I know when a Film has impacted me on several levels when 1) I’ve laughed, 2) I’ve cried and 3) I’m left with a feeling of a story shared so powerful that words both tumble out and yet cannot come out. When I’m so full of what the story has meant and when it has connected and everyone in the room, although we haven’t talked has connected with each other – via that shared experience. And Guardians of the Galaxy has just been that.
I’m left almost incoherent, with both poetry and music swimming about in my heart. With a beauty of a powerful piece of Storytelling. A story of above all, love. A surprising theme for a “summer blockbuster”… Or not if you think that the best blockbusters are the best stories and the best stories involve community at the heart of everything. For the formation and endurance of Community are the heart and purpose of every great story. And what is Love but the Engine and heart of community. (see what I mean about speaking almost only in poetry.) And this story is above all things about the formation of a community. But that formation has come out of the terrible loss of community, the culmination of a myriad of losses – Quill even calls them all losers, not in the traditional sense that they are not winners, but in the sense that each has had something taken from them; he, Drax and Gamora have each lost family, Groot seems to be the last of his kind and Rocket has lost himself in transformation to … well who knows. To discover that shared sense of loss amongst others who are not perfect -in the seemingly perfect world of Xandar the placing these five in that world just makes them seem even more out of place and “misfit-ey”.
They aren’t a logical family, they start off mostly as enemies, then become allies of convenience. But love, community, family – they’re not logical things. Of course we’re not all going to be perfect Nova-Corps communities – but when you stand against injustice, and defend innocents, the only way you can do that is with others willing to do the same – and if you aren’t willing to ally with folk who wouldn’t necessarily agree with you, or back you in every argument, or who were once enemies, or aren’t the same colour, species or … well to be honest, we’re really not going to get anywhere in this whole building the Kingdom of God thing. The more we focus on our differences and what we disagree on, the more likely the powers of Selfishness and Hate will triumph. But recognise the honour, the selflessness, the shared craziness, the skill of those around you who can make a difference in this world – then what a real impact we can all make.
And it’s not just the guardians themselves that embody this idea – the only way the Nova guard can make a real difference in the battle is to literally connect with one another – a blazing (literally) metaphor for uniting against those who would destroy innocence and goodness. Even the twisted sister relationship of Nebula and Gamora – Gamora still willing to risk her life to save Nebula, Nebula would rather cut off her own hand than be subject to community, to forgiveness – oh yes there is a lot more to come from these two… (I did rather smile at Nebula’s line “Of all my sisters, I hated you the least” – just brilliant)
Then of course there’s the whole thing with Quill’s mother. There’s a feeling in him that saving the galaxy is secondary because the worst thing that can happen (even having the galaxy destroyed) has happened; his mother was taken from him far too young, taken by disease (I don’t know how accurate to the source comic this is, I suspect not close – but it was the right story decision in my view). But she left him with memories – memories bound to him by the music mix tape. What a gift! And how it shows us that community (like the micro-community of mother and son) is preserved and strengthened in memory. and what better aid to memory than music. And it’s because of his devotion to the memory of his mother, to the memory and community that was once his homeworld that makes Quill take some pretty bonkers risks to retrieve the tape in the escape from prison. And it’s this devotion that really sparks the interest and becomes the foundation of the guardians as a community, as a family. And he remains throughout a man driven by the memory of what was lost, but also the memory of what can be, with music, memory and purpose serving as binding agents for all of the guardians. A binding and uniting that is wonderfully and visually summed up in the sacrificial and protective actions of Groot – and “We are Groot” draws not just the guardians but us as avid watchers into the community of the deadly, but essentially innocent and good creature – nature itself protecting and nurturing. I’ll tell you, my eyes were not dry at this moment.
And so , what I was left with by the end – Loss, Community, memory, music and love. And the ultimate We.
Community is nothing without Memory. Memory is nothing without Sense. Music is the Heart of the Sense. The heart is both broken and protected in Community.
We Are Groot.