Oh I did it fam. In preparation for my viewing of Avengers: Infinity War on April 26th at 7PM, I went back and rewatched the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Iron Man to Black Panther. Every day leading up to Infinity War I’ll be posting a short piece on each film and my most recent hot takes on nearly a decade of the MCU. I’ll also be linking back to whatever old nonsense I wrote about the movies at the time, if applicable. And if that isn’t enough, check out my ranked listed of the MCU to date on my Letterboxd account here.
It was Guardians! It’s always been Guardians! The movie that made mine Marvel. The one that finally coaxed me into taking that first sip of the Marvel Kool-Aid. Marvel’s third transcendent piece of filmmaking, but the first I recognized as such from day one.
In the summer of 2014, even at the eve of the Star Wars sequel era, all blockbusters, and particularly Marvel films, still shivered in the shadow of the Dark Knight Trilogy for me. Even walking out of Winter Soldier, a film I have since developed quite an affection for, I remember unsurprisingly writing it off as good, but not The Dark Knight. Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that finally got it through to me: “hey dummy, Marvel isn’t in the Dark Knight business!”
In a lot of ways, with Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel made an anti-Batman, an equal and opposite force of inspired cinema.
In a sense, dope as he is, Batman is a dude from the upper echelons of society who was wronged and thus goes about imposing his will on the city beneath him. The Guardians are basically a bunch of misfit burnouts in detention tasked with saving their high school. They aren’t characters who come from a position of power like some of their MCU predecessors and they aren’t fueled by guilt or duty, righteousness or responsibility. They’re some punks who get an opportunity to do the right thing and begrudgingly take it.
That lack of pretense is emphasized by the film’s now-iconic soundtrack. Where the Dark Knight Trilogy has Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard going bananas on eardrums, Guardians cobbles together disparate songs from the radio of yore to an equally compelling but opposite effect. Where Zimmer and Howard’s spectacular scores engulf you and bolster those films’ imagery, underpinning a cinematic experience that towers over audiences, the Guardians soundtrack endears itself to the audience, coaxing your guard down and drawing you in closer. Additionally, ample credit has not been given to Tyler Bates’ score for the film, which proves particularly potent during some of the film’s quieter, more potent moments.
Of course you can’t talk about Guardians without discussing its humor. This film has moments of not only comedic relief, but straight-up comedy. Among the crazy visuals, catchy tunes and compelling story it was the comedy of Guardians I really found myself relishing, basking in the laughs on my way out of the theater. From the goofy opening dance number on Guardians declares itself willing and able to be unapologetically bright and colorful and hilarious. It doesn’t fail at achieving the operatic grandeur of The Dark Knight because it has no interest in being a grand opera.
For me, The Dark Knight ushered in a new level of engagement with movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that pried me free of the dogmas I’d picked up seeing The Dark Knight in theaters a dozen times. James Gunn’s film didn’t diminish my adoration of Christopher Nolan’s films, it expanded my appreciation for blockbusters at large, and all the flavors they can come in. I watch blockbuster films with a more thoughtful eye, and engage with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as intensely as I do, because of Guardians of the Galaxy.
For a stroll down memory lane to a time in which my computer screwed me over (thanks ASUS, kindly go to hell) and I wound up handwriting and drawing my blog posts and taking pictures of them on my phone to post: