Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ★★

The Summer movie season tees up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the season gets a running start, the kick is up' good! 

The money making Marvel machine is back at it again with their 15th addition to this nine year-old franchise. This time it's a sequel to the 2014 pop culture smash hit, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Director James Gunn returns to the writer and director chair as do many familiar cast members and a handful of new ones. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot (in fun size) return to save the galaxy once again after their intergalactic triumphs in the first film. Joining them is Kurt Russell as Ego, Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, and Pom Klementieff as Mantis. 

The initial trailer for Vol. 2 had me pretty excited for another Marvel property despite my hesitations towards the first film and the franchise as a whole. As the marketing continued and the release date on the horizon I started getting a really weird feeling about what to expect from this film. In most marketing strategies the film-makers and studio generally give the audience some insight as to what they're aiming for in the film they're making. Not revealing full on spoilers and major plot points and twists but it's main focus as a film. Even though the next Marvel entry Spider-man Homecoming reveals far too much (I feel) in it's most recent trailer, I still have a general idea of what to expect from the narrative. With the Guardians Vol. 2 marketing it felt like Gunn and Marvel were creating a self-indulgent film that just has the antics of the Guardians returning with no real meat to the experience. And was. It was everything I expected it to be and it hurts to say that once again because the same thing happened with Civil War and Doctor Strange. 

I've gone on long enough about the events leading up to my viewing experience and it's time to delve into why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ultimately falls apart as a film. This movie is fundamentally flawed right from the word,"GO"! After three years of waiting for this sequel, the opening minute (post-prologue) had me really pumped to see how far the Guardians have come as a team and see their dynamics flourish in combat, but instead it's exchanged for a "cute" sequence instead of an exciting one. This is an immediate off-putting re-introduction to this world because it feels like the whole scene is just for this one character instead of the team that we're here to see. 

The movie establishes right from this moment forward that the Guardians are indeed back and have made their triumphant return to the silver screen, but it's one small character decision early on that's so ABSURDLY forced that really sends the narrative into a tailspin. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie as it ends up feeling like a forced effort from James Gunn. Who frankly, can't write a truly compelling and immersive narrative worth a damn and can't even direct himself out of the obstacles he places in front of himself. 

Throughout Vol. 2 there are small glimpses of authentic and natural character moments that I wish we got more of. Instead of focusing on making a more grand, epic, and visual spectacle film, Gunn should have condensed this story down into a far more personal and simple narrative. You can scream and shout that Vol. 2 is personal but it doesn't come across that way because there are a ridiculous amounts of chess pieces at play here. When we look back at a film like Sam Raimi's Spider-man 2 we see a sequel that builds off it's established lead characters and delivers a more condensed and personal story. While Spider-man 2 is a film I would consider a drama before an action film the action and character moments feel earned and more heroic because we see a hero that actually struggles. Spider-man 2 excels because of this and doesn't try to up the spectacle from the first film just because it's a sequel. In Vol. 2 Gunn tries doing this but it's all glossed over and never explored (similar to that of the first film) beyond what we see. Then, when spoilers reveal themselves and the action scenes take place you either saw it coming from a million miles away or it just feels like another forced scenario that includes another forced joke. 

Gunn tries juggling so much all at once that it makes for a near boring experience overall. The editing is all over the place and instead of really sinking our teeth into a film where we get to see Peter and Ego bond as father and son (the supposed emotional crutch of the film) we are cast off into other areas of the galaxy that really bring the film to a screeching halt. It's like someone who is new to driving a car that starts getting the gist of pressing down on the gas but then presses the brake because they get worried they might cause an accident. Then sitting there as a passenger along on the ride, I finally breathe a sigh of relief when we start heading to our destination, but then they hit the brakes again and it just makes me frustrated to see someone struggle to get somewhere when it shouldn't be that difficult to begin with and it's the fundamentals of driving that they haven't gotten down. THAT is the problem with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, everything fundamental about crafting a compelling and exciting narrative to reach it's destination with ease isn't present. The narrative just so happens to be the most integral part to an entire film no matter which one it is. It's an uneven, unfocused, mess of a film and it makes everything else I do enjoy about the movie seem entirely pointless to care about. When it tries to pack it's emotional punches it doesn't do anything to me because I've spent so little time with the characters or dynamics they're trying to get me to care about. I don't feel like these moments are earned because they haven't given me a reason to care for them. 

When I do find myself caring about these characters and this narrative, it's when the film stops worrying about which cool visual to do next or which funny gag to pull out of it's hat. It's in these small moments where I as a viewer realize that the potential is here, and where I realize that despite all their differences these different people who were born and raised in different families and in different lives aren't all that different from each other after all. They all seek acceptance (an undertone that's carried over from the first film), guidance, and someone that truly cares about them. During these times I see what was trying to be accomplished with Vol. 2 but they are so short lived that I don't get my time to lather myself in it. 

Despite how frustrating and annoying Vol. 2 is as a feature length film, besides the small moments of sincerity that I love, this film does boast some outstanding features. The production design is to die for and you can really feel the characters living in these scenes surrounded by the gorgeous scenery. Which is then complimented by the rockstar visual effects that really wow me once we reach it's third act. Adding on to it's technical achievements, the sound design and editing mixed in with the visual effects really made for some fairly entertaining sequences. It's also really nice to see a Marvel film not shot in such a painfully boring way like previous incarnations. Here, the cinematographer Henry Braham really utilizes the camera to capture some stunning imagery, character moments, and action sequences. From a technical standpoint, Vol. 2 rocks, but at it's core it does not. 

It's at 15 films in now where I'm battling with myself on deciding where I am as a fan of this franchise and where I see myself with it two years from now. A part of me wants to be there opening night for every one, and I probably will be, but the other part of me wonders if it's even worth continuing with a franchise that seems to be on a heavy decline. Marvel Studios' quality in film-making has fallen off and their best and brightest days are behind them. In my eyes, these movies are produced by a machine, with no real artistic vision or influence over them. No matter what, as long as the reviews stay fairly positive, the movie is at the very least "fun" and "funny", Marvel will continue to produce products of similar quality until humbled with a film or two that are crucified for not living up to that bold silver title,"MARVEL STUDIOS". Much like I said with Doctor Strange,"I don't want to give up on Marvel, but they are giving me every reason to." I am entertained by great films, don't think my string of negative reviews for blockbusters state otherwise, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 just isn't good or entertaining.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 gets a 42/100

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