Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Tuesday's Reviews - Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Last week I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with a friend. Before I saw it I was filled with fear and doubt about how good it was. The trailers hadn't really done much to suggest that Marvel were doing anything other than call-backs and in-jokes mixed with loads of shots of Baby Groot. I was sure it was going to be super fucking cringey and just ruin my love of the first one. I mean, Baby Groot is cute and all but I need something more than a CGI'd tiny tree to keep me happy, you know. So I was concerned but I loved the first film so much. It wasn't perfect but, really, what Marvel movie is? We don't love them because they're flawless films; we love them because they're awesome regardless. Anyway, this film boasts Kurt Russell as Ego and I'm not the kind of person who can happily walk away from that situation. Two powerhouses coming together in one place? Yes, please. Especially when accompanied by still buff Christ Pratt. Really, it didn't matter if this film was good or bad as long as Star Lord was as easy one the eye as the first time.

Whilst Guardians of the Galaxy is now well-known as being part of the lighter side of the MCU, it's important to remember that it opens with an incredibly emotional and dark moment. It opens with the very real and human sequence where young Peter Quill is faced with the death of his mother. It is something that soon gets lost in all the fun and quips but it hangs over Quill's life and the film. It showed that, despite seeming like being nothing more than a jolly good time, Guardians was willing to deal with some deep shit. This is something that is also true of it's sequel. Seriously, I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to be walking in to but I definitely didn't expect there to be quite so many feels.

But we'll get there, Guardians of the Galaxy starts off as everyone wanted it to and proved that director James Gunn was still going to approach this in the same way he had the first one. We dive headfirst into an impending battle between out hapless heroes and a huge beast. Unexpectedly, however, we see the battle take place in the background as tiny Groot dances to ELO's Mr Blue Sky. It's a fabulous opening scene that had me grinning from ear to ear and caused all of my doubts to dissolve in the overriding sweetness on show. It's a great opening scene and makes huge promises to the audience. Unfortunately, it can't deliver on all of those promises.

Where Guardians 2 really flies is within Gunn's dialogue and in the interaction between the group at its core. When the main 5, plus Yondu, get a chance to really shoot the breeze everything just feels right. There's such a great chemistry on screen and Gunn has a wonderful sense of how the relationships should work. In an ideal world, this film would literally just have been a rambling film where the gang fly around space and banter with each other. However, films of this type generally require plots and action to keep an audience interested. So, thanks to a clunky plot device, we are quickly introduced to Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) estranged father, Ego (Kurt Russell). Turns out, Quill comes from very good genes as his immortal, planet God father is all too eager to tell him. Whilst Quill loves getting to know his only living family his team mates have bad feelings about this.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) doesn't trust the newly discovered father figure and as it turns out, she has good reason. When Ego showcases a desire for some doomsday level shenanigans, the gang must save Peter from falling under his spell. Before we get there, of course, there's some other stuff with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) getting caught up in a coup on Yondu's ship and a shit load of adoptive sisterly tension between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Plus, plenty of times where Drax (Dave Bautista) is able to be fucking hilarious. After the super slick and fun opening sequence the rest of the film starts to run away with itself. Gunn always manages to reign it in but there is the inescapable feeling that everything is rushing towards the inevitable CGI filled climactic showdown. Really, it kind of seems that Gunn was so desperate to outdo himself that it ends up being a bit desperate and over-the-top. There's just so much drama and action and it's just not necessary. Then there are the endless pop culture references that, whilst fresh in the first one, just seem relentless now. It feels like all those YA post-apocalyptic books that reference 80s music to hide the fact that the author doesn't have the creativity to build a fleshed out post-apocalyptic world. Missing something in your narrative? Just reference a classic sitcom or song. It feels like Gunn's constant referencing is just an attempt to paper over some cracks.

This isn't a bad film, though and, even in it's dodgier moments, always maintains that sense of fun and heart. There are some fantastic scenes and the expansion of Michael Rooker's Yondu is a fabulous edition. It was a surprising turn of events that this film ended up having one of the most emotionally fraugh ending of any film I've seen recently. More than any film in the MCU so far, Guardians 2 has some fucking hard consequences... and it's brilliant. The sequel may not be quite as good, clever, or original as the first film but it's still well-worth a look. I mean it was never going to reach the heady heights of the first one because that was such a shock. We knew what to expect here and it delivered exactly that, which was, in a way, its undoing. It's the awful irony of success I suppose.

Despite everything I really loved this film and was super happy with how Gunn and co did in creating a sequel. It was funny, exciting and visually interesting. The main 5 are getting better and better together and I look forward to future films. I just hope they reign themselves in a bit. Both in terms of the actual film and the post-credits scenes. I mean fucking 5 clips? This whole Marvel tease is getting out of control. Although, it would be fine if they were fulfilling clips but most of them add nothing. I guess one was funny but most just felt unnecessary. A brief tease to a future character, a glimpse to appease comic book fans and a teenage Groot moment that just fell flat. Guardians 2's greatest sin was putting the final nail in the coffin of the post-credit bonus clip. Marvel, it's time to stop this nonsense now. Thanks.

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