*Spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2*
The Guardians of the Galaxy movies for me will go down as two of the best comic book adaptations ever put to film. They are full of colourful cinematography, unique writing, and a zany collection of once-outcast characters. These films however have something much deeper to them which let them stand out from the crowd. It can be argued that the aforementioned examples are at the heart of James Gunn’s interpretation, but it’s really the music that keeps everything steady; the music is what drives both movies to an almost unimaginable extent. The fact that there are numerous examples of scenes that simply wouldn’t work with an epic score by even the best composer only goes to prove my point.
James Gunn had said the purpose of the music in the first two films was to have each song be a way of communication between Meredith and Peter Quill. A unique instance in the pair of space operas is use of Fleetwood Mac’s iconic ‘The Chain’. The song is used twice in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and is done so masterfully in both instances. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 had the burden of getting the story of these characters from point B to C, without much establishment as we had seen in the first. Where point B takes part is 2 months after the success of twelve percent of a plan. The Guardians had a fairly happy ending in their first outing and the sequel picked the feeling up right where it had been left off. That feeling quickly fades as Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill’s egos begin clashing, their bickering leading to a power struggle in the middle of a dogfight which subsequently fractures some relationships within the team as a whole and crashes the Milano.
This feud continues as the team tries to figure out their next move. Out of nowhere Peter’s father arrives on the forested planet and claims he wants to take his son home. Reluctantly, Peter agrees and takes a group consisting of Drax and Gamora. Before parting ways, Rocket mocks Peter by saying that he hopes his father isn’t as big of a dick as he is. Peter follows up by asking Rocket if his goal is really to make everyone hate him, quickly remarking afterwards that it is working. The Chain’s chorus begins to play as Peter’s group part ways. This clearly represents the bond of the team the audience fell in love with over the course of the first movie being tugged and nearly torn apart. This is so well done as it works on several level, they are being separated, not only emotionally, but physically as Rocket, Baby Groot, and an entrapped Nebula are left alone on a foreign world to try and fix the Milano. We’re left asking if the bonds will repair, and if you’re that kind of audience member, perhaps you asked how. The music uses pathos effectively where more dialogue could have ruined or oversold the tension. The use of little to no other sound than the Fleetwood Mac song itself allows the viewer to soak in the lyrics. Upon my first viewing it gave me a feeling of betrayal within the team, how some characters could leave others behind was a bit of a sad thought. This separation was a great choice for the narrative and the music compliments it, a harrowing decision will obviously have an impact so what accompanies it must also.
James Gunn goes through hundreds of songs for these films, each song might not have to mean something that’s obvious to the audience but ‘The Chain’ is an example where it has an obvious meaning. The lyrics are clear and since we hear it twice with contrasting surroundings, it can stand out a bit more.
Throughout the journey Gunn takes us on, the team slowly comes back together to fight Peter’s evil planet father whose selfish intent leads to using his own son to achieve his purpose of taking over the Galaxy. In the midst of the third act’s battle, the newest Guardian, Mantis is holding Ego back with her empathetic powers. After the Guardians defeat the Sovereign fleet that had ambushed them, Mantis is quickly incapacitated by a piece of debris. Ego comes back with no restraint, furiously attacking the Guardians. Yondu, Peter, and Rocket continue the fight as the remainder of the team except for Groot all attempt to get back to Kraglin who is on the surface of Ego. Before they can, the planet turns on them, entrapping each member as they frantically try to escape. Peter is impaled with Ego’s celestial powers once again to serve as a battery.
Though Peter’s Walkman is destroyed, ‘The Chain’ appears as he begins to fight these bonds. The Guardians are immediately freed as the song hits the familiar chorus. As mentioned before, music is a connection between Meredith and Peter. The use of the Fleetwood Mac song in this scene means so many things for our characters as it fits to perfection. The chain is broken between Peter and Ego, but the song starts as the team is freed, meaning the Guardian’s ‘chain’ is still very well intact.
It’s these subliminal connections that enhance the experience of the movie further, in addition to selling us the characters Gunn has presented and knew we’d fall in love with. These connections would never be made without the music which is an inherent and integral aspect of the movie. That is not to discredit the director’s dedication to each character, but something about the music of these films holds so well and makes things work exceptionally. Whether it is used for comedic timing, or heartfelt scenes, the music is a device that hooks its audience with the same feelings as a character. It’s not uncommon, but it has never been used like this and has spawned many hardcore fans of the franchise.
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is in the pipeline with Gunn set to return for one last adventure with this incarnation of the Guardians. I for one, cannot wait to see him fine-tune his skills in the conclusion of this team’s storyline, with the inclusion, of course, new music to bring it life to life.
Written by: Payton – @desultoryuser on Twitter