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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a runaway hit having grossed over $800 million dollars world wide in its first month of release. It is being hailed as one of the best of the Marvel Studios films and seems more delightful each time it is seen.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not a big hit when it was released in 1989. It is often mentioned as one of the worst of the almost 15 Star Trek films and does not hold up on repeated viewings.
There would seem to be little that the two movies have in common but I have a sneaking suspicion that Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn saw Star Trek V when it was released when he was a young man and has seen it on more than one occasion since. I believe, consciously or unconsciously, he wrote the conclusion of his film as a love note to Star Trek V.
Star Trek V was famously (infamously?) co-written and directed by William Shatner. Leonard Nimoy had helmed Treks III and IV and, as it turns out, he and Shatner had had a long standing “equal nations” clause in their contracts: whatever benefit one received, the other was accorded the same consideration. Following the box office success of The Voyage Home, Shatner said “it’s my turn” and the rest is Star Trek history.
He wrote a movie about the crew of the Enterprise encountering, well, God or, at least, something very like God and conceived a story that would ask big questions about the nature of existence and religion – one that would take on many topics Trek had avoided.
As the movie changed and evolved, the conclusion of the film was drafted and it contained an epic battle between Captain Kirk and the god-like creature who was one with the planet on which he was imprisoned. In the best/worst line of the movie, Kirk asks the villain “what does God need with a starship?” The unspoken answer: the starship will carry his essence across the galaxy. The god-being, whose eyes crackle with electricity, would be realized as a bearded old man and would attack Kirk and crew with rock formations and rock creatures before an unlikely rescue by Spock is effected and the god-being is defeated.
The battle was supposed to be epic. Kirk vs. God (as only Shatner could write it). Explosions. Rock monsters. Stirring score. Epic. However, Paramount Pictures, perhaps correctly sensing disaster, continually cut the budget for the movie. Out went rock monsters. Goodbye to stunning explosions. Farewell harrowing conclusion. Hello, poorly received movie.
Flash forward 28 years (and minor spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follow here). A fun and exciting movie (so… different than Star Trek V) concludes in a showdown with… a god-being who is realized as a bearded old man. He is one with the planet on which he lives (um, he is the planet). During his battle with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the villain throws rock formations at the team. His eyes crackle with electricity. He wants his essence carried across the galaxy. He is defeated in an unlikely manner as the adorable Baby Groot is able to activate an explosive device that ends him.
The battle is epic. Star Lord vs. Ego. Explosions. Rock Formations. Very cool rock and roll score. Marvel Studios, knowing it had a hit on its hands, poured money into the movie and the conclusion shows it was money well spent. Hello well received movie.
Here’s the question: is the conclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 James Gunn’s homage to Star Trek V? Does he redeem that movie by staging a conclusion that William Shatner must have loved?
I don’t actually know, but I like the theory!