By Bill Arceneaux
Personally, when I go on long car trips, I love listening to some New Amsterdams, specifically their album Worse for the Wear. For me, being at ease, calm and contemplative is best when driving. Worse for the Wear fits the bill for helping those feelings, and driving any other way seems unnatural. Without that album, I’d probably hum the tunes anyways. I tried mix CDs for a while, but each compilation was so diverse and sporadic, that my mood would change dramatically with each song. This might just say a lot about me, and I’m not certain if it would be good or not. I think I’d prefer receiving a mix than making one.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, music can be just as important, if not more, than the visuals. I’d be willing to bet that the selection of songs was curated as carefully as the script was assembled. It’s a most wonderful mix – fun, rockin’ and sentimental, timed precisely in just the right places. This might be a case where the action takes its cues from the music.
As an example, there are two scenes whose use of song gave me pause. In the first, we have a “suit up” montage, where our heroes are developing a plan to faceoff with Ronan (played as a most evil spectre by an unrecognizable Lee Pace). Playing in sync with each line and cut is “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways. To cap the sequence off, the group walks down a hallway, in slow motion. The punk rock gives the coming together of these characters a very misfit-like identity, which is exactly what they are – misfits. They don’t conform to any one planet or society, living lonely existences until meeting one another. Putting a thief, an assassin, a knife-wielder filled with rage, a talking Racoon and a walking tree in one room is like lighting a bomb. Of course, when they form a bond, it becomes sweet, like a cherry. Perhaps this was over-curated?
Maybe. In the second scene, we see a cluster of destruction. Softly, we hear “O-O-H Child” by The Five Stairsteps slowly kick in. It’s a bit of a joke, to have it play at this moment, but it’s a moment that made me realize something. The music isn’t just playing for the audience or out of Star Lord’s (the leader of this ragtag mishmash) walkman tape player; it’s playing in his mind. It’s the soundtrack of his life. If the music wasn’t literally playing, it would still be in his head, as the background to everything he witnesses. I imagine that, within the context of the movie, Star Lord was humming “Cherry Bomb” all the while he and his companions were gearing up. He’s exactly that kind of guy to set music to all he does. Arrogant? Sure. Funny? Sure. Depthful, relatable and human? Absolutely.
Gabbing about the use of movie music in a movie reviewis probably not to be expected. But nothing about Guardians of the Galaxy is “to be expected.” If you took the outlaws from the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope and made a flick around them, this might be what you’d end up with, and I use the word “might” very loosely. Guardians completely changes and expands the idea of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, turning an obscure comic book property into a fanboy by way of The Last Starfighter type fantasy. If you were an 80s kid, and got abducted by aliens at that time, man would you fit in well with space adventures, living like Han Solo and all.
The movie itself is like a mix tape, pulling up such an eclectic cast, with names like John C. Reilly and Glenn Close making appearances, and Zoe Saldana and Vin Diesel rounding out the main cast. Of note is Dave Bautista (Batista in WWE), who plays the very literal thinking Drax. Beneath his very detailed makeup is a tough brute with a code of honor and a mind like a dictionary. He’s clueless when it comes to Star Lord’s quips, making for some of the film’s funniest scenes. Drax completes this oblong puzzle of a team so well by being so specifically alien, with a culture familiar only to him. And the same goes with the others, all uniquely themselves. A gun armed Racoon and an imposing walking tree, computer generated and well fleshed out individuals? Yes.
After Guardians, I now hope to hum and tap my foot to other summer movies. If the rhythm is good, and hits me in the heart, I may want to drive to some as well. Though, while I did like Transformers 4, I don’t think driving along to it would be a good idea.
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Best Moment(s): Star Lord distracting Ronan… with a dance / Drax learning about metaphors.
Worst Moment: Having to leave the theater.
Advice: Don’t get a pet Racoon afterwards.