Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was revolutionary in multiple ways. It was the first film to use RED's 8K camera, and also used a record number of CGI cells when creating the landscape of Ego's planet. Overall, it was a beautiful film to watch that had a beautiful story to tell. However, there was another historic moment in the film that went largely unnoticed. Believe it or not, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the first film in the MCU to break the fourth wall.
In the world of film, "breaking the fourth wall" means that the reality of the universe has been broken, usually by acknowledging the audience directly or by acknowledging the character's fictional reality. This originated as a theatre term, as the standard theatre stage has three walls and an imaginary fourth (where the audience is seated). The most common example of a movie character breaking the fourth wall is Deadpool, the potty-mouthed mercenary who finally got his first movie in 2016.
Throughout Deadpool, the titular mercenary would often talk straight to the camera, and would occasionally acknowledge that he was in a movie, at one point even jabbing at the budget 20th Century FOX gave them. While the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 didn't go as far as to talk to the audience or complain about their budget, the reality of the MCU was briefly broken in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.
This occurred at the ending of the absolutely adorable opening credits sequence as Baby Groot dances to Mr. Blue Sky. Toward the end of this hilarious sequence, Groot rides on the back of a rat-like alien life-form through the battle against the Abilisk. Once he gets through the heated battle, Groot lets go of the creature and rolls across the ground - which is when the fourth wall is broken.
Toward the end of his "roll," Groot hurdles into the camera at the 2:41 mark in the video below.
This moment is identifiable by the soft "dink" you hear as Groot's tree limbs run into the glass lens. While this moment may seem cute and innocent, it's actually the first time the reality of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been questioned within the saga.
This is a big deal for Marvel Studios, because it's this type of deviations from a uniformed style that potentially ruin the audience's belief in its cinematic universe. It may also be exactly the type of aesthetic choices that prevented the likes of Edgar Wright from completing his work on Ant-Man.
Edgar Wright was originally set to write and direct Ant-Man, but he eventually dropped out after Marvel Studios decided to take the film in a different direction. To this day, Edgar Wright is understandably disappointed with Marvel's decision.
There's a lot of speculation as to what exactly went wrong between Edgar Wright and Marvel Studios, but actress Evangeline Lily gave her insight to the issue:
It would have stuck out like a sore thumb, no matter how good it was. It just would have taken you away from this cohesive universe they're trying to create. And therefore it ruins the suspended disbelief that they've built.
From what we can gather, based on the statements made about the early drafts of Ant-Man and the auteur director's previous storytelling, it can be assumed that Wright's Ant-Man would have broken the fourth wall and used techniques that wouldn't have been in uniform with the rest of the MCU.
Wright's signature style doesn't usually include characters acknowledging their existence in a movie. Instead, they often include formalist-styled transitions and titles within the universe of each film. The video above is a compilation of Wright's signature transitions and formalist style in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. While these certainly help stylize the film and complete Wright's vision, it would not have fit the aesthetic of the rest of the MCU. Wright often uses variations of this formalist style , such as Hot Fuzz and The World's End.
While this style isn't necessarily "bad," it does tend to break the reality of the film.
As a stand-alone feature, Wright makes this work but as an MCU installment, these aesthetic choices could have broken the reality of Ant-Man, and therefore the reality of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. It would have been difficult for Marvel to pick up the pieces when Ant-Man returned in Captain America: Civil War, given that this film would have an entirely different aesthetic.
The major difference between Groot's fourth wall break and Wright's unique style is that the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's break from that world's reality was subtle, and went largely unnoticed by those engrossed in the film's world. Knowing Edgar Wright's distinctive style, his version of Ant-Man could have made it difficult for Marvel Studios to green-light.
All in all, I appreciated the quick fourth wall break in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and it's great to see Marvel allowing directors to add their own flair to the MCU. It was adorable, and showed us that Marvel Studios is open to change, as long as it doesn't jeopardize the cinematic universe as a whole.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!