Samuel Brace on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy…
It was apparent that Guardians of the Galaxy would be the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe upon its release back in 2014. With its vibrant aesthetic, colourful characters, and its quirky nature, it set itself apart from the MCU pack in all the right ways. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released this week, keeps this statement well and truly alive – for the most part at least. For it was an excellent movie, but not without its faults -faults that caused it to fall short of its stupendous predecessor.
There were things that worked, and when they worked they were joyous, but alas, there were also things that didn’t. So, let’s take a look at just where this sci-fi sequel flourished, and where it floundered.
The first thing that strikes you in the Guardians series is its beautiful aesthetic. The visuals are truly stunning, comprising of striking and vibrant images, splashed with more colour and style than any other entry in the MCU. This is only expanded upon with Vol. 2. Space has never before looked so alive, so fun and so zany.
From the designs of its new characters and monsters, the movie really is – unsurprisingly, it must be said – a visual feast. The opening action sequence in particular was a real treat, encapsulating everything that is great about these films, and about the Guardians, in one glorious battle tableau.
This is what we have come to expect from Guardians, and on this front, it did not disappoint.
As mentioned at the top, these films, the space/cosmic set adventures, are the future of the MCU. The whole new universe depicted to us in Vol. 1 truly whet the appetite for all that could be possible out amongst the stars. Thankfully, this world building was continued in Vol. 2, introducing us to a slew of new characters – with some featured more prominently, and some only glimpsed.
We knew that there would be so much more fun to be had beyond the drab, bogged down confines of earth, and this sequel only rammed that sentiment home. There truly is unlimited potential for these cosmic set films, and the more we see the less we will ever want to return to what came before. The prospect of Spider-Man: Homecoming now only seems even more of a chore.
With some potential set ups to future space set films – thankfully all coming in the film’s many post credit scenes – the future is indeed bright, and oh so colourful for this corner of the MCU.
The star of the show here was undoubtedly Baby Groot. Every time he was on screen was a win for the audience. Easily the most adorable character in the MCU so far, this little guy provided both laughs and tugs of the heart during his various moments.
Seeing his contrasting relationships with the different members of the team was a fun touch; his violent, antagonistic, and ultimately sweet interplay with Drax being a particular highlight.
Though his future doesn’t seem quite as adorable as his past – thanks to a fun post credit scene – his appearance in Vol. 2 was undoubtedly successful; standing out in a film so jam packed with colourful and engaging characters is an impressive feat indeed.
What Didn’t Work
Story and Drama
Vol. 1 didn’t exactly have a ground breaking story, helping it to fit in quite nicely with its MCU brethren. Unfortunately, Vol. 2 wasn’t much better; in fact it was probably even less engaging.
The tale of Peter discovering the identity of his dad was one that we knew was coming, and while the truth and outcome of this was about as bonkers as you might expect, its execution left a lot to be desired. For one, the heavy handed references to his father in the early parts of the movie, and then the sudden introduction of said parent, felt clunky at best.
And while the film did indeed make fun of itself on a few occasions, the drama that was actually meant for serious consumption always fell flat, highlighting a tremendous weakness for the movie.
Guardians is all about style over substance, the best thing Marvel can do going forward with this series is to limit the drama wherever possible. The last thing one wants when watching a film is to be reminded that they are watching a movie, and this is sadly what happened whenever Vol. 2 got serious.
Without throwing any major spoilers at you, the villain of this movie was about as interesting as any other MCU antagonist – save Loki perhaps. And while the foe in question was certainly unique in composition, the ultimate motives and goals for said character were anything but.
And while in any normal movie, creating a villain that is grounded and complex would certainly be the way to go, with Guardians‘ severe limitations on the dramatic front, this is probably best avoided.
Perhaps the best route to go down would be in the complete opposite direction. A mindless, characterless, heck, even voiceless opponent — such as their enemy in the film’s opening fight sequence – actually doesn’t sound particularly egregious at this point. It certainly wouldn’t have been any less interesting than what we ultimately got.
Overuse of Jokes and Gimmicks
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is hilarious. There is no doubt about it. In places, it is perhaps even funnier than the Vol. 1. The only problem is the film’s desire to overuse the jokes in its arsenal, and their apparent need to ram certain character gimmicks down our throats.
For example, Drax laughing at stuff is awesome. His complete ignorance of societal norms and decent decorum is great stuff, and his opening moments only serve as a wonderful reminder of this. But when virtually every scene involves him hysterically laughing, it starts to get old, and it starts to get old quick.
Less is always more. Always. And this is particularly relevant as it pertains to jokes, and certainly with this movie. Even Baby Groot could have been better served with a little restraint. Yes, Groot is cute, we know this, this is apparent just by looking at the guy. So the fact that the film felt the need to shout this at us at every available opportunity was frustrating.
If something is good, you don’t need to be told that it is good. If something is funny, you don’t need to be told that it is funny. And if Groot is cute… well, you get the idea.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a good movie, and it certainly compares favourably with other MCU instalments. However, the pressure was always on to stack up to the film from which it spawned, and sequels rarely achieve the heights of their predecessors. Unfortunately, Vol. 2 just couldn’t handle the challenge.
With that being said, this is still by far and away the most interesting thing in superhero movies right now, so that I suppose, is worth something.