Intertextuality: The Empire Strikes Back and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

This post will have spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It will also have spoilers for The Empire Strikes Back, but I know that you’ve seen that movie because literally everyone has.

2017 May 2

The Marvel Cinematic Universe films exist in Disney’s pantheon of intellectual properties alongside the Star Wars franchise. In that way, these movies are linked together. Joss Whedon claimed that when trying to write Age of Ultron, he looked to Lawrence Kasdan’s legendary Empire Strikes Back screenplay to consider how to write a great, darker, sequel. In addition to this, every film in Phase 2 has some case of a hand or arm being chopped off, which is a very deliberate homage to Star Wars. Luke and Darth Vader get their hands chopped off, but so do Groot and the Winter Soldier.

So that’s a neat bit of trivia, but it doesn’t really have any tremendous significance. It’s just a fun little Easter Egg for the viewers. On the other hand, the first Guardians introduced us to its main character; Star Lord, something of a space cowboy that was very evocative of Han Solo from Star Wars.

That being said, the intertextuality between Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars became a lot more apparent in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. There was one scene in the first act of the film in which the Guardians are trying to escape from a fleet of drones. Star Lord was abducted from Earth in 1988, so he’s seen The Empire Strikes Back. He knows what to do in this situation. Although his crew may beg him not to do so, he goes right into the asteroid field. You can see where I’m going with this; it’s very deliberate.  The scene is extremely similar to a moment in The Empire Strikes Back in which Han Solo flies through an asteroid field to shake off Imperial TIE fighters. The gang makes it out unscathed.

This gets us thinking about Empire Strikes Back, just like we might be when we see Klaw lose his hand in Age of Ultron. But this is a lot more significant than that recurring Easter Egg. This one has an actual point to it in how it sets up the second half of the movie. The Asteroid Field scene gets us thinking about Empire Strikes Back just in time for us to meet Ego, Star Lord’s father.

2017 May 1Guardians Vol. 2 has a compelling second half in which Star Lord meets and gets to know his father, Ego the Living Planet. But it all falls apart as Star Lord finds out that his birth was part of Ego’s quest to find an heir that would help him rule the galaxy. Of course, this comes after a series of scenes which are all relatively upbeat and happy; Ego shows off the wonders of his world, Drax and Mantis build a fun little rapport, Star Lord gets to play catch with his dad like he always wanted to. Things are good. Only Gamora suspects something might be wrong. And so should the audience.

Paying homage to Empire Strikes Back just before introducing a character and saying that he’s the main character’s father is a way to remind the audience of Empire Strikes Back‘s biggest twist. On a subconscious level the audience is made to think of Darth Vader when they see Ego. By referencing Empire, the film seeks to give us a little heads up that Ego’s goal is not so different from Darth Vader’s; both seek to rule the Galaxy with their son by their side.

2016 June 2

This is just a clever little use of homage which foreshadows something about the plot. In previous posts I’ve done about intertextuality (Star Wars/Avatar: The Last Airbender and Pirates of the Caribbean/The Princess Bride) the similarities are there but they’re incidental. Here, they are intelligent and purposeful. It’s a great example of what intertextuality is and how it can be used in a clever way. I just can’t wait until Volume 3 where the Ewoks help the Guardians defeat Thanos.

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2 thoughts on “Intertextuality: The Empire Strikes Back and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

  1. It all comes back to the phrase: “if it is not broken, don’t fix it”
    Even if the movies weren’t owned by the same company, there is a big possibility that the plot twist would have been the same. It is in fact similar in inception too, Fathers will always be a great way to create stories

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    1. Oh, most definitely. I think Star Lord would be a fan of Star Wars (and therefore, a Han Solo-type character) regardless of whether or not Guardians of the Galaxy was owned by the same company. My point is this: James Gunn (who wrote the screenplay) knew Ego would be Star Lord’s father from the start, but having this scene before introducing him clearly foreshadows what Ego’s intent is.

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