Monday, May 8, 2017

Musical Monday - Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass

I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2. The movie was really good. If you have not, you should go see it. No, I mean go see it. Now. I can wait.

Okay, so you're back. Now that you've seen it, I'm guessing that you agree that the latest cinematic installment of Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic film. The old characters are all just as good as they were in the first movie, the new characters are all interesting and fit into the fictional universe almost perfectly, the villain is appropriately big and villainous, the story is strong, and the action sequences are excellent. These movies are big, splashy super-hero themed space opera that often reminds me of the over the top portions of classic science fiction works like the Lensman series.

But, all that said, what really puts the Guardians of the Galaxy movies over the top are their use of music to help tell the story. Despite ostensibly being about a kind of super-heroish team of characters who are kind of super-heroes in both powers and inclination, these movies are really about Peter Quill, and nowhere is this conveyed more clearly than in the 1970s themed soundtrack. The music is all drawn directly from Quill's childhood, and in this movie, from the music his parents listened to (and which Quill's mother passed down to him) during their somewhat ill-fated romance. This music sets the tone for the entire movie, and it is unequivocally part of Quill.

There are some movies that have used a soundtrack made up of popular music as well as the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies have - American Graffiti and The Big Chill are two that spring to mind - but in those other cases, the primary purpose of the music was to create a sense of nostalgia. The music in American Graffiti was intended to evoke a sense of nostalgia in its audience, reminding them of their youth, and the music in The Big Chill was intended to convey the fact that the characters in its story were engaged in a nostalgia trip of their own. To a certain extent, Quill's love of classic hits from the 1970s is his attempt to keep his memories of his childhood on Earth before his mother's death alive, as well as an attempt to remain connected with his mother's memory. But for Quill, this music isn't just the music of the past, it is quite clear that in his mind, this is the music of Earth, and also the music of his here and now.

The Guardians of the Galaxy films are so intimately connected to their 1970s soundtracks, that it is almost impossible to think of the movies without them. When I consider if the movies would have worked nearly as well without these songs, I have to conclude that they would not, and quite possibly would simply not be good at all. The soundtracks are, I think, really that important to elevating these movies from being merely average to being excellent.

Previous Musical Monday: Convoy by C.W. McCall
Subsequent Musical Monday: Iron Man Theme

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