James Gunn's pop, vibrant look for [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073) owes some to old school pulp sci-fi films of the 50's, but also a lot to a master of 20th Century art, Renee Magritte. Gunn wanted to combine the grittiness of modern sci-fi classics, such as Blade Runner and Alien, with a vibrant palette that blends almost into the surreal. He found the perfect inspiration in Renee Magrite's series of classic paintings called The Empire of Lights painted in the 1950's.
"That was one of my big guiding forces," Gunn told Movies.com, citing this painting as being a major inspiration for him. "The design of the movie was to create these contrasting looks with things."
Notice how Magrite creates a surreal effect by breaking the painting into a highly lit day and a gloomily lit night side. The point is to show both the beauty and the ugliness coexisting and almost touching.
"There’s the pulp mixed with the grittiness; the beauty mixed with the ugliness," Gunn noted to Movies.com. "And that’s throughout the whole movie."
"I wanted to bring back some of the color of the 1950s and 60s. You know, pulp science fiction movies," Gunn notes.