Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★½

I saw a film called Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ... and it wasn't good.

I genuinely think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1 (GotGVol1 from henceforth) is an exemplary film within the superhero film subgenre. Consequently, I was looking excited about seeing its sequel; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.

GotGVol2 is an action comedy that has some genuinely hysterical moments, however your mileage with the comedy may vary as comedy is subjective. GotGVol2 has much better cinematography than most of Marvel Studios' (MCU) films which tend to be flat and washed out in a gray overtone and do not have many interesting shot compositions or camera movement techniques. It has some of the best comedic action set-pieces I've ever seen put on film. it has likeable main characters and the film "attempts" to have everyone of them involved in the story. GotGVol2 employs plot structure/story that is a welcome departure from the formulaic boring recycled staple we've come to expect of the Marvel Studios movies. And its final 15 minutes are the most emotionally impacting conclusion to any Marvel Studios film. Despite all this, GOTGVol2 is a bad movie. Let me explain:

Where, I almost walked out on the movie twice! Watching movies is an experience and while I will go into detail as to the multiple failings of the film the accumulated effect was a serious bout of boredom which i was hit with for the bulk of the film. This was because the 2nd act grinds to an excruciating halt with the plot going nowhere and characters standing around just talking to each other and trying to crack jokes some of which land, some of which don't. But GotGV2 is a movie, not a stand up comedy special. Several times, I had to remind myself I paid to see this film so I had to see it to completion.

Where, jokes are not a substitute for compelling storytelling. GotGVol2 takes the comedy of the first and considerably accelerates the rate of jokes per minute. I'd compare GotGV2 to a meme that's worn out its welcome, but people keep using it. After a while it felt like the film as trying to compensate for its weaknesses in story by distracting the audience with a bombardment of jokes. However jokes are not a substitute for coherent engaging storytelling. My theater was noticeably unresponsive to much of the humor. Though most of the jokes didn't hit, I think I was the person laughing the loudest and most ... apart from one lady. This lady laughed at every and any thing, she even laughed at a scene in which a character was crying. I wouldn't use her as a yardstick for how funny/or not the film is, I cannot vouch for her sanity.
I can forgive bad jokes, they might not connect with my sensibilities, however poor storytelling design is unforgivable.

Where, the most egregious failings of the film were dialogue and storytelling. GotGVol1 was so well written and competently directed that I was shocked to find how inept & amateurish the writing and construction of this sequel are. How it treats its audience as imbeciles. The dialogue is clunky and it forces you out of the film as you become aware that the characters are not speaking to them selves but explaining themselves/scenes/themes to you. Stanley Kubrick said deft directing is subtle, "Show don't tell" in the golden rule to good film making. James Gunn seems to ignorant of this and GotGVol2 suffers greatly for it.
There is a particular scene between two characters where their character development arcs building to this moment show that their experiences mirror each other. It is the sort of layered theme that adds character development, depth and texture to a story. But it is executed so clunky manner, you can hear the engine of the film sputtering and the gears noisily grinding as one character goes on to list the ways in which they are similar and loudly proclaim "... You and I are the same!" It is obvious that director James Gunn has little to no respect for the intelligence of the audience and so has the characters spell out the themes to the audience in clunky unnatural dialogue. This sort of heavy handed, rough-shod directing happened THROUGHOUT the entire picture, several times, from opening crawl to end credits!

Where, the editing (piecing together of scenes) is notably shoddy for long stretches. In the 2nd act, the ensemble is split into separate groups. The film proceeds to attempt leaping about these separate story lines, trying to tie together about 6 or 7 different stories arcs into one film. The problem is the editing is abjectly poor. There's little cohesion between these scenes. The jumps are frequently inelegant, abrupt, happen with little to no segue, lacking musical cues and severally not concluding ideas before moving on to a completely different story line. The effect is instead of any of the story lines moving forward, the whole production grinds to a screeching halt. The 2nd act of the film feels like watching completely separate films tied together by shoestring, gum and duct tape. Some times a film can be poor in its storytelling but the visuals can be entertaining enough to make up for its shortcomings. The visual aspects of GOtGVol2 don't save it.

Where, visually it's uneven. Visually, the film is all over the place. One minute I was thinking the vfx were fantastic (as they should be for a film that cost the GDP of a small country) and other times there were horrible.
A lot of this film is shot using green-screen technology so when the vfx are even slightly imperfect it shows, and it frequently was. most notably the final boss battle was ugly to look at, the vfx were over the top, poorly executed and the cinematography (shot composition, camera movement etc.) was poor. If you had issues with the vfx overload in films like WARCRAFT (2016), this film's finale might be worse.
On the bright side, there were some Truly great comedic gags, James Gunn is THE master of comedic action set-pieces. There is one particular sequence where Rocket Raccoon single-handedly ambushes a group of 'ravagers' with booby traps Home Alone style, but in a forest. This sequence oozes with creativity and inventiveness.

With all this said, GotGVol2 has some powerful emotional arcs that it tidily wraps up in the final 15-ish minutes of the film. It's a finale that would move several people to tears. The effect of this is that audiences will leave the theater on the best note the film has to offer. If not for this finale, I would rate this film even lower. But that is only ~10% of the film. I paid for and sat through 100% of the film and I have to judge the whole, not just the end. Therefore, when I weigh its many failings against its successes, I can't say this is a good movie. But that doesn't mean it is not enjoyable. Those are not two immutable things. Many people would agree that Fast & Furious 8 is a ludicrous film, but it is enjoyable. In the same light Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a bad film, but it is enjoyable. I didn't enjoy it though.

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