Tag: opinion

For Your Consideration: Why Guardians of the Galaxy's screenplay deserves an Oscar nod

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Jan 7, 2015, 5:08 PM EST

We've talked a lot around here about how important Guardians of the Galaxy is for Marvel Studios, for comic-book cinema as a whole and for fandom. It's a breakout hit that signals the strength of the Marvel brand, a star-making space adventure and an indication that mainstream audiences really are ready for filmmakers to go full comic-book on the big screen, well beyond the constraints of the self-serious "grounded" sensibility still attached to so many superhero films. 

Guardians was also critically acclaimed for its emphasis on character, its sense of humor and its quirky spectacle, and as with its Marvel compatriots before it, we expected the flick to pick up some technical nods this awards season. What we perhaps didn't expect, though, was for Guardians to get some awards season praise for its screenplay, not because it's not a great script, but because superhero movies are more often than not shut out of that category.

And yet, today the Writers Guild of America announced that co-writers Nicole Perlman and James Gunn have indeed been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, alongisde drama heavyweights The Imitation GameWildGone Girl and American Sniper. Now, it's been noted that, because of WGA rules, other adapted screenplay Oscar contenders like The Theory of Everything (which was ineligible) and Whiplash (which is nominated for Best Original Screenplay by the WGA but will be eligible for a Best Adapted nomination at the Oscars because it's technically an expansion of a previous short film) could not be included on this list of five screenplays, so perhaps Guardians got on the ballot in lieu of those choices. We'll also acknowledge that, since we're Blastr, and raccoons with machine guns are our collective jam, we're kind of already on board with any praise Guardians gets this awards season (hell, we'd give Groot a Best Supporting Actor nomination). Those things aside, though, we'd like to seriously present this thought with the Academy Awards looming:

Guardians of the Galaxy deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Note the use of the word "deserves" there, instead of "needs" or "must have." There are a lot of films that deserve an Oscar nomination this year, in a lot of categories, but the nature of the beast is that some people will come up empty-handed, and we're fully prepared to see Guardians left out of screenplay contention and instead in the running for something like a visual-effects Oscar. That said, think about the achievement this film is from a storytelling standpoint, when you strip away the makeup and the casting and the spaceships and get right down to what was on paper first. This is a script five years in the making, brought to us by two different writers, that somehow managed to take loads of obscure (to the uninitiated) comic-book characters, locales and concepts, add in lots of humor and plenty of great character moments and deliver a story that pleased not just die-hard comics fans but millions of moviegoers who just enjoy a good flick.

Who wrote what in the Guardians script is a matter that's still somewhat disputed, but we do know that both writers brought a lot of important stuff to the table. Perlman did a lot of legwork before she even delivered a script, reading stacks of Guardians comics and crafting a story that would eventually be the framework for Gunn's irreverence and cherry-bomb-infused action sensibility. The final film is a fusion of classic comic-book story structure (seriously, there's a monologue about Infinity Stones in this thing), space opera audacity, retro-pop swagger and even a dash of sincere drama, some of which comes, quite unexpectedly, from a talking tree.

The Guardians screenplay, before the cast gets hold of it, gives us ties to Earth, a world we can recognize, in Star-Lord's backstory. It gives us that mixtape, which both binds us to our own popular culture and also provides plenty of moments of humor and emotion for alien characters who've never heard a Runaways song before. It gives us the delightfully over-the-top, bombastic terror of Ronan the Accuser and the Mad Titan Thanos. It gives us a spacefaring plot that's filled with new sights and characters, yet never confuses. Most importantly, though, it gives us a story in which every main character, from Star-Lord right down to Drax, grows and changes and is truly affected by the rest of the team, something I'd argue not even The Avengers quite pulled off. 

So, while it's a genre film competing at an awards show that still often shies from spaceships and aliens, and while it's competing against plenty of films that plenty of people will argue "matter" more, and while plenty of those other films are equally deserving, if not more so, we say give Guardians a spot on the Best Adapted list come Oscar night.

You're welcome.