May 29, 2017

RE: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

*puts on Snake mask*

Kept you waiting, huh?

*peels off mask*

Well, assuming that there’s anyone out there who’s actually been waiting for this.  In any case?  No spoilers in this post, and it’ll be a quick(ish) one.  In a nutshell, though?  For me, the worst part of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was coming home to find a dog with an exorbitant amount of poop stuck to his hair, which necessitated an immediate bath and led to me getting splashed so much that I took on an additional 20 pounds in water weight.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.  It seems slightly relevant to the topic at hand.

So here’s the setup.  Following the events of the first movie, the titular Guardians of the Galaxy are out doing what they do best: going on hunts and taking on missions for fat stacks of cash, all while treating each other like something the cat dragged in.  One of their bounties runs afoul and puts them in grave danger, only for the team to be rescued by a wizened space-faring stranger -- Ego, AKA the man who names himself as Peter Quill’s/Star-Lord’s dad.  The prospect of it leaves a lot of questions in the air, but our hero (citation needed) is hungry for answers.  Their quest takes them on a journey to a psychedelic new planet, but not without some baggage -- namely, the droves of enemies who are hot on their trail and out for blood.

Here’s a confession you probably wouldn’t have expected out of an increasingly-obvious Marvel movie shill: there was a part of me that thought “Eh, I can skip out on this one.  I don’t need to see it that badly.”  And yeah, scheduling conflicts coupled with my need to get stuff done (*wipes a single manly tear over the novel draft I’ve yet to finish*) made me miss out on the movie for a couple of weeks.  It reached a point where I wanted to see it, but paradoxically wanted to let it slip past.  I mean, come on.  I didn’t need to see it to know what it entailed.  Lots of jokes.  Classic songs.  Explosions and junk.  Laying the groundwork for future Marvel movies, as if I’m being given a preview of the next bill to pay.  Would I have missed anything substantial if I sat this one out?

It turns out the answer is yes.  Hell yes.

I thought that the first Guardians movie was pretty good.  Not my favorite of the MCU bunch, and (in my opinion) not the best it had to offer.  But Vol.2 is a marked step up from the original, improving on pretty much everything while adding some touches that make it its own beast -- whether it’s with respect to its predecessor, or with the MCU as a whole.  It may come off as irreverent at a glance, and just another Marvel movie to throw on the pile, but it doesn’t take much to see that there’s something more than a quest for another million billion dollars.

I don’t think I need to tell you that this movie is funny.  Much like its predecessor, Vol. 2 had me walking out of the movie theater with cheeks left genuinely sore because of how much I smiled.  I think it’s because we’re dealing with a sequel that so many of the jokes and beats land so consistently; we already know these characters, as do the actors, and the same goes for the film crew.  Refinements have been made to get the most out of them in any given situation, and with any given tone.  I thought Gamora was the weakest member of the crew last time, but this time there have been improvements made to her to solidify her presence.

The other cast members, old and new, still give her a run for her money.  My personal pick for “best Guardian” goes to newcomer Mantis, who somehow managed to dethrone my former favorite Groot as the best of what the movie has to offer.  She comes off as meek and awkward, but it’s not to her detriment; she brings a fresh voice and dynamic to the team that simultaneously makes her the funniest as well as the most heartwarming.  It certainly helps that she plays off of pretty much every other cast member, Drax in particular.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the film crew may have accidentally created the MCU’s first and greatest waifu.  God help us all.

But let me back up a bit.  Vol. 2 isn’t just about the jokes, and it isn’t just about the action (as praiseworthy as it is, given some genuinely creative uses of the Guardians’ toolsets).  I didn’t expect to get hit in the feels as hard as I was with this movie -- which is weird, because I distinctly remember getting teary-eyed over Groot last time -- but yeah.  If Phase 3 is intent on pushing movies that are cinematic gut punches that rattle the soul -- with Civil War and Doctor Strange being key offenders -- then they’re clearly not letting up anytime soon.  Though no tears were shed, it’s impossible not to feel for these oft-decried assholes when they’re forced to drop their tough guy/wise guy acts and open up.  And yeah, they’re seriously forced to once the story gets in gear.

If you read that little summary up there, and if you’re familiar with the comic mythos, then you already know who or what the Guardians are up against.  I did, and it felt as if it was only a matter of time until the “reveal” kicked in and the team could actually do something about it.  On that note?  Even if the execution is still consistently top-notch, it can’t hide the fact that the underlying plot is basic, bare-bones, and kind of played out.  Of course the jerks are going to reveal their sensitive sides.  Of course the paradise isn’t what it appears to be.  Of course there’s going to be a grab at a heroic sacrifice.  And so on, and so forth.  Compounding that is the fact that, yeah, there are strong gusts that blow aside the curtain to reveal the money-making machines at work.  Gotta have dancing baby Groot.  Gotta have lots of cheeky references.  Gotta have this thing that feels like it was pulled straight from a focus test.  It’s hard to shrug off, given that one of the first shots in the movie is a blatant advertisement.

Speaking of, does anybody feel like grabbing a Blizzard?  I could go for one right about now…but I can’t rightly explain why.

On the other hand, the good outweighs the bad.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything from the original movie, but Vol. 2 seems keen to up the ante on the visuals.  The color palette is truly out there, with sets and scenes that are arabesque yet awe-inspiring.  It’s the end result of having untold millions behind a project, no question, but it’s in service of making the vastness of space feel truly special, as well as giving the movie something to set it apart from its MCU brethren and its contemporaries in modern cinema.  The soundtrack is…not as impressive outside of the licensed songs and end credits, but I guess it’ll do for now.  I do hope that in future movies, Marvel steps up its soundtrack game; the others have some good tracks, but the vast majority of them are the end credit themes.

But I digress.  As a final note?  In true MCU fashion, a new villain (and a pretty interesting one, too!) is introduced and disposed of in his movie of origin.  That’s another vice that the film’s architects will have to sort out eventually, but in their defense?  This time around, I’m inclined to believe that there’s never been a direr situation that the heroes have had to overcome.  Even if storytelling at large is all about illusions -- when you know that the good guys will beat the bad guys by story’s end -- Vol. 2 at least manages to put the pressure on, and make you wonder just how a team that includes an idiot baby tree monster can possibly accomplish anything.

…I still love you though, Groot.  Never change.

And that’s about all I’ve got for now.  There’s a part of me that think doing more in-depth posts on the movie is kind of redundant; it’s a very WYSIWYG sort of production whose beats you could probably already guess from the promos alone, and I’m sure others have made their claims well before I have.  On the other hand?  This movie’s occupying a pretty big nook in my mind right now, so I might as well expel it the only way I know how.  With an exorcism.  I mean a blog post.  Same difference.

In any case?  Thanks for reading.  Be sure to stick around for more content from me, Marvel-themed or otherwise.  And…make sure you’re keeping track of the Infinity Stones.  It’s gonna matter in a minute.

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