GUEST COLUMN: Soundtracking (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Neil Reyes

I don’t know about you, but after seeing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the words “I am Groot” and the chorus to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” are stuck in my head.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great movie, and its ‘70s solid-gold soundtrack is one of the most entertaining and cleverly incorporated in a superhero movie. For the most part, comic book films feature epic scores to match the intensity of every scene and character. Director James Gunn and company carefully combines Tyler Bates’s original score for the film with Peter Quill’s “Awesome Mix, Vol. 1.” It’s fitting how an unlikely playlist featuring the likes of Rupert Holmes, 10cc, and Redbone ties together a film about misfit heroes.

There are few moments in superhero movies, especially in the most recent string of Marvel films, where non-orchestral music plays as prominent a role as it did in GOTG. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, music is one of the many aspects of life Steve Rogers has to constantly play catch-up with. Shortly after their morning run run-in, Sam Wilson recommends Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” to the Captain.

The presence of AC/DC’s riffs in Iron Man and Iron Man 2 gave Tony Stark that extra edge to become the life of the party. One of my favourite music moments from the Marvel films occurs when Tony fights Col. Rhodes in Iron Man 2, while DJ AM spins Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” While Stark is mostly responsible for the tunes, the tracks simply assist in setting up each scene.

The film adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen by Zack Snyder has one of the best soundtracks, given the songs included and the moments where they occur. Set in a fictional 1980s, the film’s soundtrack features three Bob Dylan-penned tunes (“The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Desolation Row,” and “All Along the Watchtower”) as well as tracks mentioned by name in the comic book.

Snyder also memorably used Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during Nite Owl and Silk Spectre’s sex scene aboard the Archie. The use of Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” before the film’s climax remains one of my favourite movie music moments. As superb as the song selection may be, the plot and the characters has never as driven by the music as they are in Guardians.

The music in Guardians of the Galaxy plays such a prominent role for Peter Quill that many of the plot elements revolve around the songs actually playing on his Sony Walkman. Each track sets the scene: from romantic (Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”) to badass (The Runaways’s “Cherry Bomb”) to sublimely ridiculous (Blue Swede). Pratt does a fantastic job establishing a connection to each track. What says “child of the ‘80s” better than a clear cassette tape and a Walkman?

The Guardians of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1 is available on iTunes and on compact disc, and will be available on vinyl on August 18, 2014. Replica cassette fabrications are being sold on eBay in honour of the movie, and playlists on YouTube and keep popping up. It’s a really great collection of songs, worthy of throwing onto your mp3 player or in your car. And don’t be surprised if you groove to it as much as Star Lord.

Neil Reyes is passionate about music. He graduated from the University of Guelph and Mohawk College and spends his time writing about music from Hamilton, ON. He’s also pretty good at taking concert photos. Don’t be surprised if you catch a Simpsons or This Is Spinal Tap reference in his writing.