Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 (Contains Spoilers)
After the unexpected hit that was its predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 had a lot to live up to. Though Guardians isn’t as tethered to the larger MCU as other films and therefore doesn’t have an onslaught of Easter Eggs and set-ups weighing it down, there was still a lot of things that the writers could’ve gotten wrong in this film as historically – sequels aren’t as good as the original. This argument has been very divisive amongst fans and hardcore movie lovers, some claiming that the original was a breath of fresh air and the sequel doesn’t do the best job of emulating that, some arguing that the sequel builds and expands on important character development and story arcs.
Personally, I can’t really decide. In an ideal world, I’d take the tone from the first film and the story from the second to make an ultimate Guardians film (Maybe I should save that idea for later when the film is inevitably rebooted in 20 years in a Virtual Reality, 4D, immersive version with even better special effects). Your reaction to the film ultimately depends on your approach to what/how superhero action films should/could be. It’s almost as easy to pick apart and destroy this film as it is to sit back and enjoy the adventure, comedy and pretty sparkles on the screen.
The major positive of this movie, just like the original, is that it is a lot of fun. I only saw the film in lowly 2D and the visual effects were still breath-taking so I can imagine that seeing it in 3D would outright blow your mind; the film is beautiful to behold. What I love about the GOTG films the most is that they embrace their nerdy, comic origins so well that you feel as though you’re in a comic book and anything is possible, so when they introduce a character that is literally a living planet your reaction is “Yeah, sure totally. That makes perfect sense”. As you may know, when comic book films try and immerse themselves too much in the nitty gritty aspects of the real world it doesn’t always work (*cough* Man of Steel) so seeing James Gunn go full out fantastical for the second time was awesome.
As I said before, GOTG is much more separated from the larger MCU as other films, so there was little in it that felt like it was forced for the sake of set up; the Easter eggs were for fans of the comics and the lore of the various characters beyond what we saw on screen rather than specifically setting up another MCU instalment. I think this definitely works in the film’s favour and should be how Easter Eggs should be approached in the future. The film stands alone and is good on its own merit without relying on previous films (including its own) and the fact that it exists in a wider universe just makes it cooler. I would compare it to the DC TV shows like Arrow and Supergirl where it is hinted that big names like Batman and Superman exist in the universe but the shows don’t need their constant appearance or mention to be exciting and only serves to open up numerous possibilities for the future. Needless to say, we don’t need another Howard the Duck movie in the works, but it’s cool to know he exists anyway.
Furthermore, all the characters in the film are just as entertaining and engaging as before as well as showing signs of real character development both internally and in terms of their relationships with other characters. The theme of family is omnipresent in this film and you really get to understand why Peter is so torn between who his real family is; his biological father, the man who raised him or his new family, who accepted his baggage and all. Everyone delivered excellent performances, especially Michael Rooker whose praises everyone has been singing and rightly so. Yondu steps in this film and his character is given so much depth and heart, it makes you look back on his character in GOTG in a whole new light. Also, I am now totally down for a Yondu solo film or Netflix series.
And yes, Baby Groot was adorable and the funniest part of the film. Yes, I have a Baby Groot bobble head on my bookshelf. No shame. Unfortunately, there are a few glaring flaws in the movie (at least to me), hence why I’m unsure whether I preferred the original film over this one.
Firstly, the part that weakens many Marvel films, the villain. When I first heard that Kurt Russell’s character in the film would be a literal living planet my first thought was “This could either be awesome or a complete sh*t show”. Luckily for, us it was the former. I think the film did a really good job of explaining how Ego could even exist in the first place, a question that could lead to some interesting theological discussions, which is always fun to discuss in relation to comic book lore (or is that just me?). I think Ego was a far better villain than Ronan because by the time he’s revealed as the villain you have a genuine emotional investment in the character and the consequences of him being a villain. However, his end game was still ultimately to take over the universe for an unclear reason, something we’ve seen before, probably too much for that matter.
The ‘reveal’ of Ego as the villain isn’t as shocking as it could’ve been since Gamora is constantly insisting that he’s shady and since she’s such badass you can’t help but think that she might be on to something. Despite the fact that Kurt Russell is amazing in the role and you understand that he is a lonely god (lower case ‘g’) who wants more from life I don’t think the writing does enough to convince you that he’s not going to be the big bad of the film or even that he’s doing what he thinks is right, he’s just generically bad. The Sovereign also aren’t a good foil for the potential big bad of the movie. The Sovereign kept reminding me of the Batmobile portions of the game ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ in that it’s interesting at first but then constant interference from people controlling drones cuts the excitement short and just becomes annoying especially when more important things are going on in the main arc.
The most controversial criticism I’ve seen floating around the internet so far is that the movie seems to be trying too hard. This movie is far more emotional than it’s predecessor with its core storyline being about a reconnecting father and son and the true meaning of family; a classic recipe for some gut wrenching, tear jerking scenes. However, this movie is also essentially a comedy with the writers going for big laughs, particularly with the presence of Baby Groot who, to quote YouTube creator, writer and director Jack Howard, “essentially just has sketches sprinkled throughout the film’. This approach only works to a point and I think that sometimes the movie tries too hard to be funny and jokes often come at the expense of pivotal or emotional scenes.
If you’re going to do that the jokes have to pay off and unfortunately they don’t always do. Some jokes like the Taserface joke, which was only mildly funny, to begin with, just didn’t seem to end and following scenes lost whatever momentum they had at the start. Then some jokes seemed totally out of place like Star Lords ‘Walkman joke’ just as he’s about to fight Ego after being told Ego killed his mother. The joke just seems cheap especially when you consider how dark that reveal fundamentally is. Ego could’ve just sent someone to kill her after Peter was born but instead, he puts a tumour in her brain so she would die slowly and in pain, that’s sadistic and cruel; and then Peter is also upset about his Walkman. I think when it comes to comedic timing, GOTG did a better job than Volume 2 in terms of knowing when to stop the jokes even if was only briefly to let the emotional moments have their moments before lightening the mood.
I do have to admit though, that I do understand the other side of the argument because even though now I can criticise the humour in hindsight, I was laughing or at least chuckling at 95% of the jokes in the movie. The humour is a big part of what makes the movie so enjoyable and the odd timings of the jokes didn’t take me completely out the movie because the time it took me to figure why the moment felt weird something else was happening that pulled me right back in the film. For instance, though the Taserface joke soon got boring it was immediately followed by a hilarious bit with Baby Groot, where practically every beat hit. I think most of the flaws of this film are things that will bother you and if you think about them hard you’ll figure out why but in the moment they won’t necessarily ruin the film for you.
Baby Groot is cute. Pretty colours in the space. A surprising amount of alien sex. Guardian of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is perfect turn your brain off and have a good time fun material and definitely worth seeing.