A Saturday night starts sprawled out on a new sofa suite in front of sci-fi pew-pew fest, Guardians of the Galaxy.
I say new, I mean to us – Grandad’s moved house and floral print has given way to masculine black leather. Two pieces in all; a mammoth three-seater which had to be manoeuvred through the window to fit in and a slouching monstrosity of an armchair. Comfy though, very much so. A couple of more elegant tub chairs were gained on top of that. Also black.
A Glaswegian Imax was the location of my first viewing. An August night, two years ago. My fifth year results hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped; I think I was pretty arrogant that year, hence complacency. Anyway, it was a bit of a reality check. This was on the “Piergroup” – youth division of my local modern art gallery – excursion to the aforementioned city and Scottish capital as part of “Generation 2014”. I’m no serious Marvel fan, and only really have a peripheral knowledge of the main comic books universes, but let me tell you I loved that film.
Escapism and fun is what I needed back then, and Guardians of the Galaxy delivers on so many levels. Only, watching it again, there is no mistaking the pro-US government agenda of the plot. “Ronan” (I know right, weirdly innocuous sounding name for a villain) is referred to as a “terrorist”; the beheading near the start of the film is an obvious visual allegory to ISIS, and the “Cree” culture could be taken for the wider Islamic world versus the morally superior “Xander” system. Furthermore, the Xanderians are the only people deemed ethically competent enough to possess the superweapon of mass destruction, the infinity orb, which could be interpreted as the US’s (and the West’s in general) refusal to allow Iran to gain nuclear capabilities. However, one has to bear in mind that the glory days of comic books occurred during the Cold War, and therefore the prejudices that would have originally allegorised the Soviet Union have simply been transferred to the scourge/scapegoat of modern times – militant Islam.
Of course more important than these sweeping political conclusions is one glaring act of plagiarism brought to my attention after watching the film for a second time.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t concern Guardians of the Galaxy at all – a film which steals most of its tropes from Star Wars and other mainstream “sci-fi”, albeit throwing them together in a humourous and self-aware package. No, this parallel is about the first of the new Star Wars trilogy, the rather blandly entitled The Force Awakens (an enjoyable cinematic spectacle, yet strikingly unoriginal and plunders its own history shamelessly to sell on nostaligia). Both films feature “throne room” consultations where an apprentice figure (Ronan in Guardians and Kylo Ren in Star Wars) speaks to a demi-god hologram master figure. Snoke (I know right, the names are utter garbage) plays a painfully close role to the titan Thanos, at least in terms of cinematography.
Back to the night. It was a Saturday, and not just any Saturday but the Saturday night of Shopping Week. For those not in the know “Shopping Week” is the name given to a seven days of festivities commonly dubbed “gala” in other towns across the nation. Here it seems that the commercial element is stressed, and there can be no doubt that a significant increase in public spending occurs across the celebration’s duration. The concluding night commonly features the guest band performing a set at the pier head; young and old gathering in the open air to watch the fireworks, and ubiquitous binge drinking.
After the film we are shuttled down to Stromness. My sister slurps up a strawberry cider through a straw during the drive to disdain and mirthful disapproval.
We hit the town. “Midas Touch” are playing White Cherry’s Play that Funky Music as we strut down to the harbour front. I phone my friend. They’re at the burger van – no, the other burger van. Okay, I see you now.
Greek spirits are guzzled from a tetra pack chalice. I nab unwanted mozzarella from a gourmet bun. The festive mood is upon us, and the fireworks begin.
The display is melancholy. It’s the visual equivalent of listening to the dramatic third movement of a piano concerto, except the damper pedal’s been left on. Thick fog muffles the effect, parching the spectral acoustic.
The murky atmosphere solidifies the orange sodium glow of the street lighting, the smoky traces of the anticlimactic explosions fanned across the night sky by an indifferent yet ever present wind. Pilgrims, stubbornly clinging to a calendrical constant, slog silhouetted across the pier.
It’s over for another year, and yet the night has just begun.