Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.
This week’s heresy:
“Guardians of the Galaxy has already cemented itself as one of the films of the year, and stands out amongst Marvel Studios already crowded film-universe for its sparkling wit and sense of fun. But if you look at it with a critical eye, it is basically a big-screen version of Farscape.”
I think it’s safe to say, by now, that summer 2014 belongs to Guardians of the Galaxy. Forget your CGI lizards (both of them), our hearts belong to anthropomorphic trees with limited vocabularies (and 60s/70s soundtracks).
One thing struck me rather strongly whilst watching it, though. Between the intergalactic outlaws, the dated pop-culture quips, and the madcap-yet-emotional tone, it reminded me of something quite particular, and very distinctive.
That is to say, it reminded me of one of my favourite TV shows: Farscape.
For those who aren’t familiar (and who plainly aren’t one of my two readers), Farscape was an early 2000s SF show made by the Jim Henson Company, centred around a human astronaut catapulted across the galaxy and forced to throw in with a crew of alien criminals. Which, er, sounds familiar. It ran for four seasons and a two-part “mini-series”, and is absolutely worth a watch.
There are, I think, a lot of parallels beyond the basic premise. Peter Quill is like a goofier version of John Crichton (with a six pack). The encyclopaedic pop culture knowledge for one thing, but also the all-American hero personality. Similarly, Aeryn Sun and Gamorah; the former a soldier in an alien army, turned against her people, the latter an alien assassin in the employ of a big bad, who turns against him.
Borderline-psychotic alien warrior bent on revenge on the killer of his family? Drax, or D’Argo. Living tree? Groot, but also Zotoh Zhaan. I suppose Rocket Racoon isn’t exactly Rygel, but Ronan as Scorpious works sort of well. And Scarren emperor Staleek for Thanos…
Okay, so it’s not exact. But the closer comparison is with the tone and pace. I loved Farscape because it had a real sense of fun and willingness to try new ideas — particularly its embrace of animatronics and puppetry. Guardians of the Galaxy is still very CGI-heavy, but it has that same attitude with t_he story, with the characters, with the way the whole damn thing was so achingly fun from start to finish without sacrificing on the emotional tone.
Farscape was the classic outsider series, low budget with not much chance, but it led with heart. And that, more than budget or actors or Marvel-ness, was what made Guardians a win. The mooted upcoming Farscape film could do worse than look at what it got right.