Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★

this actually has characters and arcs with emotional impact and didn't annoy the shit out of me what
gunn's trademark misanthropy has never sat right with me especially because he's not very good at capturing the right tone to make it fit, and here he engages in revelling in the slaughtering of lots of people, emphasising their pain by having close ups of their anguished faces while an upbeat 80s song plays which is astoundingly not cool for a moment that is supposed to be badass, comes off as needlessly cruel. almost suffers from the same exposition problem that the first had in spades especially with the "golden cunts" but manages to mostly avoid it for the rest of the film, with characters revealing things about themselves and their pasts coming across less shit exposition and more genuine moments of character. i liked that everyone had an arc, i loved that they actually did things with gamora although i still want more from her because she's obviously the best one, and saldana sold every moment of it. rest of the performances are great especially from russell and pratt, but the obvious standouts are michael rooker and sylvester stallone who ingrains his brief appearance with such emotional power and genuine pain that it floored me. i don't think it's very funny, i still don't like the needle drops for 80s music to needlessly play over the sight of cool action spectacle, feels cynical and cheap to me, trying to capitalise upon nostalgia in the laziest possible way, the same going for the references in dialogue. but aside from that aforementioned sequence that revels in the bad kind of sadism instead of the exceptional kind, these inclusions don't feel quite so jarring and irritating, i could easily deal with most of them. i did cry a lot at it, a whole lot of tears ran down my face in the third act of this film which makes the majority of the emotional moments work for me tremendously, and it wouldn't have affected me in the same way if it wasn't for the committed performances and stellar character work. honestly think that this should have been the first one, it's about a billion times better. there are however two other major issues i have with the film, a few other minor ones and one gigantic positive that makes the movie somewhat great.
major issues 
1. the treatment of mantis/woc in marvel movies. mantis is portrayed by an asian woman who is adorable and really fucking great here, and her character is really interesting and a great new addition, i was constantly interested when she was on screen. problem is how she's treated. half of her goddamn arc is how batista keeps calling her disgusting and making jokes about how ugly he finds her and at one point, imitates vomiting when he starts imagining sleeping with her. look all i'm saying is maybe don't make the only asian woman lead in the mcu a character that is constantly insulted and ostracised for her appearance for laughs. it's not cool james gunn, stop being shit. but this leads me to an issue i've had for a while with marvel's treatment of woc, mainly that most films don't have them involved anywhere on screen and when they are, they are either underrepresented, killed, mocked or in the case of gamora, have their skin tone changed drastically. i know she's green in the comics, i'm not an idiot and saldana is my favourite main performer in the mcu right now so i'm happy that she's there. just you know maybe casting a black woman, the only black woman with a significant role currently in the mcu (black panther isn't out yet) and erasing her skin colour isn't a great thing. i just want to see more representation for people who aren't currently adequately represented in the industry, and i wouldn't be complaining about this if it wasn't for the lack of woc in this universe and in hollywood generally. just a thought (tessa thompson is the first woc leading role for the mcu that actually showcases her skin tone, and the mcu started nine years ago, in that time we've had 3 iron man films, 2 thor films, 2 captain america ones, films about fucking ant man and beneshit cumbersnatch as doctor tony stark master of magic, and she's not even given her own film, come on feige)
2. everything has to be about spectacle. i like, even love most of the third act of this goddamn movie, it is the seeming exception to the rule of "all marvel movies have third acts that make logan want to quit spending time in the cinema and instead become a sports enthusiast" guardians 1 being a particularly jarring example of this. but the third act in this installment is fuelled by emotion, passion, character and sincerity. the empty sadism from earlier in the film isn't there, only the emotional pain of the characters and the catharsis they may or may not achieve here. it's kinda beautiful in fact and i'll get into a certain moment  later but the issue i want to bring up is how everything seems to always come down to destruction of everything, with an orgy of chaos surrounding the protagonists as they have to fight a figure of evil who wishes death upon everyone and aims to destroy the cunting universe. this is the best example of this, but goddamn it, i am sick of cgi mayhem. i don't care for this trope, i don't get anything out of seeing a bunch of things get destroyed excessively and i don't gain pleasure from gigantic fights with no impact or presence. simply put, i didn't give a single shit about the actual movements of people on screen in the fights, i cared about the narrative, the emotions and how things would resolve which is essential but seeing super dudes punch each other into things and seeing a lot of rocks being shattered and explosions happening for minutes with mediocre staging and no real force of impact beyond cgi carnage, isn't really my thing. i just wish that if they had to use the spectacle that they could have hired a man who can direct spectacle. but the main issue with the use of this in guardians 2 is a moment in the second act. it's a moment of reflection, one of the characters is alone and is processing events between them and other members of the guardians. and they are there alone, filled with melancholy and attempting to process their emotions and figure out how to handle everything. it's one of the best sequences in the film, and it has no dialogue. until they throw in a cheap, poorly done, excessive and plain fucking terrible moment of benign action that just made me furious. there doesn't seem to be any room in blockbusters like these for silence, which is a shame because some of the most powerful moments in film history are wordless, and a key component of our humanity, of how we function as beings are the moments that we are alone, stuck with our thoughts and in silence, thinking about ourselves, our lives, other people etc and we are given a chance to let these thoughts breathe, let the cluttered mess of everyday life sink away and just reflect upon whatever we choose. it's important and they nearly nailed it and fucked it with a big budget pointless action sequence. profoundly disappointing.
other issues
gunn's a terrible action filmmaker. the man cannot film hand to hand fight scenes, his editing is cluttered and not in a good way, the punches have zero impact and the camera movement/zoom shots are painfully amateurish and mostly really bad. plus his stylisation moments suck (see all sequences with 80s music and lots of death)
karen gillan is fucking awful. she can't act, nebula has potential and she wastes it, she sucks and i wish that a better actress had been cast
future installments
guardians 3 has been announced and also gunn is returning. i don't like james gunn. you could have probably guessed this by now, half of what i do on this site is insult james gunn, he's basically a walking calamity of a filmmaker/writer/human being and while i do really like this movie, i feel like i could have adored it if he wasn't here. and i want to see this universe and these characters handled by someone different, i want to be gloriously praising the third one of these fucking movies but i think that gunn sticking around will limit the potential of these characters and this universe.
major positive 
the best moment in any of these fucking marvel movies by far is in this movie. it's a moment so beautifully crafted for build up throughout the film, with the arc of the characters involved coming to a conclusion and sheer empathy and beauty shining brightly. it's a moment of pure humanity, a moment that had me sobbing. and it's sold by the fantastic editing and the performers, who elevate it to absurdly high levels of quality. as soon as i saw it, the issues i had with the overall result didn't matter for those seconds, i was lost in this universe, in this moment. everything just felt right.
there are lots of things to say about this and it's really hard not spoiling it, i am trying to be considerate since it's not out in a lot of places yet so i think that's the extent of detail i'll go into for now. overall despite all the issues i have with it, this is probably my favourite film in the mcu, and it's given me hope that i can actually like movies made in this universe, after the first one crushed that hope. and i did have a really good time with it, and since it was the first time i had been in a cinema for a few days, it was really nice to just be back in the auditorium, it feels like home there. this is worth checking out guys, even if you're a skeptic like me. also baby groot isn't actually used excessively and is actually quite entertaining most of the time! i'm still shocked by this, really thought he'd make me want to die

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