Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Comic Book Colour
Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 has been out for a while and has met with mostly positive reactions from fans and critics. Josh already posted a great review of the pros and cons of the movie but over here we can talk about one of my favourite aspects of James Gunn’s film, the vibrant aesthetic and how it draws from comic book colour history.
The modern comic book movie
Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000 set the tone for the modern comic book movie. During the development process, both Bryan Singer and the original creators of the X-Men decided the comic costumes were too goofy to try to replicate on-screen.
That’s why we all got this –
Instead of this –
Honestly, they were right. The dark costumes are the grounded choice for a more realistic movie. Themes of genocide and terrorism wouldn’t have played as well if Magneto was in his traditional purple cape. Unfortunately, this trend of muted colours has continued.
Whether it’s Warner Brothers, Sony or Marvel Studios, all are reluctant to recreate the vibrancy of the comics. It’s a real shame because comic books have an incredible history with colour.
A brief history of comic book colour
Most people understand that when watching TV, or any screen for that matter, they’re actually watching tiny red, green and blue (RGB) pixels arranged to simulate images. What you may not know is that basically all coloured printing uses a similar process but with cyan, yellow, magenta and black (CMYK) dots.
Before computer comic book colouring, fixed percentages of cyan, yellow and magenta (generally 0%, 25%, 50% or 100%) could be mixed to create a palette of 64 colours available for use.
The really incredible part is that a colorist would have to separate out each of the colours they wanted to use in a comic book panel by hand. Literally coding out the colour they required for each section, a process that was seriously time-consuming.
Funnily enough, the limitations this process presented is why comics before the 1970’s have such a distinct and recognisable aesthetic. They are primarily colourful and fun, something that has been missing from comic book movies of late.
Guardians Gets it Right
When people say a movie “knows what it is” what they’re trying to say is that it is cohesive. That all aspects of the film are trying to sell you the same story. The premise that Guardians vol.2 is trying to sell you is quite simple and you feel it almost immediately from the visuals alone.
This is Earth –
This is not Earth –
As you follow the Guardians you’re exploring other worlds and races. You quickly become aware how much you don’t know about the Marvel Universe outside of Earth. Experiencing the varying colours and hues of the planets and Guardians themselves becomes a part of your education. The narrative, the dialogue and the aesthetics continually send the same message, you’re not on Earth, it is okay for the strange to happen because the rules you understand and are used to don’t apply here.
James Gunn isn’t afraid to reflect the vibrancy of the comics. Does this choice always work? No. At certain points, it becomes too obvious the movie is trying to visually tell you to feel a certain way without necessarily naturally inspiring those feelings
However, James Gunn’s endeavour is always enjoyable. The point is, it’s cool to see what creatives with a vision can do regardless of limitations. There are a lot of fair criticisms of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy sequel but there’s no point in the movie where you don’t understand the vision; a fun, adventurous romp.