The MCU: From Emotional Low to Emotional High
Why did the third Guardians of the Galaxy get me in the feels more than the MCU's other recent entries?
If you’re anything like me, then you still haven’t quite recovered from the RSPCA advert that was the last of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy. From the opening credits, right the way through to just before the final act, it was one cute but sad animal after the next, making friends with each other at one moment while being treated like muck on a shoe the next. The movie itself was a great final chapter for the Guardians, keeping its sense of humour, style and fantastic soundtrack that made the original so fresh for a Marvel movie.
While diluting my nacho cheese dip with tears, I got to thinking why I was enjoying this Marvel film more than I had most of the previous phase. What was it about Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 that was gripping me in a way that movies like Thor: Love & Thunder, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Shang-Chi didn’t?
It’s not that these are all bad movies; for all the flack that Thor received, I enjoyed the campness of it. I’m not a big fan of this multiverse idea and I do think Marvel’s best is behind them, but generally they’re making fun films. What’s missing for me though is their ability to stick with me more than a minute after the credits have rolled. What can Marvel do to bring back the magic of their early days and the crescendo of Avengers: Infinity War & End Game?
Firstly, one of the key reasons why the likes of the Guardians and the X-Men connect with people through the comic books is that they are unlikely heroes, all with their own backstories. There’s a sense that they’re at the fringes of society; something that most teenagers feel at one point or another, most adults too.
Secondly, although there are some weaker stories in MCU, the ones that stick out to me are the ones that deal with universal human emotions. Wanda Maximoff's grief in Doctor Strange, Peter Parker’s teenage angst in No Way Home, the sense of communal struggle in Wakanda Forever and throughout all of them, trying to deal with the fact that we’re not “normal”. In Guardians 3 I was moved by the universal feelings about loss, being the odd one out, kinship and dealing with childhood traumas. These human emotions allowed me to connect with the characters in a way that I can’t with the perfect Stephen Strange or the immortal Captain Marvel.
There’s no way I can empathise or connect with a multiverse either. I can’t jump into another universe to the version of me that only eats a handful of Maltesers at a time, or the one that has even the slightest sense of style. If I can’t do that, then how am I going to care about the next set of movies?
The best way is to go back to the roots of the comic books. We’re all trying to relate to something, so make movies that are relatable! It sounds like route one stuff, but the escapism in the latest MCU movies comes via the scale of the set pieces. Where Guardians shines is in its ability to reduce that scale and reflect who we are. The most recent outings for Black Panther and Spider-Man do it too.
So while I pick myself up and dust myself off from the emotional wreckage that Guardians 3 has left me in, I feel a sense of hope that Marvel still know what they’re doing. If they can keep the multiverse grounded, and their characters relatable, there is hope yet. If they don’t, then Marvel will have to rely on a version of me in another universe to care about them.
Guardians of the Galaxy, vol.3 available in UK cinemas now