Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★★★½

Marvel movies are a weird thing for me. I love them. I call myself a huge fan, despite hating everything about the toxic culture of political-level media coverage they've spawned. Since 2008's Iron Man I've found myself relishing in the wonderment of comic book characters brought to life on the big screen, enjoying the personalities and sequences that unfold with every introduction or continuation of a character, tracking connections between films and imagining the possibilities that can unfold in each sequential entry to the franchise. It's like a television series run on a billion-dollar budget where each season is spread out over a few years. I. Fuckin. Love it. And I can't help it, sorry. But these movies haven't been perfect. Every time there are the same minor drawbacks that keep me from saying nothing could've been done better.

First there's the formula: guy has a high-strung, exciting life and messes up pretty badly; guy creates a villain as a consequence of his actions; guy gets superpowers and learns how to serve the greater good as a better person. There's usually some teaming up but it's always some variation of that arc. Then there's the colours -- or lack thereof. I don't mean that they're in black and white or anything, but not enough pops off the screen in these movies. The contrast doesn't exist and it lets off a very "muddy concrete" vibe, as many have defined it. Last year's famous airport sequence in Captain America: Civil War is the best example of this. Not one image in that whole extravagant clash of iconography doesn't look grey. It's undeniable that everything happening between characters there was awesome, but there was an oddly faux aura to it.

It's with these common complaints that I can unavoidably say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is Marvel's best film. Because it falls into none of these traps.

The colour-palette is one of great flourishes; reflecting beams of gold and bronze off the skin of its characters; painting its backgrounds with a glazed ambiance of primary colours; and making sure to inject its explosions with every colour of the rainbow. It all collides to produce the most astonishingly beautiful, even romantic-looking space opera since Revenge of the Sith.

Clear recurring themes are another unusual (but more than welcome) thing at work here. James Gunn connects all his main players (seriously, all of them) through their individual understandings or misunderstandings of a father figure. What eventually unfolds is the film's main narrative involving Kurt Russell's Ego being Peter Quill's long lost father, but there's way more than that. Rocket is a father to Groot. Drax is a father reminiscing over his lost family. Nebula and Gamora are torn over their abusive father (yep, in only a few lines of dialogue James Gunn finally provides us with a legitimate reason to hate Thanos). Yondu is a father figure to Quill as well. These concepts are built off of with dialogue both hilarious and heartfelt. James Gunn seldom gives us a moment where any two or more characters aren't conflicted in banter, and it brings us and each character closer together than any Marvel film has ever achieved. I used the word 'romantic' to describe the colour palette previously because that is the overall emotion portrayed here. The family-ties, friendships, betrayals, etc. made through Gunn's dialogue practically bleed romance, and his ambitious visual flare makes it all the more effective. It's in this that Marvel's villain problem is finally solved as well, but it might be spoilers to say any more than that. A weird thing I've noticed some people say when reviewing any given blockbuster film is, "I could understand where each character was coming from." Yeah well very few have been like this. Similar to Age of Ultron, a film I do give a fair amount of praise, the team comes off as somewhat of an inevitable downfall here, only it's wrapped up with so much more sincerity. The people complaining about the unclear narrative in the first half are out of their goddamn minds because no Marvel film has ever been this in tune with everything going on within itself. (Also movies don't need to have plots to be good please leave me alone).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a crowning achievement, and we should all be applauding James Gunn for doing whatever the hell he wanted to. It worked very, very well. I just hope Infinity War is this good.

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