Friday, May 5, 2017
Top-Form Marvel: A 'Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2' Review
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is very good. Obviously.
Writer-director James Gunn's return to the weirdo cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the best installment in the lengthy series to date. I'll be the minority here, I really did think that this was the best of the MCU. Maybe not the most surprising entry, maybe not the freshest one, but it is all-around a very consistent, structurally tight, and very well-written picture.
Our favorite a-holes are back on a mission that has many wild twists and turns. The chassis of the story is the escape from the Sovereigns and their leader Ayesha after Rocket Raccoon steals from them, along with the gang's run-in with the Ravagers. It's merely just the locomotion, the real meat comes from Peter Quill's reunion with his enigmatic father, Ego the Living Planet. In the process, we get to know so much more about these characters whilst meeting great new ones.
I always liked how Guardians of the Galaxy, amongst all the MCU films, was the most character-driven, even during its boom-pow final third. It was a well-paced road trip with a bunch of people who weren't on the same page as each other, and how they became family. This film continues that, whilst shedding some light on Quill's past. There's no rushing or jumping from setpiece to setpiece, it's all paced just right. The main story comes with a rather devastating twist that sets everything in motion, and best of all... The film is self-contained much like its predecessor.
Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are often criticized for having set-up elements, or plot devices that play a big part in future installments. See, I never have a problem with that when it is done right. Guardians of the Galaxy was very much about an Infinity Stone, yet if you take it away from the rest of the MCU, it stands on its own as a unique comic book-based space opera. Maybe it's not Star Wars levels of excellence, but it's a beast of its own with great characters, James Gunn's stamp is all over it. Speaking of which... Awesome Mix, Vol. 2 is indeed awesome: A wonderful blend of different 70s songs from Electric Light Orchestra's classical-based pop-rock to the folk of Cat Stevens to the beauty of George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord.' Definitely some very good choices here, and each song meshes well with their respective sequences...
Anyways, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is mostly about Star-Lord and his papa, with a great subplot concerning Gamora and her villainous sister Nebula. Quill and Yondu's relationship is further explored, too, while we see another side to Rocket Raccoon. If anything, this is just a big and very heartfelt family drama that just happens to be set in a colorful galactic setting, with all these oddball faces and situations. In fact, the movie is set in 2014, around the time Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place, so no explicit crossover elements could really be used here anyways. We'll probably see what they're up to now in one of the movies before next May's Avengers: Infinity War. That all being said, Guardians does quietly set up many subpockets of the cosmic side of the MCU.
The action is as great and vibrant as ever (the MCU movies all look alike, alright!), the humor hits all the right beats, and that quirkiness that made the first film so lovable is back in full force. For example, the whole opening sequence of the movie is the team fighting a Kraken-like monster, while baby Groot grooves to 'Mr. Blue Sky.' It's just as satisfying as the 'Come and Get Your Love' opening of the first film.
In short, it's great. I'm not sure why some others out there were rather underwhelmed by it, what I saw was a great sequel that upped the action, upped the scale, yet kept things smaller, intimate and personal. Its climax was also refreshing, a personal father-son confrontation rather than a fight against a fleet or some big monster. While the Sovereigns factor into the final battle, it's rather minor in the grand scheme of things, just some extra spice. The film also, unlike many previous MCU films, kills off a major player. For as funny as the Guardians movies can be, they can also be gut-punching. That's something special right there...
Now that we are in the wild Phase 3 of this series, you can feel the freedom a little bit more. Marvel Studios recently broke away from Marvel Entertainiment, and the clutches of CEO Ike Perlmutter. While Doctor Strange did seem a little retrograde, being a straight up origin story much like the first Iron Man and Captain America films, it did go all out with its psychedelic sorcery. Vol. 2? Really goes all out. The shackles are off... I think with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and the rest of the films, we'll be in for something really cool and different.