It’s that time of year again, where Disney’s machine gears up for a few more billion dollars of international cash as the first of three Marvel superhero films is released. The first entry in the 2017 Marvel palate is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Before we dive into the ins and outs of this space ensemble, here’s a tiny spoiler free synopsis:
The Guardians have saved the galaxy once already, and now they’re superheroes for hire, doing odd jobs to keep the galaxy from being destroyed. Along the way, however, Peter Quill, who isn’t called Starlord once in this entire movie, finds his dad.
From there, it’s a world of colors, cameos, adventure, and surprisingly, a ton of dark overtones and a very mature plot.
In short, director James Gunn has told a moving, intense story about parenthood and responsibility on the backdrop of the most beautiful intergalactic playground ever.
Seriously, check this movie out.
The most impressive feat of the first Guardians movie was how deftly it told multiple stories at the same time. That movie introduced audiences not only to a band of heroes, but also an entire cinematic universe in its own right.
Guardians Vol 2 does the same thing…except by getting rid of 90% of the universe its predecessor built. We’re just supposed to forget about the Nova Corps, Benedicio del Toro’s creepy collector character, and the rest of that world.
The few characters that do make the crossover, however, really come into their own in this movie. If the first movie set the scene, the second movie developed the characters. Quill, Rocket, even Yondu can hold their own against superheroes like the Hulk, Thor, and even Captain America.
Which leads me to the first thing that Guardians 2 does right: it’s not a superhero movie where the superheroes happen to be humans, it’s a human movie where the humans happen to be superheroes. The story is told through emotions, actions, consequences, love and loss instead of set pieces and action sequences.
It’s an uncharacteristically mature take for a Marvel film to have. With various sexual references, foul language, and some pretty dark images, it’s definitely aimed at a more adult audience than its marketing would suggest.
And bravo to that. The more serious take leads to a much better story.
The best part of the movie, however, is its antagonist. For once, Marvel audiences are given a real villain. This villain has motive, this villain is understandable, and this villain is a perfect match for the hero. The conflict in this movie elevates Peter Quill to a real superhero, as he grows into a mature, powerful, and dependable character through his struggle with the villain.
Once again, Bravo.
Wrapped around this conflict and dark themes is a much more colorful world than we are used to. It’s bright, it’s so fake that it becomes an aesthetic of its own, and it’s plain fun to look at.
Which begs the question: is Guardians Vol. 2 a perfect movie?
…no, definitely not.
My first problem with the movie was its humor. A lot of the comedic timing was off, primarily because the movie tries to be funny all the damn time. Serious moments lose their sharpness as Rocket, Quill, or Drax makes some off-handed joke that dulls the moment.
Also, this might just be me, but the humor’s not as funny as the first movie. Some moments are laugh out loud hilarious, but there’s a lot of moments that feel like you’re watching the class clown clamor for attention in the middle of more serious happenings.
Secondly, the scope is a lot more limited in this film. 80% of it takes place either in the emptiness of space or on one planet. Despite its visual splendor, the plot moves through the characters, not the space. For an outer space action film, you’d expect more sets.
Overall, the film decides it’s about a father-son relationship, about loneliness and anger, about dysfunctional relationships and the sacrifices we make for the people we kinda, sorta, maybe like.
It’s emotional, painful, beautiful to look at, and sometimes really, really, funny. It’s not perfect, but it’s an ambitious, different, and powerful movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is at once childish and impressively mature. I’m very excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3.