May is a big month for monsters and creatures from outer space. May 19 sees the release of Alien Covenant, a film that I am anxiously awaiting. However, this week we saw the release of a rag tag group of space outlaws fighting the good fight. This month I will be looking at aliens and space creatures of all kind, and what better way to start than with the ever popular Marvel Universe. This is my Sunday with…Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2!
Because the film was just released I am going to do my best as to not give too much away, but beware some spoilers within.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Run Time: 130 minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt
Director: James Gunn
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Robs Score: 9/10
“Sometimes the thing you’ve been looking for your whole life is right there beside you all along.”-Starlord
Before I dig into this one I’d just like to give you all a little prologue about myself. For anyone who knows me personally, and now anyone who reads this, I always have and always will wave the DC comics flag. My love of Batman and his universe rivals, if not surpasses, my love for the classic UMU. What I am about to say can be taken as sacrilege to some, but I am really not a fan of the MCU, for several reasons. I personally gravitate towards the darker, grittier characters (The Punisher, and Wolverine being my favorite from Marvel) and for the most part I find the MCU movies to be very formulaic and predictable. I also judge a character, and movie, by the villain and for the most part the MCU has had some very lackluster villains, no one that ever felt they could really beat the heroes. The humor in most MCU films feels forced to me and is often thrown into serious scenes or fights, and to me it comes across as a way to remind everyone that these are kid-friendly movies. On top of all that I just genuinely have no real interest in any of the Avengers characters. With that being said, I can-and do-absolutely appreciate and recognize not just the success the MCU has had with bringing comic book movies into the main stream, but also their overwhelming financial and critical success with creating an actual cinematic universe, something I hope The Mummy can establish this summer. As confusing as this may sound everything that I generally dislike about most MCU films is what makes me love the GOTG films so much!
Allow me to explain, I went into the original Guardians film with not only no investment as I had no prior knowledge of the characters, but also not knowing what to expect and came out awe struck. It was such an original film filled with the perfect amount of humor and action. The cast was perfect and every character was not only relatable, but like able and that is something very rare. I also did not feel like I stepped out of a film that was pandering to the children audience; it truly had something for everyone. I nervously went into GOTG, Vol. 2 this past Thursday night, with fear that my favorite MCU franchise would be taken too far in an attempt to “out do” the original, and thankfully all of my fears were squashed with that opening scene. Most, if not all of the credit has to be given to director James Gunn for creating something that is so perfectly tailored to his specific eccentricities and weirdness! This film had all of the charm, action, humor, visuals and of course pop culture references of the first, but was wrapped around a much deeper, and better in my opinion, story than the original. It is an amazingly written nostalgia piece set in a wonderfully bright and colorful universe. And did I mention Kurt Russell is in it?
For my own personal tastes I gravitated to the Guardians because it fully embraces what it is. It is big and humorous and completely unapologetic. These films do not feel watered down for younger audiences as most of the humor and themes are adult-oriented, but that’s not to say it isn’t all inclusive as the Baby Groot character is a toy dealers’ dream. The characters all come with their own unique, human hang-ups that one can’t help but to be drawn too. The GOTG film feels like a buddy cop film, as if Riggs and Murtough from Lethal Weapon went to space, and that is one of its many charms. Also, did I mention Kurt Russell is in it?
GOTG, Vol. 2 is an emotional roller coaster as the film deals with the broad idea of family and its effects on a person. The main plot revolves around Star Lord, his real father Ego and the man who raised him Yondu, but we are also given a deeper look and the troubled relationship between Gamora and Nebula, as well as the fracturing dynamic of the group itself, namely Rocket and Star Lord. Reading that sentence back it sounds absolutely ridiculous however the script and performances hit with an immense emotional weight. The Star Lord character in particular is very indicative of many Americans today growing up without a parent. The hard, cavalier exterior of the character is a coping device to shield the world from the devastating uneasiness and hurt he feels for not having that role model throughout his life. Gunn beautifully plays with the hard upbringing Quill had with Yondu, one of tough love that helped form him into the man he would become, as opposed to the new life that was being offered to him by Ego. Even though Quill is surrounded by people that are his friends and to some extent he loves and vice versa, he still craves that bond with his father and that is beautifully examined as we see the relationship he has with Gamora. We also get a front row seat to the trust issues as Quill doesn’t know what to believe as Ego comes out of nowhere and offers a life of grandeur. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. The climax of the film deeper explores his relationship with Yondu and leaves audiences with the idea that it isn’t always your blood relatives who are your beloved family. The relationship between Gamora and Nebula explores brother and sister dynamics and the inherent jealousy within. Anyone with a sibling has dealt with feelings of insecurity over which one is the “favorite” and Nebula both physically and psychologically personifies the dangers and horror of those feelings. The real beauty here is how this film examines the emotional baggage each character carries with them and how that defines them. Rocket isn’t just a violent, foul mouthed sarcastic creature because he wants to be, well mostly, but because he was forced to become that. It was either that or wallow in self-pity because he has never truly had anyone who cares for him. That explains why he is so reluctant to fall in line with the rest of the team, he never knew “family” and thus doesn’t entirely trust it. This film, and the team in general, is a beautiful exploration of the family dynamic and all the positives, as well as negatives, that come with it.
Did I mention my man crush/coolest human being on the planet Kurt Russell was in it? Now given I am completely biased here but Kurt Russell has portrayed some of the most cult classic and memorable characters of all time, and in a film that fully embraces the ’80s there aren’t many better names to be in this film. Russell portrays Ego the living planet, and with his performance fulfills one of the biggest gripes I have with the MCU and that is a suitable villain. To me a great villain isn’t just measured by their physical power or domination, but also by their ability to psychologically and emotionally batter the protagonist. Russell brings all his charm and deviousness with him to become one of, if not the most formidable MCU film villain to date. The real damage that Ego does here aside from the physical, was the emotional toll he takes on Quill. He dangles what Quill has always wanted in front of him and then at the last moment tells him that it comes with a terrible price. Probably the biggest villainous aspect of Ego was how he feels completely justified in his actions. He is vindicated because of his imagined outcome. Much like the many Joker incarnations (my favorite comic character), it isn’t all about the physical scars he leaves on Batman or Gotham City, but the immense amount of fear and nervousness that his name brings with it. He doesn’t even need to be present to be a terror, and that is what Ego ends up doing to Quill.
When I put together my dream directors for the new UMU I had to include James Gunn because I don’t think there is a director today who does a better job with an ensemble film like him (Wes Andersen is the only other name that comes to mind). It is a credit to Gunn that he manages to give each actor and character not only enough time to develop but to really become stand outs. The casting here was perfect as nobody embodies that renegade yet child like character like Chris Pratt. I know I’m not the only one who thinks of Peter Quill as Andy Dwyer’s long lost brother! Zoe Saldana perfectly embodies the ferocity yet tenderness of Gamora. The voice talents of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel have become synonymous with their characters. Karen Gillan also channels the angst of every scorned sibling as she beautifully brings to life the emotional heartache of a sibling rivalry But the real scene stealer in Guardians, Vol. 2 has to be Dave Bautista as Drax. He fully embraces and shines as the no filter comic relief, as every time he is on screen he is hysterical. Michael Rooker also steps it up to a new level as Yondu. He channels a new level of emotional tough love scene stealing that really helps out this film over the top. As with the original, everybody wants to be involved with this project as we see cameos from Sly Stallone, Rob Zombie, Miley Cyrus, David Hasselhoff and the triumphant return of Seth Green as Howard the Duck. Once again the music and visuals are absolutely spot-on. The film is beautiful; providing amazing colorful visuals that will stay with the viewers long after the credits roll. The music again becomes its own vital character to the film as each song not only serves a purpose but helps to further set the tone of the scene. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac has been stuck in my head since I saw the film and you could all expect the same!
In the end James Gunn and the Guardians once again blew my socks off. GoTG Vol. 2 was an all-inclusive action-packed, emotional thrill ride. Some of the humor or themes of the film may go over the younger audience’s head (unless they are Drax of course), however it is all made up by it’s amazing visuals and beautifully scripted action. For the adults you will walk away not only entertained but thinking about your own family as some of the scenes downright hit you in the feels. The catch scene as well as the closing scenes are the biggest examples. There aren’t enough positive adjectives I could use to describe this one so simply put go out and see it, hell see it twice!…and did I mention Kurt Russell was in it?!
(Rob Texter – @GrundyXIII)