Tuesday, May 02, 2017

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Isn't as Polished and Novel as the First One, but Still as Awesome

Guardians of the Galaxy was my favorite movie of 2014.  For a lengthy stretch, it was my pick for best MCU movie ever, before that spot was taken last year by Captain America: Civil War.   Hence, though I tend to be excited for all upcoming Marvel movies, I had a special kind of anticipation for its sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows the lovable quintet of space-adventuring misfits – Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) – as they once again find themselves in trouble when they earn the ire of an alien race called the Sovereign, led by the High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).  Their plight becomes more complicated when several players join the fray: former adversaries that have scores to settle with them, namely Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), the Ravagers, and Nebula (Karen Gilian); an alien empath named Mantis (Pom Klementieff); and Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter Quill’s estranged father.  Eventually, a galactic threat is revealed, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are forced to expand their roster – by adding Yondu, Nebula, and Mantis – in order to combat it.
I did hope that it would turn out better than the first one – maybe, even knock Civil War off from its pedestal.  But, overall, the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is better.  Nonetheless, I wasn’t disappointed with Vol. 2 at all.  It’s still awesome.  By its own, it’s highly entertaining.  Its opening credit sequence wins the affection and investment of the audience immediately.  And just like the first movie, it’s delightfully packed with fun action set pieces, jokes, quirky flavors, Easter eggs, eye-candy visuals, and fantastic 70’s-80’s music.  The first movie is “better” simply because it had the advantage of novelty and a tighter, more polished script.

The narrative of Vol. 2 seems to feel a bit cluttered because it goes to explore the relationships and emotional baggages of various Guardians, including the new ones.  Hence, there are several storylines going on at once.  And though they are interesting on their own, the flow is slightly messy when they’re combined.  Still, they bring in a dramatic depth that’s somewhat superior to what the first movie had, articulating the themes of “family” and “redemption” with much more emotional punch.
I can see how some may find its humor a bit forced this time around, but the comedy is still effective, in my opinion.  I did laugh a lot.  Moreover, despite having humor as a common element in MCU movies, I think that first movie has perfectly established that the Guardians of the Galaxy brand of humor is distinctively wacky and cheeky.  Hence, this way, its almost-annoying persistence of gags still feels organic (at least, for me).  However, this is also a negative in a sense since, even in its most poignant of moments, I was conditioned to expect for a joke to come out of nowhere – and this somewhat diminishes the efficiency of the mood.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a lot of fun.  I really had a great time with it.  It’s not perfect.  But even with its flaws, I still find it the best movie I’ve seen so far in 2017.

Miscellaneous musings (with SPOILERS):
  • I don’t really need to mention this since it basically goes without saying, but I will anyway: Baby Groot is friggin’ adorable!
  • To be honest, I didn’t like the re-imagined Starhawk that Sylvester Stallone plays.  Probably, because I was also not too keen about the Yondu-as-a-Ravager re-imagination done in the previous movie.  I want my Guardians of the Galaxy (original version) to be closer to the comics’ depiction – Yondu with a bow, and Starhawk with godlike powers.
  • And will this re-imagined Guardians of the Galaxy team (original version) – composed of Stallone’s Starhawk, Michael Rosenbaum’s Martinex T'Naga, Ving Rhames’ Charlie-27, and Michelle Yeoh’s Aleta – actually go somewhere?  Will they have a significant role in Guardians of the Galaxy 3?  Or were they just included in the movie for cameo purposes?
  • It has an unprecedented (in the MCU) five mid/post-credits scenes.  And yet, it doesn’t have the room to include the Nathan Fillion cameo as Wonder Man.  It still baffles me why they have to cut it.  Unless there’s actually a plan to bring in Nathan Fillion to the MCU as a full-on character (in GotG 3 or in Infinity Wars), cutting the cameo off doesn’t make sense, and it annoys me.
  • Howard the Duck once again makes a cameo.  I wish Marvel would make “One-Shot” short films again, so that they can make something out of this.
  • The Stan Lee cameo here is a reference to the fan theory that he’s actually MCU’s Uatu the Watcher.  Brilliant.
  • In the comics, Peter Quill’s father is J’son, King of the Spartax Star System.  In a way, the screen version of Ego, as played by Kurt Russell, is a combination of J’son and Ego the Living Planet, instead of just a strictly re-imagined version of Ego.
  • So we’re getting Adam Warlock in GotG 3.  Okay.  But this should have happened in Vol. 2 in the first place.
  • I’m still hoping Iron Man and Captain Marvel will become part of the team in the future (maybe in GotG 3), just as they did in the comics.
  • Sony is developing a Venom movie.  If that’s set in the MCU, I hope it will be connected to the Guardians of the Galaxy, as Flash Thompson a.k.a. Agent Venom also used to be part of the team.
  • I was amused tremendously when Star-Lord’s mind was blown after receiving a Zune, Microsoft’s extinct and sub-iPod mp3 player, because it had 300 songs.  Imagine how he would react when he gets to Earth in Avengers: Infinity War and discover stuff like iPod, iTunes, and the fact that music can be played on portable phones (i.e. smartphones). 
  • Chris Pratt has become one of my favorite actors recently.  Not necessarily because of his charisma and work on screen, though these help, too.  With the liberal and SJW agenda thriving in Hollywood, his sensible, conservative-leaning, in-touch-with-reality views are refreshing.

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