“Guardians of the Galaxy” VS. “Star Wars: Episode VII”

Two different movie franchises. One monolithic conglomerate.

Marvel and LucasFilm are now owned by Disney. While the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has been rolling along the last several years, churning out story after story and learning from creative mistakes, the Star Wars series has laid dormant with the aftertaste of the prequel trilogy and the failed 3D release. That being stated, much has been learned from the success of Marvel, and is being applied to the next installment of the Skywalker saga.

But, with so much content being pushed so close together by Disney, will one project over shadow the other?

Two subsidiaries in competition for the same audience — Marvel and LucasFilm. Two movies similar in genre — Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars: Episode VII. In my opinion, it’s Lucas Film at the disadvantage. It’s Star Wars with everything to prove. It’s Guardians of the Galaxy that will capture the torch.

Well, in my mind anyways…

For one reason and one reason only I, personally, compare and contrast these two films: The Mos Eisley Cantina. Allow me to elaborate a bit.

That F***ed up bar

Guardians of the Galaxy is set beyond the familiar reaches of the MCU, deep into space, on worlds where creatures beyond imagination exist. It’s a frontier that Earth bound men have yet to conquer. A wild west almost. Bounty hunters, galactic police, thieves and bootleggers run amok. Sound like a place you know of?

I’ve put these two films together in my mind not only because they share so much, but because one is directly inspired by the other. Star Lord, kidnapped at a very young age and raised by aliens, was a product of the Return of the Jedi and E.T. generation. If anything, real life Earth would be boring and uncomfortable to him. But, as an adult on planets beyond our own, he’s at home. This is the stuff he imagined. Han Solo was his idol, creatures like Chewbacca didn’t freak him out and The Mos Eisley Cantina would be his favorite hang out. It’s commentary on and the ultimate expression of kids who grew up on The Goonies, and the worlds they wanted to live in. Guardians — 1, Episode VII — 0.

In a way, it might be the most personal film for director James Gunn, who is himself part of that generation. Kinda like how J.J. Abrams’ most personal film Super 8 is inspired by and a fond nostalgic trip into Spielberg’s catalog.

Unfamiliar territory

This year has been filled with more sequels, remakes, reboots and adaptations than I care to think about. While I’m sure there is math to support claims of over saturation and lackluster audience response, I’ve actually felt this in theaters. The Amazing Spiderman 2, while surprising and enjoyable, was barely half full at the screening I went to, and is showing disappointing financial returns.

Now, I’m sure Episode VII will make a bundle by default, but the fact remains: it’s a property we all know about. Only super comic book fans are really aware of Guardians. How will people react when they see Rocket Raccoon talk smack or a space adventure with Wars or Trek printed on the poster? Honestly, it could go the way of cult favorites like Dune, or it could be a smash hit oddity. It’s a toss up. Episode VII is riding that wave of being a “guaranteed slam dunk”, while uncertainty surrounds Guardians.

When the prequels were rolled out, they made plenty of dough, but didn’t reach the heights of something like Marvel’s The Avengers. Why? A) Bad word of mouth fought hand and fist with the recognizable brand name and B) It was something everyone had seen already. If there is one thing going for Episode 7, it is the uncertainty of where the story goes. At the same time, it is the high expectations associated with this that could spoil the success. With Guardians, among the general moviegoing public, it’s not a recognizable brand and isn’t a story we’ve seen before. Where the uncertainty harms Star Wars, it helps Guardians.

I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and will always be one. But, this is a series that has a huge wall to climb over. The MCU has provided some of the most wonderfully entertaining and absolutely joyous fantasy stories I’ve seen in a while, and Guardians looks to put it all over the edge. Either way, Disney wins both of my tickets, but which one will be a classic in my heart?

Originally published at billreviewsfilm.blogspot.com on May 4, 2014.

Independent film critic. Progressive po’ boy, moviegoing romantic. SEFCA member, 🍅 - approved. Newsletter at moviesdm.substack.com

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