A superhero movie is only as good as its theme music. Christopher Reeves’ Superman, Michael Keaton’s Batman, and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man all became so beloved in part because of the iconic music fans associated with those performances. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers theme is the piece of music audiences remember. “Portals,” anyone?
Ironically, the other most memorable musical element of the MCU isn’t a hero theme at all. Although composer Tyler Bates developed a stirring theme for Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn’s movies are better known for their ability to refresh and repopularize pop songs from the 1970s and 1980s. But which of Gunn’s two Guardians films has the better soundtrack?
The music of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ is a character in the film
Right from its first trailer, Guardians of the Galaxy made it clear this was a much different kind of superhero movie. Prior to the film’s release, the characters were relatively obscure. So Gunn needed to find a way to entice audiences to fall for a team that included a space raccoon and a talking tree with a very limited vocabulary. The answer? Throw in a bunch of hit songs.
However, Gunn didn’t just overlay tracks like Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” and Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” into the movie. Instead, he built them into his story and rooted them in character. The songs audiences hear are often coming directly from Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) Walkman. He treasures it as the final gift from his mother (Laura Haddock).