Released July 29, 2014
Vinyl released September 16, 2014
44 min, 34 sec [Awesome Mix Vol. 1]
Guardians of the Galaxy is easily in the top three of Marvel Studios’ best films, right next to Avengers and Iron Man.
Part of that was in how it knew when to go full-on serious mode (rarely) and when to ease back and be what one might expect out of a film featuring a tree and a talking raccoon. A huge part of the film’s charm, as a result, is its use and awareness of the first half of its soundtrack, Awesome Mix Vol. 1, itself a major plot point in the film.
The mix tape belongs to Peter Quill, a human abducted as a child at the beginning of the film to serve as a member of a group of space pirates. The only thing he had on him was the mixtape and a cassette player, the two things he cherishes more than anything else in the galaxy, and he continues to listen to it on a regular basis up through his adulthood, as depicted in the film.
Quill was abducted in the late 1970s; as a result, the mixtape, compiled in the film by his mother, is full of 70s standards, and a few less-than-standards. The film’s pop soundtrack is cited as a major selling point, and previously obscure tracks like “Hooked on a Feeling” characterized the film’s early trailers. “Come and Get Your Love” provides the backdrop for the film’s iconic opening sequence, while “I Want You Back” does the same for the mid-credits scene. The rest either complement touching moments in the film, or provide a comedic edge to others, like when “Escape” is played when Peter Quill is being aggressively beaten and electrocuted.
So, the vinyl. Here, we get to the first of many “standard” records in my collection – that is to say, the records are plain black, the sleeve is nothing to write home about, and the package overall is just an album. A double album, yes – this version of the vinyl edition comes with the film’s score as a second record – but a regular album nonetheless. And that’s fine; the records are a little thin, but I’m sure the source audio for the 70s tracks didn’t sound all that great anyway. There aren’t any liner notes, either, which is more frustrating, but whatever.
The score is a film score. That’s being incredibly dismissive and lumps all film scores into one category, but I freely admit that I’ve never been the kind of person to appreciate and understand the finer points of film scoring. Yeah, I get that Hans Zimmer is top tier, and I know that this score is a good one because it doesn’t stand out independently of the film that it needs to complement, but I certainly wouldn’t buy it separately, either. It’s basically just a cool bonus thrown in with Awesome Mix Vol. 1, and that’s all I need.
I mentioned at the top that Guardians is one of the best films that Marvel Studios has ever made. A lot of this can be attributed to the state of superhero films in 2014 – you know, three Iron Mans, two Thors, two Captain Americas, three Batmans in the modern trilogy with a reboot on the way, etc. Guardians avoids feeding into the superhero genre by being something different. Star Wars with modern sensibilities and a shocking amount of toilet humor. A ton of heart, but not so much that the film becomes a chore to watch. Director/writer James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman strike a near-perfect balance of drama and humor, gravitas and taking the piss out of everything in a given scene. It makes the film human, even with four of the main characters being aliens. These characters aren’t superheroes – they’re just people, people that happen to be able to take down a galactic threat. Anyone could have been a Guardian of the Galaxy – these five just happened to be there and were willing to do it.
So you don’t need a suit, or a super soldier serum and a heart of gold, to be a hero, to be awesome. You just need to do it.
Two postscripts (you know they’re postscripts because they’re after the iTunes screenshot):
– The digital edition of Awesome Mix Vol. 1 features “I’m Not in Love” before “I Want You Back,” which is reversed on the vinyl edition; this is done on the vinyl for balance purposes, because “I’m Not in Love” is too long and would mess up the record’s pressing.
– I ordered the vinyl from a special shop Marvel set up for it, which came with the pre-order bonus of a poster featuring the name of everyone who pre-ordered.
– Nice, right? You can see my name pretty clearly on it, but just in case:
– There we go. That’s the stuff.