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Enormously successful Marvel sequel

Posted : 10 months, 1 week ago on 16 August 2017 02:13

2014's Guardians of the Galaxy was something of a curveball from the folks at Marvel Studios, with its irreverent nature, space setting and lack of any actual superheroes in its alien ensemble. But it worked like gangbusters and movie-goers fell in love with the motley team of Guardians, propelling the endeavour to unexpected box office success. For 2017's inevitable sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, indie filmmaker James Gunn returns to write and direct (this time penning the script solo), showing once again that he has an innate understanding of what makes this property work. To date, Marvel has not had much luck with second instalments - Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron arguably underwhelmed, though Captain America: The Winter Soldier was admittedly excellent - but luckily, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn't fall victim to this apparent curse. While Vol. 2 has a lot on its mind and introduces added complexity to this world, it also retains the charms of the original picture, making for an enormously successful sequel that will almost certainly please established fans.

Picking up not long after the events of the original movie, the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy have embraced their reputation as skilled guns-for-hire, accepting a mission from the gold-skinned Sovereign people to protect valuable batteries from an inter-dimensional monster. In exchange, the team - Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Drax (Dave Bautista), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) - only ask for custody of Gamora's estranged sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), to transport her to Xander. However, Rocket steals some of the batteries, and in retaliation the Sovereign leader Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) sends a fleet of remote drones to attack the Guardians ship. Crash landing on a nearby planet following the attack, the Guardians are confronted with all-powerful Celestial being Ego (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter's biological father. Despite Ego's ostensible abandonment, Peter accepts his father's invitation to visit his Eden-like planet, whose only other resident is his assistant, a kind-hearted empathy named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Meanwhile, the Ravagers - led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) - are hired by Ayesha to pursue the Guardians.

Whereas Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 were both marred by the obligation for "world-building" work, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wisely avoids this pitfall - Gunn uses the sequel to delve deeper into the principal characters with their respective personal demons and perpetual hang-ups. In turn, the scale is cut back - the majority of Vol. 2 takes place either on Ego's planet or the Ravager ship, making for a more intimate and rewarding experience. Luckily, the plot's ultimate trajectory was kept hidden in the trailers, allowing for some genuine surprises - particularly in regards to the primary villain and his motivation. Despite the intimacy of this tale, however, the stakes are still high, once again concerning the fate of the galaxy itself, which leaves the Guardians of the Galaxy striving to live up to their title a second time. Nevertheless, Vol. 2 does lack the snap of the original movie - it's fine for this follow-up to delve into denser territory, but pacing is not as sure-footed and the writing is not as witty. Indeed, the humour is hit-and-miss - although there are a lot of laughs, the script tries too hard to be funny at times.

The original Guardians of the Galaxy was characterised by its soundtrack of classic tunes, and naturally this characteristic is carried over into Vol. 2. Once again, songs provide the backdrop for amusing, memorable set-pieces, giving this sequel genuine life and energy. The opening sequence depicts an intense battle between the Guardians and a tentacled monster, but the focus is predominantly kept on Baby Groot, who merrily moves around the platform dancing to ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" while the carnage unfolds around him. It's a delightful way to reacquaint audiences with this unique and colourful world, kicking off the sequel on a real high note. Equally bravura is a set-piece which depicts the full-blown massacre of well over a hundred aliens, set to the tune of "Come a Little Bit Closer." In Gunn's hands, the sequence is simultaneously funny and even heart-warming, which is quite a feat. Gunn also makes use of the Looking Glass song "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" which is tied into the narrative, while "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens backs an enormously touching final scene. Much like the original 2014 movie, it's wonderful to see so many vintage songs being reintroduced in contemporary pop culture.

As to be expected from a $200 million blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 both looks and sounds superb, emerging as one of the most colourful motion pictures of the 2017 summer season. The first movie to be shot at 8K resolution with Red Weapon Dragon rigs, it's visually resplendent from top to bottom, bolstered by imaginative production design, dynamic cinematography and vivid CGI. Of particular note is Ego's planet, a miraculous computer-generated fantasyland which seems to be truly alive. As with similar blockbusters, while the digital effects are insanely detailed, the results do tend to look artificial rather than tangible, but it's believable enough to sell the illusion, and both Rocket and Groot are once again miracles of motion capture. On the big screen, Vol. 2 is one hell of an experience. Composer Tyler Bates (a regular Gunn collaborator) also makes his return here, and his compositions are layered and flavoursome, even bringing back the Guardians theme established in the original movie. There is such a thing as too much money, however - the enormous, prolonged climax does get a bit much, at times losing sight of the intimacy of this story. Although there are some excellent character moments and the ultimate dénouement is touching as hell, the sequence does feel excessive and may test your patience.

The astute character work of the original feature is thankfully carried over to Vol. 2 - Peter still has thinly-veiled crush on Gamora, and Drax is still hilariously incapable of actually thinking before he speaks. Bautista continues to score laughs with each unfiltered thing he says, working to keep the flick feeling bubbly and fun even when it dabbles in darker subject matter. Pratt, meanwhile, remains note-perfect as Star-Lord, emanating charm and effortlessly handling the weightier material within this particular story. Interesting to note, Marvel Studios do not own the movie rights to the character of Ego - they actually reside over at Fox with the X-Men rights. Gunn was initially unaware of this when he started penning the screenplay for Vol. 2, but luckily Fox ultimately permitted his presence in the movie, which is fortunate because the story heavily hinges on Ego. Russell is a total gem in the role, handling the multiple layers with ease, and he shares terrific chemistry with Pratt. The movie's opening scene set in 1980 uncannily de-ages Russell through a combination of make-up and CGI, making him look the same as he did in movies like Escape from New York and The Thing. Elsewhere in the cast, Rooker is still an utter gift as Yondu, while Sylvester Stallone also manages to make a positive impression despite his minor role as a Ravager. Another newcomer is Klementieff, a terrific find as Mantis. Marvel legend Stan Lee also drops in for his trademark cameo, and in doing so Gunn finds a way to ostensibly link all of his prior cameos and apparently confirm a longstanding fan theory that he always plays the same character. Who expected that?!

Although I do admit that I had more raw fun with the original Guardians of the Galaxy, there is much to appreciate about this sequel, with its luscious eye-candy and thrilling action sequences. It goes to deeper and weirder places, the chemistry between the ensemble cast is still brilliantly palpable, and the superb soundtrack further contributes to the infectiously fun vibe. Above all that, however, Vol. 2's emotionally resonant conclusion will stick with you after the end credits expire, and you will once again be left wanting to see another instalment. Gunn is currently set to return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which would denote the first time in Marvel history that a director has seen a trilogy through. As ever, there is a post-credits scene...which follows four other additional scenes during the credits.


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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review

Posted : 1 year ago on 3 June 2017 02:36

*The characters obviously!
*Baby Groot is adorable!
*Yondu is more important this time.
*It's freaking hilarious!
*There were some pretty awesome cameos.
*The gamer style the bad guys use for their fighters.
*The after/during credits scenes.
*This was an excellent follow up to the first one.

*The music doesn't live up to the first one.
*The story wasn't what I was expecting.
*There were some pretty depressing moments here and there.
*Drax needs more to do than he gets.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted : 1 year ago on 25 May 2017 05:13

During Dick Tracy’s “More” sequence, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney sings: “But there’s nothing better than more, more, more/Nothing’s better than more.” If ever a lyric perfectly encapsulated the blockbuster film-making ethos that was it. And so we find ourselves watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel’s impressive sequel to their gang of space rogues and damaged souls banding together as adoptive family epic.


The things you liked about the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Well, they’re all here, and there’s just more of them. It helps that Marvel didn’t change creative teams between entries, and James Gunn’s insouciant tone and pop culture savvy finds a perfect foil in Kurt Russell’s presence. Lee Pace was a bit wasted in the first film, but Russell was a post-modern action hero before that entire style of acting came into vogue. His Ego is the first truly memorable and pleasing villain in the Marvel super-franchise since Tom Hiddleston’s scheming Loki.


Then there’s Groot, the lovable sentient tree creature here in baby form. The film opens with him dancing around as a spectacular battle scene rages behind him. It’s a full-on charming assault, and if you get groove to these opening minutes then you’ll find yourself quickly taken in by the film’s wavelength. I loved it, and was only too happy to watch Groot basically work as an unintentional agent of chaos. A scene where he’s playing fetch for Yondu and Rocket is a loony bit of comedy.


Notice that I have mostly mentioned things that are entertaining, mocking, and free from a self-serious tone? That’s because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wants to provide maximum amount of escapism per minute of running time. Thank god, because the deluge of overly grim superhero films has made heroism feel like a chore. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 never wants you to forget that these can fun, even when things turn serious.


Surprisingly, the film handles these more serious moments with some aplomb, especially in the praise of step-fathers or found parents/family connections. Nebula and Gamora’s strained sisterly bonds are further explored, and Nebula becomes a sympathetic figure once you realize just how deep the sources and scars of her trauma go. Yondu gets the redemption arc, and his final scenes are a mixture of laughs, tears, and badass action. Vol. 2 frequently achieves the goals it’s striving towards with the strains minimal or hard to see.


There is a strange regression with Drax that shuffles him back into a one-dimensional joke machine for a large portion of the first half of the movie, then the growth he experienced across the first comes back and he’s richer for it. His strange, near paternal relationship with Mantis is refreshing for the emotional spine it strengthens throughout the film. It’s these moments of connection and not the frenzied sock ‘em scenes that linger in the memory. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more of the first film’s strengths (and a few of its weaknesses), but like the song says, “nothing’s better than more.” The sophomore slump has successfully been avoided, and I’m cautiously optimistic that they can create a successful third outing. Maybe we’ll even get Angela!

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An average movie

Posted : 1 year, 1 month ago on 28 April 2017 07:41

Like anyone else, I really enjoyed a lot ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and I was really eager to check this sequel. Well, even though this sequel will probably turn out to be a huge success at the box-office, to be honest, I thought it was actually rather disappointing. I mean, sure, it was not bad at all and it was even fairly entertaining but I actually had a hard time to care about the story. I mean, this tale around Ego was not bad but the outcome was rather predictable and this plot was nothing really mind-blowing after all. It’s like the jokes, while they were fun, they were never really hilarious and, on top of that, some of the best ideas of the first movie, like the vintage walkman, were just so overused here. Eventually, it seems that the makers put so much effort in the first movie to properly introduce these really obscure characters that, since this bunch of misfits became so popular, they didn’t have to bother coming up with something really groundbreaking to please the fans this time around. Anyway. to conclude, even though it didn’t live up to my expectations, I have to admit that it was still a decent watch and it is definitely worth a look, especially if you like the genre. 

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