By Bill Arceneaux
Slowly but surely, the Marvel Cinematic Universe – which began with Iron Man – has become a series (I cringe at the mention of “franchise”) as engaging as it is creative. The days of a studio buying the rights to a comic book, rolling out a movie and praying it makes money are… well, not exactly over, but dwindling. Marvel, after years of trial and error, has come up with a comfortable formula for producing some of the best movies and widely compelling stories we’ve seen in a while.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they can just take a break and rest.
Their next installment in the MCU will be Guardians of the Galaxy, coming out this August. To the general public, this is not a title that is recognizable or well known at all. Taking place in the far reaches of space, with the barest of connections to the other MCU films, and featuring a talking/fighting racoon, this project could be a great hit or a horrible miss – I doubt it’ll be in between.
For anyone unsure about this movie, I have compiled a short list of movies that I recommend you hunt down and watch before August rolls around. If I’ve done my job well, you’ll go into Guardians well rounded and well informed:
The Last Starfighter
This is a traditional hero’s journey from the ’80s. A young man, skilled at arcade games and looking for something more in life, is scooped up and sent on an intergalactic mission. Based on what little I know of the lead character in Guardians – Star Lord – this is a perfect recommendation. The tone of the trailer suggests that our hero is a stunted adult of that generation, living his adventurous life based on the VHS sci-fi tapes he viewed on the living room floor.
A sci-fi movie influenced by genre classics, appealing to the very generation its lead belongs to. Wonderful.
The director of Guardians, James Gunn, isn’t a household name (yet), but he’s worked on mainstream films like Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and the Dawn of the Dead remake. His previous directorial effort was a Louisiana shot gem, about a deranged loner turned vigilante. Super is an example of his storytelling prowess, his understanding of comic book fandom dynamics and incredibly subversive humor. How will a man who wrote and directed a movie about a pipe wrench wielding crazy person take an obscure comic book and make it accessible to mainstream audiences? I don’t know. But, I do know that dirty minds exist at Marvel’s parent company Disney, and if there is anybody wicked and clever enough to be seedy without being R Rated, it’s James Gunn.
Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope (theatrical cut)
The grandfather of modern sci-fi, fantasy, nerd culture, etc – yes, there is a crystal clear Star Wars vibe surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy, and the whole MCU too. While any of the Original Trilogy flicks could fit the bill, it’s A New Hope that does so the best. Both that and Guardians are introductions into a world (and worlds) beyond belief, filled with fantastical characters and even more fantastical environments, and somehow remains emotionally relative. The best scenes that represent the feel I expect from Guardians? Everything in the Mos Eisley Cantina and the final moments of the attempt to destroy the Death Star.
HIGH expectations for this one, folks. HIGH.