“Guardians of the Galaxy” had stunning effects, hilarious moments and a lot of great action sequences. For all its uniqueness within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Guardians” follows a familiar template for a space adventure, right down to Star-Lord’s dance off with Ronan.
Nearly four decades ago, “Star Wars” set a high bar for any and all science fiction movies set in space, and “Guardians” director James Gunn looked to follow in George Lucas’s footsteps. Both “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” share several things in common. From the characters to the plot and even to their big finales, both space fantasies successfully wowed audiences with similar tricks. Here’s a list of the 15 ways “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a lot like “Star Wars.”
WARNING: The following list contains spoilers for several MCU and “Star Wars” films.
15. SPACE COWBOYS
Han Solo is the ultimate space cowboy. He roams the galaxy, picking up smuggling jobs as needed. He gets himself and his co-pilot into plenty of scrapes, but manages to either talk or shoot his way out of most troublesome encounters. As a smuggler, Han Solo claims he’s the best in the galaxy. Meanwhile, he seems to owe money to just about everyone he bumps into. As a space cowboy, he looks the part, in riding boots, with a blaster on his hip. He may not wear a leather duster, but Han cuts a fine figure in any cantina he enters.
Speaking of leather dusters, Peter Quill has one, and it’s only a part of what makes him a cool space cowboy. Quill has the same attitude of shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later. Like Han Solo, Quill is usually on the wrong side of the law and has to talk his way out of a lot of bad situations. He also has the same bravery and sense of humor, even if his jokes are a little lame sometimes.
14. PRISON BREAKS
When a movie is about a gang of criminals who are on the run from the law, a prison break scene is usually a given. In the “Star Wars” movies, the rebels were continually getting caught by, then escaping from, the clutches of the Empire. Princess Leia was the target of the first prison break, which included navigating a garbage compactor and swinging across a chasm to safety, two of the most iconic scenes in film history.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the whole gang had to break themselves out at one point. While, a lot of Stormtroopers got blasted in “Star Wars,” that couldn’t compare to the chaos and violence caused by Rocket’s escape plan. A man lost his prosthetic leg! The Guardians fought and shot their way into the center chamber, picking up Drax and blasting out. In both “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the prison breaks helped a group of misfits bond together.
13. WEAPONS POWERED BY GEMS
Very little was known about lightsabers when Luke Skywalker lit his up for the first time in “A New Hope.” Other than seeing different colors for different Jedi and Sith, movie fans knew very little about how a lightsaber was made. Now, however, fans know that lightsabers can be created in a variety of ways, but the traditional way is for a Jedi Knight to mine their own Kyber Crystal, perhaps from a planet like Lothal. Jedi have existed for thousands of years, so Kyber Crystals, from which their weapons are made, have tied together the galaxy’s alien and human races for just as long.
In the MCU, there’s a specific group of gems, or stones, that tie together all the movies, as well as different groups of superheroes and villains. The Infinity Stones on their own don’t necessarily power a specific kind of weapon (although they do power the Infinity Gauntlet when all brought together), but they can power all kinds of things. They can also be used as weapons all by themselves. The Time Stone was the most recent Infinity Stone to be revealed. In “Doctor Strange,” it sat at the center of the Eye of Agamotto and was used to defeat Dormammu. Rumor has it the Soul Stone will be revealed in “Thor: Ragnarok,” which will premiere this year on July 28.
12. CLUNKY, BUT BELOVED, SPACE SHIPS
A space cowboy has to have a sweet ride, even if it’s beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. One of the most famous running gags in all of the “Star Wars” movies is the fact that even though the Millennium Falcon looks like garbage, it’s one of the fastest ships in the galaxy. It’s probably had more repairs and upgrades than any other spaceship in the galaxy too. Regardless of its dingy appearance and jacked-up systems, pilots in the know, like Rey and Han, still appreciate it.
Peter Quill feels similarly about his ship, the Milano, which is named for Alyssa Milano, who was a hottie on Earth in the ’80s when Quill still lived there. Throughout “Guardians of the Galaxy,” we see Quill making repairs to the Milano, all the while defending her when his partners in crime question the ship’s reliability. Although, when Gamora points out how filthy it is, Quill remarks that it’s a good thing no one’s got a black light.
11. DANCING IS IMPORTANT
“Return of the Jedi” served up two of the most exciting, and now iconic, female images in sci-fi history. First was the sight of Princess Leia showing off a lot of skin in her slave girl bikini. Second was seeing Oola, the alien slave girl, displaying a whole lot of green skin while she danced for Jabba the Hutt. Oola’s dance, which was set to “Lapti Nek,” included her creative use of a chain. She got a little too creative, as we know, because it led to a short series of events that made her wind up as rancor chow.
Music and dancing are very important to Peter Quill. So much so, that when he’s facing certain death at the hands of Ronan, he challenges his enemy to a dance off. Quill busts out the running man, some Michael Jackson moves, and even attempts to pop and lock. His dancing shenanigans, however, turn out to be their saving grace, because he distracts Ronan long enough for Drax to blast the Power Stone out of Ronan’s Universal Weapon.
10. GROOT IS CHEWBACCA
Both “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” feature large creatures that communicate to their best friends without actually talking. When Chewbacca growls, grunts or roars, Han Solo knows what he is saying, even though no one else around them does. Chewbacca is alternately intimidating and endearing, depending on his audience. His height and strength have proven to be useful more than once, but they belie the fact that he also feels great affection for Han, and later, his other friends.
Groot is very similar to Chewbacca, except instead of fur he has roots, and instead of growling he simply says, “I am Groot.” Groot speaks his one phrase in very expressive ways, which generally convey what he’s thinking. Rocket Raccoon, of course, completely understands what Groot is saying, as we witness when the two of them share a heart-to-heart in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Like Chewbacca, Groot effectively uses his strength and imposing height in a fight.
9. SMALL FURRY CREATURES PROVE HELPFUL
Sometimes even the bravest, most cunning heroes get an assist in surprising ways. In “Return of the Jedi,” like it or not, the rebels were only able to defeat the Empire because a band of furry friends joined the fray. Wicket and the other Ewoks set up multiple traps and devices to help destroy AT-STs and knock down Stormtroopers. With only rocks and logs, the cute little guys were a huge help to the rebellion.
It would be a mistake to say the small, furry creature in “Guardians of the Galaxy” was cute, especially to his face. Rocket Raccoon is as fierce as they come, with tactical skills and an engineering talent to boot. The Guardians would never have escaped prison without him, and he was instrumental in their big plan to get the orb. Rocket is coarse and surly, but in the end, he proved to be a loyal friend with a softer heart than he let on.
8. TATTOOS ARE IMPORTANT
Possibly the coolest thing in all of “The Phantom Menace” is Darth Maul’s tattoos. His red and black markings make him look terrifying. Even though the movie doesn’t give us any of Darth Maul’s background, “Star Wars” canon says that Darth Maul is from Dathomir, where males have horned heads and distinctive markings on their skin. Before he became a Sith Lord, he was a member of the tattooed clan of Zabrak warriors. His red skin and black tattoos are a sign of his warrior heritage.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” doesn’t explain Drax’s tattoos either, but he talks about them briefly in a deleted scene that’s included in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Two Collection.” When he’s drunk, he tells Rocket that his tattoos are a history of his life, especially of his dead wife and daughter. In press junket interviews, Dave Bautista, who plays Drax, said that the tattoos mean a lot to Drax, even though all the audience sees are skulls and bones.
7. OPPOSITES ATTRACT
Smooth-talking and charm are big parts of being a space cowboy. Han Solo oozed charm, but that didn’t mean it always worked for him. Princess Leia, for one, wasn’t impressed with him when he teased her or tried to flatter her. Whether they liked it or not, they were stuck together on the Millennium Falcon. Of course, the two of them were cut from the same cloth, which meant eventually, they wound up smooching in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
Peter Quill had a similar effect on Gamora in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” We figured out Peter must be successful with the ladies when Bereet popped up in the Milano in all her fuschia glory. However, his flattery and one-liners didn’t work very well when he met Gamora, for whom he was clearly smitten. Being forced to work together brought them closer, just like Han and Leia. Eventually, Gamora could no longer resist Peter (with a little help from Elvin Bishop) and kissed him.
6. ALWAYS TWO, THERE ARE
Even bad guys have a hierarchy. In both “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the main antagonists are working for superiors. Darth Vader is powerful and lethal, but he is under the command of the Emperor. The Sith believe that there can only be two, a master and an apprentice. The apprentice is loyal to the master, until the day the apprentice kills the master and takes on his own apprentice. Darth Vader remained loyal to Darth Sidious until his humanity finally made him vulnerable to the love he felt for his son, Luke Skywalker.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a similar story of betrayal plays out. Ronan the Accuser wants to destroy the planet of Xandar, so he makes an uneasy alliance with Thanos. Ronan agrees to acquire the Orb and give it to Thanos, in exchange for Thanos wiping out Xandar. Unlike Darth Vader, who seemed to be respectful of the Emperor, Ronan chafes at being under the thumb of Thanos. Once he sees what the Power Stone can do, he doublecrosses Thanos and keeps it, then tries to destroy Xandar himself.
5. FORCE FIELDS
Force fields are a cool sci-fi trope. They are very common in space opera and space fantasy movies, helping to protect people, starships and even entire planets. There are all kinds of force fields and deflector shields in the “Star Wars” movies. The most important ones are the ones protecting the Death Star in both “A New Hope” and “Return of the Jedi.” “The Force Awakens” has a big finale in which the rebels succeed only because a big force field around the Starkiller Base gets wiped out. And in “Rogue One,” Scarif can only be accessed through a Shield Gate, which is an opening in the force field that covers the planet.
Force fields play a huge role in “Guardians of the Galaxy” as well. When Ronan’s Dark Aster is bearing down on Xandar, the Nova Corps pilots lock together to create a blockade. Small force fields form between each ship, which add up to make one far-reaching deflector screen that effectively slows down Ronan’s ship.
4. CGI CHARACTERS
CGI characters have come a long way in just the last two decades. They have become more realistic-looking, and move more smoothly and more plausibly than their predecessors. Way back in 1999, Jar Jar Binks was one of the first fully CGI characters created for a movie. Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks, wore Jar Jar’s head on top of his own so that the actors had the right sight line. Although Jar Jar was ground-breaking in terms of technology, fans hated the alien, so his much-maligned countenance is synonymous with bad movie-making.
Rocket Raccoon and Groot, however, are not only fan-favorite characters, but absolutely amazing CGI effects that make Jar Jar look like he was Photoshopped. On set, a stand-in actor wore an apparatus on his head and shoulders that gave the other actors a high focal point that was as tall as Groot would be. For Rocket Raccoon, sometimes his furry face was taped to someone’s stomach for a mid-level sight line, and sometimes a crew member moved a stuffed raccoon around on set to provide a tracking path for the animators.
3. CYBERNETICALLY AUGMENTED VILLAINS
Both “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” have characters who were improved through bio-engineering, but for two very different reasons. Darth Vader depends on machinery to survive. Anakin already had a robotic arm when he nearly burned to death on Mustafar in “Revenge of the Sith.” The Emperor and his droids supplied him with the rest of his body, as well as the breathing apparatus that gave him a unique voice. Darth Vader was grateful enough for his new parts that he continued serving the Emperor.
Both Gamora and Nebula were perfectly healthy before Thanos tortured them and gave them cybernetic implants to enhance their abilities as assassins. Neither woman was happy with their upgrades. Mournfully, Gamora tells Peter Quill about Thanos’s treatment of her just before they kiss. Meanwhile, Nebula tells Ronan she would be happy to be his ally if he kills Thanos, saying, “You see what he has turned me into?” Clearly neither of these lethal ladies are thankful for their new parts.
2. ORPHANS AND FAMILY
Orphans make great heroes for a variety of reasons. Because they’re lonely and have suffered loss, we immediately feel sympathy for them, which makes us invested in their story. “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are littered with orphans. Anakin’s pain after his mother is killed is part of what turns him to the Dark Side. Luke and Leia are adopted, and while Leia seemed to be happy with the Organas, Luke felt out of place on his aunt and uncle’s farm. In “The Force Awakens,” both Rey and Finn are orphans. All of these characters are pushed by their loneliness to seek out something bigger than themselves.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the death of Peter’s mother is an important thread, and his father’s identity is an intriguing mystery. He empathizes with Gamora when she talks about losing her family, and it helps them form a bond. They, too, as orphans, are driven to find their place in the galaxy. Their enormous loss is always present.
1. SACRIFICES FOR THE GREATER GOOD
What would a story about heroes be without a bittersweet sacrifice? In “A New Hope,” Obi-Wan Kenobi willingly dies at the hand of Darth Vader to save his friends. Luke, Han and Leia escape, and Obi-Wan lives on to guide Luke through the Force. Poor Luke is distraught at the loss of his mentor, but he finds some comfort in knowing that Obi-Wan lives on in the Force.
In “Guardians of the Galaxy,” an unlikely hero gives his life, temporarily, to save his friends. Groot surprises the his friends by forming a protective root system around them while they’re falling toward Xandar. Groot’s death is especially powerful, because he’s such an innocent creature. Although he can be violent when he needs to be, it’s always to help his friends, never for revenge or anger. Seeing someone with such pure intentions give his life is heart-wrenching. Luckily, seeing dancing Baby Groot at the end of the movie eases the pain.
Did you notice any other similarities between “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy?” Tell us in the comments!
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