Saturday, May 06, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 is another winner from Marvel Studios, a fun and very enjoyable addition to the MCU, aka the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It's interesting the movie won me over so strongly, given that the original GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014) was my least favorite Marvel film when I saw it in 2015.

I think I was better prepared this time around for the film being so different in style from other Marvel films, plus I knew the characters and appreciated their camaraderie from the outset. In my case, familiarity was a good thing. I also think perhaps this movie wasn't quite so tonally "out there" as the original, and the plot was easier to follow.

Last time around Peter (Chris Pratt) was sort of a galactic scavenger, hunting down rare objects and selling them. This time he and his ragtag family of "Guardians" are available for hire to clean up the universe.

The opening of the film is completely inspired, as Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) blisses out to music while Peter and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) battle a monster. It's delightfully cute. The originality of the Groot character -- an adorable tree who can only utter the words "I am Groot" -- is one factor among many which makes these films so successful. Talk about something completely different!

Ultimately our friends end up on a pretty planet run by Ego (Kurt Russell). Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Gamora's evil sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) factor into the story again, and there's a new character named Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an empathic creature who works as an aide to Ego but seems mysteriously troubled.

I don't want to say much more about the plot, but the movie really covers all the bases, delving into Peter's origin story, developing current relationships, and providing a great deal of action and humor.

The many '80s pop culture references resonated strongly with me, as I suspect they will with most people of a certain age. You've got to love a movie where a couple try to analyze their relationship by comparing it to Sam and Diane of CHEERS! And there's a terrific '80s type cameo near the end of the movie.

Also, the "vintage" score is terrific. The highlight for me is a sequence with Yondu scored with "Come a Little Bit Closer."

With the addition of Russell in this film, there are now two GUARDIANS actors who cross over with the Fast and Furious franchise I've enjoyed in recent months -- the other actor being Diesel, who improbably voices Groot. I've described the more recent Fast and Furious films to friends as "Marvel movies with cars," and the cast similarities highlight that further. What's next, the Rock turning up in the MCU?

Russell is on a career roll at the moment, making every movie in which he appears better; his Mr. Nobody in the Fast and Furious movies is great fun, and he was marvelous as an oil rig manager in DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016). It's amazing to realize just how long Russell has been acting; his credits go back 55 years now, to be exact. (And speaking of which, it's a bit disconcerting to see Russell digitally de-aged for an early flashback!) The fact that his character is named Ego provides an interesting hint of how he ultimately fits into the story, but I'll leave it to viewers to discover more.

Additionally, this film adds Sylvester Stallone to the GUARDIANS and Marvel universe, an inspired choice which is great fun. His role is small in this film, but there's the promise of more to come in GUARDIANS VOL. 3, with a great "tag" scene featuring Stallone during this film's end credits.

Marvel creator Stan Lee, who turned 94 last year, makes his usual cameo appearance. Also seen or heard in the film: Jeff Goldblum, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, and Miley Cyrus.

My main complaint is that at 136 minutes, the movie is too long, which is par for the course with many films these days. I think it could have been tightened up; the climactic battle started to drag a bit.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG-13. Most of the violence is of the cartoony, non-bloody type, but there is one sequence which I found disturbing and didn't watch. I also didn't care for a brief scene involving what appears to have been a robot prostitute, though I suspect younger viewers won't read too much into it. There are brief bits of language or crass humor but I felt like the language wasn't as bad as in the original film, unless I just tuned it out and didn't notice. Along with trimming the time, if the movie had edited out some of these darker moments I would have liked it even more.

There's more on the film available from Leonard Maltin, who says it's a "long but loud, colorful, action-packed film. It’s more serious and emotionally ambitious than the first picture but just as enjoyable...I think Marvel fans will be very happy indeed."

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 was written and directed by James Gunn. Gunn's brother Sean (Kirk of GILMORE GIRLS) reprises and expands his role from the original film, ultimately, it seems, joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. Sean Gunn is also the on-set Rocket during filming.

The movie was filmed by Henry Braham.

Another in my series of comments/complaints on the state of modern moviegoing (see the end of this post for more): Our theater raises the lights halfway up during the end credits. This made no sense at all as the movie was not actually over! GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 has not one, two, three, or four but five "tag scenes" during the end credits, which are fun, jokey little moments and/or previews of the next film in the series.

Additionally, the end credits in and of themselves were wonderfully designed and a lot of fun, with clever photos and character moments. Making it harder to see the screen and encouraging people to leave while others are still trying to watch is not good.

Wrapping up my thoughts on the movie, with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 Marvel continues to fire on all cylinders, with this successful film following last year's strong entries CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) and DOCTOR STRANGE (2016). The GUARDIANS trailer may be seen here.

The next films coming from Marvel are SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017), due out this July, and THOR: RAGNORAK (2017), coming in November. As much as I enjoyed the first two THOR films, the trailer for RAGNORAK leaves me completely cold. It looks like it's attempting a flip GUARDIANS tone but fails miserably. When I see a THOR movie I want romance, "fish out of water" character humor, Loki (who was barely seen), Nordic gods and warriors, and pretty settings like the Rainbow Bridge and Asgard. RAGNORAK as seen in the trailer is...not that! At this point I'm dubious about seeing that one in a theater.

Previous Marvel reviews: IRON MAN (2008), IRON MAN 2 (2010), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), THOR (2011), THE AVENGERS (2012), IRON MAN 3 (2013), THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), AGENT CARTER (2015), ANT-MAN (2015), AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015), CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), and DOCTOR STRANGE (2016).

4 Comments:

Blogger Amanda said...

I saw it today. It was surprisingly good. I'm not usually a fan of superhero movies, but this was fun. Kurt Russell was wonderful in it and should definitely appear more on screen. You're right however about the digital de-aging. It was creepy. But then, I have yet to see a CGI person on film that looks realistic and doesn't scream to me, "Just have a person do it". I'd rather see a rickety puppet than an unrealistic looking and moving character in CGI.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Darn! Why did you have to go and tell me Kurt Russell was in it? I had just about decided to give it a pass. The first one was one of those movies I thought I enjoyed while watching it, but the more I thought of it afterward, the more I turned against it. (Besides, it was in the early 80s that I stopped paying attention to contemporary pop music.)

My daughter will probably convince me to give it a shot. And with you and Kurt already on board, I'm doomed! Or not, since you say it is entertaining.

PS: NOTHING will ever get me to watch another of those Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amanda, I'm glad you enjoyed it as well! Have you seen any of the other Marvel films? I wonder if you might enjoy some of them also.

They also "de-aged" Michael Douglas for a flashback in ANT-MAN (2015) -- I find it so distracting, I wish they'd find another way to handle the story since it takes me out of the movie thinking about the technology instead!

Caftan Woman, I'd be interested to know what you think if you give this one a whirl, since I liked it better than the original. If you see it, hope you enjoy!

P.S. I saw a big chunk of the original PIRATES movie a few years ago, but other than putting the good theme music on my Disney playlist...nope, no interest here either! (I admit I was amused, though, when Johnny Depp surprised riders on Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean ride a few days ago...that would have been freaky!)

Best wishes,
Laura

10:08 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Loved the music for Pirates, but couldn't last through the entire movie. I cannot believe the success of that franchise. It was very cool of Depp to surprise fans that way. I certainly wouldn't have thrown rocks at him or anything if I'd been there. Would've just kept my mouth shut.

10:31 AM  

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