Ghostbusters turned 30 this year and to commemorate the occasion, Lego rolled out new Ghostbusters-themed play sets and the original Ghostbusters is back in theaters for a limited engagement. How fitting then that the spiritual (no pun intended) successor to Ghostbusters was released this year. Guardians of the Galaxy is the surprise hit of 2014: a property that no one gave a (insert expletive here) about made into a glorious, cinematic marvel (pun fully intended) that everyone gives a (insert expletive here) about.
To compare Guardians of the Galaxy to Ghostbusters may seem like blasphemy, but hear me out!
This isn’t meant to be a literal comparison like something you might read on one of those click-bait websites (you know who you are): 10 Mind Blowing Reasons Why Guardians of the Galaxy Is Mind Blowingly The Same Movie As Ghostbusters! Rather it’s a musing on how the two movies are tonally similar.
Right off the bat you would think by looking at it that if Guardians of the Galaxy
ripped off payed homage to any movie it would be Star Wars. However the comparisons to Star Wars are more superficial: it takes place in space and Rocket and Groot are the new Han and Chewie. That’s pretty much where the comparisons end. No, with its humor set against a science fiction backdrop, Guardians of the Galaxy is much closer to Ghostbusters than any other movie.
Speaking of humor, that’s a good place to start. Marvel movies are certainly no strangers to well placed one-liners amidst the comic book carnage. However, movies like The Avengers are more akin to action movies with some comic relief thrown in. Think every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from the ’80s, there are some great laughs but no one’s looking for Commando in the comedy section of the video store. Also, if you’re not sure what a video store is: A) I hate you for making me feel old and B) Go ask your Mother, I’m not here to educate you like some ghost of pop-culture past.
On the other hand, Guardians of the Galaxy is as much a comedy as an action movie, maybe even more. The jokes start right after the Up-style beginning (designed solely to saturate your popcorn with eye juice before you even take Bite 1) and continue all the way through the after-credits scene. Oh yeah and *spoilers* all you subterranean rock dwellers, there is an after-credit scene because … Marvel. Ghostbusters is the same deal: sure there are evil dog demons, some sweet pre-CGI effects for the ghosts, lots of proton pack shooting, and explosions, but Ghostbusters at its heart is a comedy disguised as a special effects movie.
Most comedies set in a science fiction/fantasy realm are usually comedy first and foremost with special effects as an afterthought. Spaceballs doesn’t have the production value of Star Wars, and Your Highness doesn’t have the production value of Lord Of The Rings. And they shouldn’t. You don’t go to those types of films to be dazzled by the visual style of the film. Ghostbusters on the other hand had high production values for its time. You could be equally impressed by how Slimer or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man looked, and Bill Murray’s delivery of the line “It’s true, this man has no dick.” Likewise when watching Guardians of the Galaxy you can marvel at Rocket Raccoon and Groot—two completely computer generated characters—and yet bust a gut when Chris Pratt says “Awesome! They got my dick message!”
Of course it doesn’t hurt that both films have leading men that are known primarily for their comedic acting. Bill Murray is just a funny guy, period. Yes, he’s done drama but even then he can’t go the whole film without showcasing some of his legendary smarm and sarcasm, which will from here on out be referred to as smarmcasm™, because if there is one thing the internet hates it’s using two words when you can just jam them together to make one stupid word. Chris Pratt is possibly the funniest thing on Parks and Recreation (sorry, Nick Offerman, you are a close second) and is a much better choice to lead the rag-tag group in Guardians of the Galaxy than say a Rock- or Vin Diesel-type.
Films like Ghostbusters and Guardians of the Galaxy just have this perfect mixture of two different genres that most movies can’t pull off and it makes for something special that doesn’t occur often at the movies. Thirty years and countless viewings later dorks like me are still shouting “Back off man, I’m a scientist!” and we probably still will be quoting Ghostbusters in another 30 years. My humble prediction is that 30 years from now when superhero movies are passé and Iron Man is held in the same regard as the Shaquille O’Neal classic Steel, the 30-somethings that were children when they saw Guardians of the Galaxy will join us with a hearty “I am Groot!”
Now if I could only put down the cigarettes and triple Baconators, I may live long enough to see if I’m right.