In this post I’m going to examine some of the more esoteric themes surrounding the 2014 movie Guardians Of The Galaxy. Along the way we’re gonna talk about aliens, grails, and Tree-Christ.
I. THE MISSING BOY
The key to the esoteric themes of Guardians Of The Galaxy hinges on the first scene: a flashback to Peter Quill in the 1980s saying goodbye to his dying mother. Prominent is his Walkman audio cassette player, an iconic 80s device and, throughout the rest of the movie, Quill’s most precious possession. (The very same Walkman is also fetishized in the 2017 TV series 13 Reasons Why—almost an occult object of time/reality-warping power.)
Immediately after his mother dies in that scene and he runs outside, Quill is abducted by a UFO.
Along with the TV series Stranger Things, this type of Eighties nostalgia—the type that becomes intertwined with either a UFO and/or MKUltra type experiments—was very popular at the time this movie came out. Certainly, a large part of that has to do with simply the age of these contemporary filmmakers; the time period is the childhood of their lives.
And yet, the 1980s, both in pop-culture and “real life”—were chock full of these themes. The fear of children being abducted was at an all-time high, the idea of “Stranger Danger” drilled into our heads. The talk shows paraded bizarre and sinister of secret occult-themed cabals of child abusers posing as respected members of the community. A series of popular science-fiction movies, kicked off by E.T. in 1982, mainstreamed the idea of extraterrestrials coming down to Earth and befriending little children. And Whitley Strieber’s book Communion in 1987 made commonplace the idea of the alien abduction (Quill is abducted in 1988).
This is the ultimately disturbing backdrop against which Quill’s origin story is presented. He is snatched by a UFO; taken into the custody, against his will, of “space pirates” called Ravagers who apparently wanted to “eat” him and then later absorbed him as one of their own clan.
In the process, Quill is, to an extent, emotionally-arrested at the age of his abduction, obsessed (perhaps by default, as he no longer has access to Earth) with the pop-culture/era of his youth. As played by Chris Pratt—who first came to prominence as the man-boy Andy Dwyer on the sitcom Parks And Recreation—Quill is essentially a wide-eyed blend of child and cynical adventurer, able to “compartmentalize” and switch-off to each within seconds.
He also will, by the end of the movie, be tied to yet another prevalent esoteric theme/archetype of 80’s nostalgia.
II. THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY ORB
The idea of sacred objects is also very important to the plot of Guardians Of The Galaxy. To that extent, the film not only references the early alien-themed films of Steven Spielberg, but his joint project with George Lucas, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. In fact, the scene where Quill first takes the Orb is a quite conscious homage to a similar one at the beginning of Raiders. (Similarly, at the end of the movie the Orb is placed in a protective cabinet within Nova Corps headquarters, aping the last scene of Raiders with the Ark being kept in a box in the warehouse.)
From there, we are introduced to the idea that the Orb is housing a special Infinity Stone—one that, in the possession of the wrong (unworthy) person, could blow them to smithereens. These Infinity Stones are described as the six “Singularities” that existed before the world began; essentially, are/are made by God(s); they have the power to destroy or create, to corrupt or make godlike their owners. And so these stones are the like the Holy Grail, the Spear Of Destiny…the Orb like the Ark of the Covenant. Literally, the magic stone, the transformative stone, the Philosopher’s Stone.
Referred to in the original comic books as “Infinity Gems,” these objects drive the plots along in the shared Marvel cinematic universe; six of them, each one attached to a different color & encapsulating a particular quality:
Blue (Space Stone): creates wormholes.
Yellow (Mind Stone): can be used for mind control and mind-expansion.
Red (Reality Stone): reality-warping; can return universe to pre-Big Bang.
Purple (Power Stone): destroys things.
Green (Time Stone): manipulates time.
Orange (Soul Stone): use is unclear, but might tie together other gems.
Does this all seem a little bit familiar?
These are, of course, a variation of the Chakras of Eastern mysticism…both the concept of Infinity Stones within the MCU and the Chakras tapping into even more primal symbolism that immediately makes a connection with the public. The people who originally created these comic books in the 60s and 70s were no fools, and often quite well-read in esotericism themselves.
While I am on the subject, I also wanted to point out the amount of circular and spherical imagery in this movie—certainly, the Orb, but also many scenes with circle motifs and composition.
This is a very primal female symbolism—though at first glance Guardians Of The Galaxy may seem like a very male-oriented action movie, it is woven through with the idea of a divine female presence which starts with Quill’s mother and carries through with characters like Gamora and even Nova Prime.
As we will see, Peter Quill—Star-Lord—will ultimately resonate our story’s Jesus/Horus/Neo character. But this theme of sacrifice and resurrection is made explicit in the character Groot, who is, essentially, a living plant or tree.
Tellingly, Groot/Tree-Christ is voiced by actor Vin Diesel, who also provided the voice for the Iron Giant (Iron-Christ). Very similar characters, with consciously telegraphed resonance. Both the Iron Giant and Groot learn the finer qualities of humanity from friends over the course of their movies, and sacrifice themselves in the end.
It’s the Jesus archetype, only this time, in Guardians, it is portrayed by an actual stand-in for what some say is the inspiration for the resurrection myth—the “Vegetable” God.
For crops are grown from the rot of the dead every year, re-enacting the Resurrection. It’s the very basic premise for all sorts of fertility rituals and Dying God mythology, the figure of the Green Man, and etc..
And so that archetype is thrown into the movie with Groot, a supporting character whose sacrifice is almost like the “real” climax of the movie…as if there was a movie about one of Jesus’ disciples and Jesus himself and his story arc was just like a supporting character.
IV. THE HYBRID HERO
At the end of Guardians, Peter Quill is revealed to be an alien/human hybrid of some kind. This is why he was able to hold the purple Infinity Stone and not die.
And an interesting off-shoot of the whole “alien abduction” craze of the 1980s was the idea of Hybrids—human children who are really half-alien. Sometimes in the lore, the alien part is not fully in the equation & it’s more like the Special Child with unexplained powers—as in the case of Eleven in Stranger Things. And this becomes the story of the “child messiah,” the Horus-like figure who will kick off the New Aeon.
Quill is, tellingly, called Star-Lord.
He might as well have been called Sky-Walker.
(It is at this point that we must revisit the metatextuality of Pratt in the role—not only the actor who provided the voice of the Neo-like “Master Builder” Emmet in The LEGO Movie, but now one of the most prominent and controversial openly Christian actors in Hollywood.)
One has to ask themselves—why is this idea of the “demi God,” the half-god, the child born partially of magic, or extraterrestrials, or deities, or what-have-you…why is this such an enduring archetype not only in ancient mythologies but current pop-culture?
But by the mid-1980s, the narrative changed somewhat to that of “special children” and human/alien hybrids.
It’s almost like:
- the Narrative got “impregnated” by “otherworldly presences” in the Seventies
- the “hybrid children” of the Narrative reached school age by the Eighties
- and now these kids are making movies and writing books, shaping our popular culture and building our technology.
Guardians of the Galaxy, ladies and gentlemen.