Guardians of the Galaxy movie connections

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)

Cue the Electric Light Orchestra, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters this week. That means Star-Lord (who?), Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Baby Edition Groot are back for a new neon-tinged adventure. When the first installment of the franchise-within-a-giant-franchise landed, it breathed new life into the MCU by re-engaging with its sarcastic, hero may care roots.

It also walked in the footsteps of some of the biggest nostalgia targets of this generation. Namely, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. It was a space opera in the midst of Iron Man and Captain America, complete with a banging ’70s soundtrack. A black sheep in its family, there was a time people were absolutely convinced it would tank the Marvel brand name. Now, it’s essentially its second pillar upon which James Gunn gets to goof off and throw a dance party.

While the first was about abandoned child Peter Quill forming an unusual family, Vol. 2 is about keeping that family together after reuniting with the father you’ve been searching for your whole life.

ranking star wars

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

As usual, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The inspiration and parallels are obvious here. Both are epic sci-fi sequels attempting to deepen the emotional mythology established in the first entry. Both deal directly with daddy issues and training new abilities. Both see their groups grow by splitting them up. Gunn is straightforward about the influence. “The Empire Strikes Back was in my mind a lot as a model,” he told Uproxx recently, adding, “simply because, honestly, there’s not that many sequels that build strongly upon their predecessor.” Naturally, he also looked to The Godfather Part II, another sequel improvement that confronts family, abandonment, and father figures with life and death on the line.

follow me boys

Follow Me, Boys!

This story of a traveling jazz man who settles down to lead a Boy Scout troop anchored by the town troublemaker is an odd Disney relic. It came in Fred MacMurray’s career resurgence (known only by me as the MacMurraissance) where he applied his film noir skills to family films like The Absent-Minded Professor which were built on charming premises and silly gags. Playing the town troublemaker, it’s also one of Kurt Russell’s earliest movies. In Follow Me, Boys!, Russell is “Whitey,” a juvenile delinquent who’s eventually thrown in a futuristic maximum security prison that encompasses all of Manhattan. No, wait. I’m getting two movies confused.

In this harmless Disney mess-around, Russell’s Whitey joins the Boy Scouts in earnest after his alcoholic father dies and he’s adopted by MacMurray’s scoutmaster, offering him stability and access to the superpower known as knot tying. If you’re looking for another glimpse into Russell as a child star, you could also check out Guns of Diablo, which sees him hanging onto a veteran trailhand played by none other than Charles Bronson.

the fifth element

The Fifth Element

I like to think that Guardians and The Fifth Element take place in the same universe, where a planet-sized ball of pure evil or a magic stone everyone’s chasing after could threaten all life at a moment’s notice. Like the predecessor’s before it that set the formula down in clay, The Fifth Element sees a scruffy, likable bastard with no morals to speak of thrust into the position of joining a ragtag gang tasked with protecting the galaxy. Watching both back-to-back would also be an interesting test to see which one is weirder, but the starkest difference is in their stylistic sheen. While Guardians is CGI-glossy, The Fifth Element looks like its held together by rust and crossed fingers.

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