Star Lord

May 17, 2017

‘Guardians Vol.2’ Lacks the Magic, but That’s Not All Bad

It would be putting it mildly that the expectations were out of this world for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” James Gunn’s oddball superhero action comedy introduced fans of the MCU to a brand new type of hero and extended the storytelling into outer space. Sure, both “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” took us into the mythical world of Asgard, but the colorful landscape of deep space was something to behold.

Also, the fact that Marvel/Disney was willing to take a chance on a Troma-alum like Gunn who seems to have an affinity for tentacle Hentai porn and graphic violence, was a breathe of fresh air. You had the prefect blend of heart, family-friendliness and of course sexual innuendo, hence the first “Guardians” was a smash hit.

Take us three years to 2017 and Gunn is back at it again with “Vol. 2,” a flawed, but fun, sequel that is essentially a companion piece to the MCU as opposed to any type of film that progresses the overall story arc in the MCU. More importantly, it seems like the shackles were completely off of Gunn to create a film in the way that he sees fit, and that is where the film both shines, and trips over itself at times.

We meet our heroes back in 2014, fresh off the heels of their big victory against Ronan the Accuser and turning over the Power Stone to the Nova Corps on Xandar. This time they are helping the Sovereign protect some batteries from a giant tentacle monster. With their job complete, the Guardians receive their reward; the captured Nebula.

Of course, things go south quick and our heroes crash land on a lone planet and are greeted by a man names Ego, who tells Star Lord that he’s his father and wants to show him his birth rite. At this point our heroes part ways and the film gets the plot moving.

It’s difficult to put into words what’s wrong with this film without sounding like a cranky old man that doesn’t like cutesy Disney-like characters, the use, or overuse, of music, and a couple of jokes and scenes that are a little too self-indulgent. But I guess that’s what you get when you let an inmate run the asylum.

The biggest criticism from most people is that the sequel isn’t as good as the first one. Wow, what a criticism to make…the sequel isn’t as good. Hard hitting stuff. However, I have been pounding the drum in my perceived notion that there has been a recent dip in the quality of Marvel product. But this could also be my perception since the quality has been high for nearly decade, that is was inevitable that a few leaks would start to spring from the hull of the Titanic that is Marvel Studios.

I have to admit, during the title sequence of “Vol. 2” nearly took me out of the film. Unlike Chris Pratt’s trounce through Morag dancing and singing to “Come and Get Your Love,” the Baby Groot dance to “Mr. Blue Sky,” while the rest of the team is fighting a massive alien set the tone that I was going to be annoyed with cute antics. Pratt’s dance set the tone for fun and personally I rather see a REAL HUMAN character on screen than a computer generated creature pimped put to sell Pop! Vinyl figurines.

However, the film rebounded from that and turned into a pretty fun, stand-alone Marvel film. There is meditation on family and abandonment and the idea that the heart should drive you as opposed to your brain, and those themes were handled quite well considering all the boombastic action going on for about 80% of the film.

This brings me to one of the things I really liked, and that was Gunn’s freedom to pay homage to his friends on screen, namely Michael Rooker and his brother, Sean Gunn. The additional screen time and plot progression of Rooker’s Yondu, and Gunn’s Kraglin is something unexpected and a breathe of fresh air. Being close to the director is certainly a perk, but the way both Yondu and Kraglin are treated in “Vol. 2” is something a lot of studios with millions of dollars invested in a film wouldn’t allow to happen; make them a central part of the film. But low and behold, they are given much more screen time and are allowed to play pivotal roles, especially at the film’s climax.

At the end of the day, these films are bulletproof. No matter the reviews or criticism, “Vol. 2” will make close to a billion dollars worldwide, and the Marvel juggernaut just keeps chugging along. In all fairness, however, it’s fair to openly criticize this film, because it’s not perfect, and has it’s flaws, but don’t criticize it just to criticize because overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” is a harmless Summer blockbuster that is just another piece of the Marvel machine heading towards the inevitable “Infinity War,” and if anything, at least this film is proving that you don’t need to shoehorn things into a universe that is so bloated that at times it seems to be collapsing in on itself.

“Vol. 2” is the closest thing we’ve had to a stand-alone Marvel movie, thus far. No need for cute cameos or a character just passing by. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind just seeing a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film universe. It’s ripe for the picking and there are plenty of things to cherry pick and create some fun films. Hell, a talking racoon and a tree are some of the most talked about characters in the MCU; who’d of thought they would be more beloved at this point than Iron Man or Captain America. People are looking for their heroes to be against the grain, and that is why “Black Panther,” for my money is going to blow people away, but tread carefully when giving the masses what they want, the disappointment could also be monumental and remember; with great power, comes great responsibility.

August 2, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy (DJ’s Take)

REWARDING

The road to Guardians Of The Galaxy has a been a strange one if you think about it.  When Marvel’s cinematic universe potentate Kevin Feige announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con that the next big film coming down the pipeline was going to be Guardians, many were floored.  It was supposed to be a victory lap for Marvel after The Avengers changed the comic book movie genre forever…but they decided to come out with Guardians Of The Galaxy next?

Most didn’t even know who the hell the Guardians Of The Galaxy were.  I, being a comic book reader since I was seven, knew who they were and still was confused.  The balls on Marvel.  The balls indeed.  This WAS their victory lap.  The Avengers success allowed them to take a chance on a property that no one knew, and have it fly under the radar pressure free.  And it did.  Until that trailer came out.  A trailer that played up the film’s unfamiliarity with audience for a laugh.  A trailer that showed us why Feige was so confident in the property to begin with.  Guardians Of The Galaxy looked like it was going to capitalize greatly on one of the strengths of Marvel.  That strength being their films are fun.  It also looked as though Guardians was going to take advantage of the growing desire for a lighthearted sci-fi space adventure before even their Disney brother Star Wars Episode VII could.  I mean look at this poster

If Only Serenity Came Out Now

Trailer after trailer came out, each looking better than the last.  Excitement grew.  Critics fawned.  DC pouted.  Then about two weeks before release…rumblings of worry began about Guardians Of The Galaxy possibly not living up to the hype.  A film about characters no one knew four years ago was now being thought of as too good to be true.  The whole thing reminds me of another risky venture that Marvel took back in 2008.  And we remember how that turned out don’t we?

THE TANK = COMIC BOOK FANBOYS’ MINDS

Guardians Of The Galaxy is merely another risky venture by Feige and the boys at Marvel.  The verdict?  Not only does it live up to the recent hype you’ve been hearing, it is possibly the most REWARDING experience you’ll have in the theater all year. 

So, what is Guardians about?  It’s about a group of emotionally scarred kindred spirits coming together to become a family.  What?  It is.  The kindred spirits just happen to be raccoon, a tree, an earthling, a deadly alien chic, and a crazed warrior.   Sure there is a plot revolving around the retrieval of a mysterious macguffin (A Favorite Trope For Marvel) and various quests for revenge.  However, this is really about the unity of these characters amidst their differences and obstacles.

You may think that I am crapping on the plot of Guardians, but I’m not.  I merely want to bring attention to the real accomplishment of this film.  That accomplishment is the quality of these characters themselves.  Each one of them are so rich and fleshed out, the story almost feels inconsequential.  You’ll fall in love with them equally and so deeply that you’d be willing to watch them regardless of their journey.  The Guardians are as uniquely lovable as Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2 or Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, River, Book, Kaylee, Simon, and Inara.  And that is just on paper.  You still gotta cast the thing.  Thankfully Gunn and Feige knocked that out of the park as well.

Matthew McConaughey is an actor that has taken a meteoric rise over the past few years.  However, his McConaugh-sance has smoke screened most from the arrival of Chris Pratt.  This guy has been in projects ranging from Parks and Rec, Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Lego Movie and has crushed his performance each time.  Peter Quill now might very well be Pratt’s Han Solo role, while his part in the new Jurassic Park might be his Indiana Jones.  Pratt is that magnetic and the magnetically charming throughline for this entire film.  Quill could soon become a Marvel favorite after audiences get a glimpse of Star-Lord, even with Robert Downey Jr. still walking the earth as Tony Stark.  It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this character from his very first frame on screen, much like how we did with Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is not as entertainingly devilish as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  However, she has the tough task of being the film’s straight man or woman as it were.  Saldana is solid in the role and has undeniable chemistry with Pratt.  Whenever she is given a scene to carry, she delivers.  Dave Bautista was the one character that I was worried about.  He essentially plays the Thor role of the team, which could be bad if done poorly.  However, Gunn plays into any stilt and stiffness that Bautista could of have had and uses it as a character trait.  A decision that makes Drax possibly the most humorous characters in the film.  A stroke of genius if you think about.  Bautista’s acting, which is still quite good in this, is now nearly immune from criticism.

Diesel and Cooper make icons of their two CGI characters.  Cooper especially lends something to Rocket that I never expected.  He is the fan favorite master of wisecracking, of course.  However, there is a very terrific and subtle thread of emotional trauma that Cooper brings to Rocket.  Just one of the many examples of the detail and time that went into creating these characters.  A feat completed through the writing and directing of James Gunn.

I think Gunn might be Marvel’s new golden boy.  I understand why there were rumors of him taking over Avengers after Joss Whedon.  Gunn and Whedon’s thematic voices are different, but they seem to approach the material in a similar way.  They both never forget to service their characters first.  They both embrace fun without letting it get too silly.  And they both seem to love the material they are working with.  (Trust me…that is not always a guarantee…ahem…Marc Webb…ahem…Michael Bay)  Gunn brings so much life to this world, I’m amazed the budget was as low as it was. ($170 million)
With the freedom Marvel seemed to have given Gunn with Guardians and the success that I think it will be, I can only imagine what we will be in store for in the sequel.

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a high risk, but ended up becoming a high REWARD.  We should all go out and claim this REWARD, and by doing so, prove that strange and different is not automatically box office poison.  Hop aboard the Milano…grab a prosthetic leg…never call Drax a thesaurus…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  And if you don’t…Peter Quill has a message for you.

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