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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Movie Review


The Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Director: James Gunn

The Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone

The Story: Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.


The Review:
In 1977, a science fiction film called Star Wars was released and quickly became one of the biggest, most unexpected box office hits in the history of movies. It literally changed how movies are made, how they are marketed, and what we as the movie going public expect from the cinematic experience. In the years that followed, a multitude of movies came out chasing that new christened blockbuster status but each one fell short of that lofty goal. The key to Star Wars wasn't how big and flashy it was, although that certainly didn't hurt, it was the relatable characters, and the charismatic actors who portrayed them, that stuck with us and made us want to live out adventures with them in that galaxy far, far away.


To me, the first Guardians of the Galaxy represents the same feelings that Star Wars gave us just set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the movie came out, it was new, it was different, it was really fun, and it had characters who felt real and relatable. There was a certain magic to it that just felt right. The story opened up a world that could be expanded upon to no end and of course, there would be a volume 2.

Rocket: Are we really saving the galaxy, again?
Peter Quill: Yeah.
Rocket: Great! We can jack up our prices if we're two-time galaxy savers!

These quotes from the movie make for a pretty fitting metaphor when comparing the original to the sequel. Basically, everything that worked in the first movie is jacked up for maximum effect. The laughs are bigger, the battles are more explosive, the effects are more special, and the whole thing is just a big celebration of how great and fun this franchise is although I'm not sure that's entirely a good thing. James Gunn has definitely upped the ante when it comes to how big and bold his story is and there's a very intentional effort in recreating some of the cheese and camp that we all enjoyed from those classic 80's films like Flash Gordon, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.


This free wheeling excess is where I have some mixed emotions about the film. On one hand, it's all great fun and it's the non stop, action packed thrill ride we were all hoping for. On the other hand, there is just so much going on with new characters and plot threads being randomly inserted into the story, it can be hard to keep track and make sense of it all. To be fair, I actually like the throwback style and cheesy, nostalgic feel to the film and it's fun to see the group hopping around the galaxy, there just isn't as much time to let the characters breathe and settle in like in the first film. From the opening moments, Gunn hits us with bigger and more elaborate versions of the things we liked in the first movie although it ends up feeling like a classic case of studio executives meddling and making demands versus honest creative energy.

Dancing Baby Groot? Show them more!
Drax being literal and exaggerated? Pile it on!
Yondu's arrow thing? Kill everyone with it!


Getting back to the cast of characters, the main group that forms the Guardians is still a truly special collection of talent and they all work well together in their signature dysfunctional way. The interactions and insults between the crew are just as fun as you would expect and there is just enough of a progression between Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to keep things interesting. The latest budding friendship comes from Drax (Dave Bautista) and newcomer Mantis (Pom Klementieff) as they make for some of the best comedic moments of the movie.

A few of the peripheral characters have the opportunity to flesh out their backstories a bit and it was especially nice to see Karen Gillan have more to do as Nebula because she is just too awesome of an actress to keep in the background. Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn also have expanded roles as Yondu and Kraglin, both of which end up playing very pivotal roles by the time the story is over. As I mentioned earlier, there are also a lot of new characters, some of which are pretty important to the plot (Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha) and others are more cameo style that either set things up for the future (Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord) or are just there for fun.


The Verdict:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is everything you want this movie to be and most likely way more than that as well. It is big, it is fast, and it is a no holds barred, balls to the wall trip through the cosmic side of the MCU that will give you that sense of wonder but with a little less heart than the original it's trying so hard to top. I imagine some will be turned off by the sheer volume of comic book hi-jinks that James Gunn throws on the screen, but overall this was a very enjoyable ride and yet another smashing success for Marvel.

So far, I have not seen the movie in 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D, or any other premium format. What I can tell you is that James Gunn took great care in creating the film using special aspect ratios that could then be formatted digitally to whatever type of presentation he wanted. He also oversaw each type of conversation to make sure they were all top notch efforts.

Final note: There are FIVE bonus scenes during and after the credits and there are even a couple cameo Easter eggs within the credits so keep your eyes and ears open all the way to the end.




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