Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is garnering widespread,
Of course part of the appeal of Vol. 1 was the organic and believable way in which this crew was put together, uniting despite their differences, but maintaining character integrity along the way. It has resulted in this family of Guardians joining a long-running tradition of cinematic misfit crews, thrown together (often by adversity) but continuing to niggle and aggravate each other. So who are the other groups in this pantheon?
The Guardians of the Galaxy
They were very much not the first to this particular party, but have done it about as well as anyone. The way in which the first film not only threw them together, but made it plausible that they would remain as a team after their initial reason for bonding had run its course, was an object lesson in how to build characterisation.
Origin stories always run the risk of being either too brief to allow audience investment, or too protracted to hold our continued attention; Guardians gave each member of the team valid and fleshed-out motivations but retained a plausible level of suspicion, animosity and all-round grumpiness.
Admittedly with science fiction it is easier to throw together a mis-matched team as you can draft in alien races and (in this case) a sentient tree and a genetically enhanced gun-toting raccoon, but the believability of their bickering, fighting and eventual co-operation is effortlessly effective.
Like the previous entry, this is a crew with its origins in the world of graphic novels. Unlike Guardians, they can’t boast any aliens, but they do at least do a fine line in outcasts and distinctively drawn individuals.
When we first meet them, they are already a (US Special Forces) unit, led by a pre-Negan Jeffrey Dean Morgan. They are mostly on the same page as each other, with the exception of Zoe Saldana’s Aisha, whose motivations remain initially murky. And although there is a risk of cliche (the nerd, the knife guy, the expert sniper, the charismatic leader) the film is carried by winning performances, a genuinely excellent, funny and quirky villain (take note, Guardians) and plausibly shifting allegiances within the crew.
The title alone confirms their outsider status, which is confirmed by the “double-crossed, left for dead, out to prove their name” narrative. The Losers came out the same year as the far more bombastic and recognisable The A-Team, but is arguably a better film that deserved a franchise run. In the end, the next entry in this list stole that section of the marketplace, but it is fun to wonder what might have been.
The Fast & The Furious
Often viewed as the current benchmark for crew/team/family franchises, F&F started out as a pretty lean exploitation-themed two-hander, not really becoming the franchise it is now until the fifth entry in the series re-imagined its whole concept. With Dom harping on about family until he’s blue in the face and with as seemingly unlikely and mis-matched a crowd as any (street racers, tech guys, disgraced FBI agent, whatever military/law-enforcement hybrid Hobbs is), F&F very much belong on this list, bringing their various skills to bear in entertaining, enjoyable and silly ways.
Tanks, submarines, sky-diving cars, trains, bridges, leaping between middle-eastern skyscrapers – nothing is too ridiculous for this franchise, but it sells off the back of sympathetic, likeable and believable characters. It’s part of the reason why these films keeping raking it in at the box office, whilst John Carter limps off – the stories and the characters work. $900+m at the box office in 11 days – they must be getting something right.
Even though not nearly enough people saw Serenity’s progenitor Firefly, it at least provided the groundwork for the team’s identity and rapport. As with The Losers, we join an established crew, but then add new players into the mix with their own motivations and plans that are at odds with those of others on the ship, from whence the sparks fly – everyone here is more or less “normal” despite the sci-fi milieu and Joss Whedon does an absolutely sterling job of selling this as a believable team, giving everyone their beats and moments.
Whedon takes his typically ruthless approach to thinning out his team, but pilot, weapons guy, medic, mechanic/engineer and brainwashed super-weapon all mesh together and their points of disagreement and disunity become every bit as important and convincing as their points of harmony.
As we will see later, Whedon would go on to show that his team-building expertise here was no fluke – few directors and writers seem to be as capable of giving to each member of larger casts on a big canvas their respective moments to shine. Creating characters and then giving them their distinctive beats and quirks is difficult but Whedon seems to have mastered it.
The Magnificent Seven
Antoine Fuqua’s remake certainly sought to make more of the differing skills and personalities of the seven, but the original has really stood the test of time. Brynner, McQueen, Vaughn, Bronson and Coburn were certainly the standout members of the seven, both in the star power of the actors and in how well-drawn their characters were. Of course, Akira Kurosawa built the original seven, but then he himself admitted the debt many of his samurai films owed to the themes and motifs of the Old West, so it is safe to treat the whole Kurosawa/Western thing as a symbiotic relationship.
Brynner’s Chris leads and holds together the team, but it is again very much a masterful case-study of how to put this sort of crew together for the big screen – differing personalities, everyone with their own, well-drawn reasons for turning up, friction and rapport, differences and connections. And it gels into a wholly satisfying whole that means that, when the bullets start to fly and the bodies start to drop, we care and engage rather than switch off.
I refuse to use “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”. It’s absurd. Anyway, it’s easy to discount this particular motley crew because (a) they’re superheroes and (b) they’re pretty slick. But consider the challenges they face in working properly together in The Avengers, with Stark and Rogers in particular having their differences and the seeds of their philosophical divisions in Civil War being convincingly well-sown throughout the franchise entries.
Stark’s headcount when addressing Loki (“a living legend who actually lives up to the legend, a demi-god, two assassins and a man with breath-taking anger management issues”) sums up what a disparate crew should be, working exceptionally well together when circumstances require and the “doesn’t play well with others” Stark even subsuming his ego to allow Rogers to call the shots.
Of course they’re not as grungy or out on a limb as the Losers or the crew of Serenity – they’re well financed and phenomenally resourceful – but even at the end of Civil War, with the gang seemingly irreparably fractured, there is still a glimpse of what can/will be for Infinity War – re-united when Earth needs them, even if a billionaire playboy, an enhanced WWII popsicle, a gamma-infused rage monster and an Asgardian surfer have little to otherwise tie them together.