Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is the final nail in the coffin.
Not for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though. No, it’s a nail in a coffin for someone else. But I’ll get back to that.
Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his space-ranging companions roam through the universe doing (generally) good deeds for the common good. However their recent encounter forces them to escape from their golden contractors with a bounty on all of their heads. During their daring act of flight they happen to meet up with Ego (Kurt fucking Russell), a celestial being claiming to be Peter’s dad. Star-Lord is forced to re-evaluate his loyalty between his newfound blood relative and his ragtag family of friends.
Family is the key word for this film. Everything that occurs in the film centers around themes of a family and finding your place in it, whether it’s your own blood or a spiritual connection. Not only is Star-Lord reuniting with his dad, but Gamora’s (Zoe Zaldana) forced to deal with her blood-lusting sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) when their gang holds her as a prisoner for her crimes in the first film.
The rest of the gang have their fare shares of character arcs as well. Rocket the raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) refuses to embrace his role in his new group and rebels in a way that gets them in all sorts of trouble with the golden queen Ayesha (brilliant Elizabeth Debicki) and her loyal subjects.
Baby Groot (voiced by high-pitched Vin Diesel) is getting to grasp the entire world surrounding him and is the source of the most “aww”-moments in the movie.
Drax (Dave Bautista) is embracing the ridiculousness of it all with his extremely non-PC behavior which are one of the best laughs in the movie.
And then there’s Yondu (Michael Rooker). In the previous movie he was left hunting Star-Lord for stealing the MacGuffin of the movie. Only it seems his heart is in not in the hunt, so his fellow bounty hunters rebel against him and throw him off his throne. His unresolved issues with Peter Quill are however a bit different than expected. His story arc is probably most effective and Rooker gives a performance of a lifetime as Yondu.
You might’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned the obligatory villain of the film. The trailers downplayed heavily on the plot or the main bad guy, and for good reason. I’m not going to spoil it here but when you see the penny drops it makes all the sense. There are actually many different antagonists in the film but only one that makes an impact. Suffice to say, the heavy in Guardians Vol. 2 is way more fleshed out than Ronan the Accusor in the first Guardians.
The dialogue is as sharp as ever, courtesy of James Gunn who also directs with a keen visual eye. The film is more intimate and character driven than Guardians Vol.1 and in that regards reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back. James Gunn is so in love his characters that nearly every character gets an character arc, whether they actually need it or not. Like Taserface (Chris Sullivan), an alien bad guy looking like the lead singer of Finnish rock group Lordi gets an unneeded (but hilarious) character arc where his villain name backfires in a spectacular fashion. Or Sean Gunn’s Kraglin, who gets a decent amount of screen time in the film. His character arc peaks in a heart-warming scene where he gets to salute his former captain in a colorful spectacle. Sylvester Stallone also pops up for a few quick scenes to set up the inevitable sequel. It’s a shame that the movie can’t pull of a Tango & Cash reunion with Sly and Kurt.
The only character that actively suffers for expanded character roster is Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill. Pratt is good in his role, having sarcastic one-liners fly out of his mouth like a champ, but most of the time it feels like that his character takes a back seat in this one. In the first one he was the undeniable lead character and it was a star-making role for him. In this movie his character is more like a part in an ensemble cast. His character got the short end of the stick, sure, but Chris Pratt makes the most out of his reduced role.
This surplus of awesome characters make the runtime seem bloated, but for some reason the scattered storylines have a good flow and rarely feels unfocused, unlike Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The action is fun and fast-paced and the sound design is delightfully tempered until the cacophonous final battle in the third act. Tyler Bates’ music is slightly better than in the Guardians Vol.1 but the main theme still borrows too heavily from Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme for my liking, The song selections for The Awesome Mix-Tape Vol. 2 are better this time around, not obligated to force feed the audience recognizable tunes of yesteryear. And that Cat Stevens song at the end…pure gold. In addition, Guardians Vol. 2 has this year’s best cameo appearance. And I’m not talking about Stan Lee.
The film is funny as hell, sweet as peach and one of those rare sequels that’s actually better than its predecessor. So Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a home run for Marvel. But what did I mean when I said that Guardians is the final nail in the coffin?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a final in the coffin for DC.
Hold on for a second, I’m not here to jump on the bash-the-DC-cinematic-universe-for-making-shitty-superhero-movies-bandwagon. No, not at all, although their Man of Steel –era films sure have all fallen short from their goals. But hey, not all Marvel films are complete home runs either. But in one important aspect Marvel has the edge over DC and in a way that brings the movie-going audiences side with Marvel.
And that is the color.
Guardians Vol. 2 is the most color-saturated Marvel movie to date, and is unbelievable to look at. James Gunn fills the screen with color every chance he gets. This film is more colorful than the 80’s cartoons it draws inspirations from. The beautiful contrast between deep blacks of space and bursting neon colors make the action pop from the screen and the post-conversion 3D (which is great) benefits from the sophisticated usage of color. And it seems that this color surplus is not just a one-off thing for Marvel. Just look at the awesome color palette in the teaser trailer for the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
And then look at the trailer of DC’s Justice League.
Just look at it.
The visuals of Justice League sucks the joy right out of it. Even that scene where Aquaman surfboards Batman’s Batwing feel lifeless.
And the general opinion seems that I’m not alone with my feelings about DC. Even DC tried to address this issue with Suicide Squad giving it colorful poster campaign and fill the film’s opening and closing credits as much color they could cram in.
But the film itself was murky on the eyes.
We are living in a world where muted color palettes inspired by the films of the seventies are coming to a merciful end. And the folks at DC know this. Don’t be surprised when Justice League comes to the cinemas, the color palette has been digitally altered from this…
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy molded everything that DC have put out since then and with the exception of Nolan’s own films the stylistic direction was a colossal mistake from the get go. Zack Snyder gets a lot of flak with his Superman movies, but the blame shouldn’t fall solely on his shoulders. Christopher Nolan inadvertently started a trend in the superhero genre that has to die. And with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I think that time has finally come.
And for this, I love Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2