Let’s be honest, right now, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is telling better Star Wars stories than Lucasfilm productions are.
It’s amazing how Marvel C-list characters blew open the doors to become A-listers with the release of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Remarkably, both films and the team’s subsequent appearances in other MCU productions have resulted in outstanding space opera — even better than what Lucasfilm has produced with its recent Star Wars projects.
Even Gunn isn’t too interested in playing in a galaxy far, far away. In a Facebook Q&A, he revealed how he cut a Star Wars reference from his first film. “In the screenplay that was written by Nicole Perlman before I came on to Guardians, Kevin [Feiget] had asked that Star-Lord have these Star Wars figures that he loved. And so these Star Wars figures were in the movie and played a big part in it. But I thought that didn’t work for me, so I took them out.”
But how is it possible that Marvel’s cosmic goofs surpassed George Lucas’ epic franchise? Let’s unpack this further.
Star-Lord is basically Han Solo for a new generation
Peter Quill and his pals zipped around the galaxy on a spaceship named the Milano. It is no slouch as a powerful or fast machine, but its true strength is in the person piloting it and the conversations on board. Where does this sound familiar?
Essentially, Star-Lord is the Han Solo of Guardians of the Galaxy, while the Milano is the Millennium Falcon. The recent Star Wars films suffered immensely by offing Harrison Ford’s intergalactic smuggler in The Force Awakens, especially since he was one of the most beloved characters from the original trilogy. While Rey still has Chewbacca with her in the Falcon, it’s not the same. The Millennium Falcon was always supposed to be about Chewie and Han. Now, it feels like someone riding around in your old car; it’s weird when you see it.
Guardians of the Galaxy has higher stakes than Star Wars
Say what you want about Star-Lord’s part in allowing Thanos to snap his fingers and eviscerate half of humanity, but the Guardians of the Galaxy played a pivotal part in the Infinity War saga. They were front and centre of the action, standing alongside the likes of heroes such as Captain America and Iron Man and never looking out of place.
Star Wars can’t move past the Skywalkers. It’s like a bad story arc from The Young and the Restless where one family demands all the attention and everyone gets sucked into their never-ending drama. This universe is meant to be massive and sprawling, yet everything comes back to the Skywalkers and their endless problems. It would be nice to have at least one single Star Wars story where not a single member of that family is mentioned at all.
Here’s the thing: Disney properties have a formula. Since this is a studio that puts family first, there are certain non-negotiables in the films and television shows. For one, humour is important. There needs to be levity in the films to cut through the tension and drama. Undoubtedly, Guardians of the Galaxy does a better job at producing these quips, which feel like actual responses expected from these characters, than Star Wars, where it comes across as shoehorned and forced. For example: Compare any of Rocket’s mischievous lines to the exchange between Poe Dameron and General Hux in the beginning of The Last Jedi. One comes across as natural and flowing in the context of the character while the other felt more parodical than Spaceballs.
In addition, space operas are meant to bursting with various creatures and colourful worlds. Yet, it’s only Guardians of the Galaxy that’s delivering on both fronts. Whether it’s Baby Groot or planets like Knowhere, this universe always feels like it has more to explore and show the audience, as it’s able to cross the pop culture divide and appeal to people who may not even be fans of the MCU. Conversely, apart from Grogu in The Mandalorian, has anything from Star Wars caught the eye of the mainstream in recent years?
Maybe it’s time to be honest with ourselves and accept that Star Wars is no longer the juggernaut franchise it once was. It might hold a special place in the hearts of fans due to the original trilogy and its impact on entertainment, but right now, Guardians of the Galaxy is telling better Star Wars stories than Lucasfilm productions are.