Superhero movies are the kind that will bring or send me. As a teenager, I lived for these kinds of movies! I loved the escapism they provided. As an aspiring storyteller, I could watch these films, delving deep into the behind the scenes footage, and breathe the relieving sigh that comes with the comfort of being around ‘your people’. People who understand how breathtaking it can be to create a world for the screen from the ground up. One watch could fill you with gumption and a revived sense of purpose to do good in the world. After long, though, these movies began to feel more like gimmicks packed in spandex and armor and well glazed abs. But maybe I just needed a few new heroes to love, and those heroes came to me as five orphaned outlaws.
Peter Quill. Gamora. Drax. Rocket. GROOT. (Mantis, and now Nebula (who I have immense hope for)
When I look back at my first experience with Guardians, what truly grabbed and held my heart was our introduction to the hero. He is not introduced as Starlord, the legendary outlaw, but as Peter Quill, a young boy listening to old pop songs to drown out the sorrow of his mother’s terminal illness. We watch as he breaks, and is then captured by the now lovable Yondu, and then James Gunn proceeds to introduce more characters whom at their core are searching for meaning for their sorrows, but more, for someone they can call home at the end of it all.
For a family.
They are awkward and silly. Angry and vengeful. But courageous enough to decide in spite of what they’ve experienced, that others deserve everyday kindness. Watching, laughing, crying at their sorrows, cheering for their victories, and lavishing in all the music has made James Gunn a bit of a storytelling hero for me.
It’s important to go back to the movies and stories we loved as children. The world teaches us as an adult to connect all of the hidden dots and discover the map within. And as much as I’ve grown to appreciate close reading, these discoveries really don’t compare to the ones I felt as a child. When I watched "The Goonies" for the wonder of it. When I discovered the chill of a dinosaurs roar in "Jurassic Park". Or that dog like creature from "The Neverending Story"...what is he again? The point is that as children, before you even know the deeper meanings, you understand what it is to be wonderstruck. To know when you’re watching something that’s just so cool, you and your friends can chat about it for hours! This is what seems to have fueled James Gunn as he composed Guardians. Like a luminous scrapbook, he paints the Guardians in living kaleidoscopes and nostalgia of music and films he loved as a teen, created adventures sewn in a celestials head, taught life lessons through dance offs, deadly whistles with cupids arrow, and a breakfast club of misfits turned Guardians of the Galaxy; and he did all of these things with the kind of creative abandon I aspire to. He knew he didn't want another story full of the same kinds of heroes. He wanted all of the explosions and action but packed with fun and honest heart level emotions that make it hard not to connect with them. In interviews, James Gunn has explained that he felt in his heart this story was his to tell.
As a writer, one of my biggest insecurities is not being able to guarantee my talent. I can never say that something I write will be successful. But I can tell you that before I let the world in and my mind rule, I’ve dreamt up stories that I knew in my heart would change someones world. These were stories so alive in my head that they almost felt like the story was it’s own thing, and I, merely a vessel chosen to get it out into the world. I think it’s a special feeling you get that doesn’t come with everything dreamt up. And if you have this kind of passion fueling something you’re creating then you should see it through with a kind of reckless abandon. Give it all you’ve got, even if a voice deep inside calls you ridiculous. You should always take your work seriously, but it okay to approach your work playfully. Experiment. Take chances.There’s courage in the silliness. Bravery in the raw. Chris Pratt, one of my faves, who had to fight to prove that he was Starlord, said in one of his interviews that in order to give something to the world, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Lay it all out.
Someone out there needs your courage.
And as Yondu instructs Peter in Guardians of the Galaxy 2:
“I don’t use my head to fly the arrow boy. I use my heart.”