One cassette. A mix tape, made by his mom, who died right before he was abducted. So it is not only the connection to Earth, to the life he lost, but to his mother, the family he knew. The music stands in for Earth, for family, for love. I used the word obsession, and I think for Peter Quill, this is probably just right.
But it’s more than that. The music functions almost as a character in the movie. It reminds us of the mother who left the music for Peter, it grounds us on the Earth we know even as we experience the cosmic Marvel Universe that is exploding off of the comic page onto the big screen. Because even as these recognizable songs play, you realize they’re not just a soundtrack: they’re the songs Peter has with him.
Putting Our Best Foot Forward
In the comics, as with a lot of science fiction, we come to find that humanity is far behind when it comes to technology. Indeed, this is a major plot in The Avengers, as Nick Fury talks about how they were working on advanced weapons technology because they had found out how powerful the rest of the galaxy seemed to be. Blame Loki, I guess; everyone else does…
Often, it’s human pluck and determination that stands out, or human ingenuity, inventiveness, and diversity. Vague notions to make us feel good about ourselves, and staples of science fiction. It’s rare that something specific gets held up as a special thing from humanity, something that the alien species encountered like from humanity.
Guardians of the Galaxy give us that something. Music. I can point out three examples:
- The guy who takes the headphones, seen in the trailer. He puts them on, listens, and keeps them. Even shirking his guard duty, completely oblivious to the station falling apart around him. He likes the music.
- Gamora. Both in the middle of the film, when Peter is introducing the music to her (and suggests dancing), and you can see her get into the music. So much so that she lets her guard down. And then later on, when she is listening to the music on the ship, and starts dancing.
- Groot. The number one take-away meme from this movie is going to be Groot. I guess to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that.
We can conjecture some of it too. Peter grew up with the Ravagers, and kept his stuff – and kept the Walkman running! – throughout this time. Surely they were exposed to it as well. Also, Peter seems to have a pretty extreme rakish side to him. You can see him potentially sharing his music with women – like he did with Gamora – and having them fall in love with it as well.
I love that there is something of humanity, something of our society and culture, that stands out on the galactic stage. And more than that, I love that the thing that stands out is our music.