I just got back from a second viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy. I like this movie, I really did; I didn’t love it though, possibly because my expectations were set impossibly high by the super awesome trailers, but it was very good. Mostly it felt very comfortable, like something expected or half-forgotten–or a bit of both–a friend from childhood or a song on the radio, and that’s not nothing. Of course there’s been much discussion about the 70s music in the movie, and I won’t rehash it, but I can comment on why it resonates for me.
The 70s was an odd decade. All the heroes were dead, a lot of the young men were scarred physically and emotionally by Vietnam, but there was disco and nightlife and sexual freedom, or the promise of it anyway. There was a strange kind of innocence, different from the 50s or 60s, in that hope was dead with the Kennedys, so we might as will dance. The decadence of the 70s translated into the financial grasping of the 80s, with its own kind of decadence. All innocence ended with Reagan.
I was born in 1969, which means my music was from the 80s, but the music that makes me perk up when I hear it on the radio is purely from the 70s, when I was in elementary school. Maybe it’s because the lyrics and themes were still clear and direct, I don’t know, but something in me jumps up when I hear those songs. Everything has meaning, but it’s the context in which it exists that makes that meaning: the same song is different depending on whether you are falling into or out of love.
I always loved Hooked on a Feeling. Loved it, loved it, loved it. I could not tell you how much I loved it, but I can say I really missed it when it stopped playing on classic rock radio. The ooga chugga at the beginning prepares you for a completely different song than what follows. I like surprises. The Piña Colada song, as another example, I think in retrospect, helped form a lot of my opinions about relationships: if you think you’re missing something in your relationship, your partner probably does, too. I heard these songs when I was a kid, probably too young to really understand some of the themes, but I incorporated them into my outlook. Hearing them in a movie with a more modern sensibilities in the 70s does my heart good. Guardians of the Galaxy captures all the sweet spots of the 70s: the music, aesthetic, discovery, colour, and the peculiar innocence everyone was desperately trying to hold onto, despite everything.
In this way Guardians of the Galaxy is kind of a book end to Marvel’s other big movie this summer: X-Men, Days of Future Past. That movie captures the bleakness that everybody understands actually came after the Vietnam War. I remember when the Vietnam war ended; I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was important. I know terrible things have happened in the world since then; the world has not become a better place. I love the X-Men because I feel that it captures the dynamic of the world the way it is, but Guardians of the Galaxy, for all its bleakness and violence, captures the ethos of both freedom of the individual and responsibility for others, in a way we’ve previously scene in Star Wars and Firefly. Guardians of the Galaxy is like Pandora’s box; hope is still inside. So many movies and television today showcase the terrible things we can do to each other, but Guardians of the Galaxy, and its music, resonates for people like me, who want to believe that there is still hope inside, that when it comes right down to it, you really can depend on other people, even when it runs counter to their own self-interest and self-preservation instincts. What the hell. We ain’t got that long a lifespan anyway.