I suppose if anything illustrates what Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is about, the opening credits to vol.2 is pretty much perfect. Space creatures, stupid heroics, ace music, mad tech and a dancing twig. What more could you want right?
Well . . .
Now, lets get things straight from the start, I enjoyed about 90% of this movie. It’s brash, preposterous, ludicrous fun; heart in the right place; well worth the price of entrance; all these things and more.
But . . .
A couple of things don’t work for me.
First is a more general problem with Marvel movies and not specifically this one and this the endless cameos by Stan fucking Lee. I mean, here is a guy that’s ultimately responsible for Marvel and the enjoyment I had growing up on my own. Without Stan Lee’s publishing nous, my childhood would have been a much duller and lonelier place. Thank you Stan. Really. But could you not turn up in every single Marvel movie please? It’s getting increasingly tiresome.
With the best will in the world, you are not an actor and your appearance – as a result of who you are and your lack of acting ability – takes me right out of the movie. It’s jarring, smug and an utter pain in the arse. Once was fun, twice less so. Now? You’re trying my patience, Lee. Trying. My Patience.
I’ve always been fond of The Watcher and his kin. To see them used as a throw away gag is an utter waste of a great concept. And yes I got the point. This cameo suggests that every cameo he’s made is actually the same character but I don’t give a flying fuck about a character who is consistently shit across time, space and universes.
I feel a bit better for that.
Next up. Some things specifically about this movie. Firstly, Kurt Russell as Ego. He’s great, isn’t he? Really. I mean that. Excellent characterisation, marvellous performance but dear god, those bits where he’s trolling across the planet with his long lost son was exposition hell. Pretty as this segment was – and it is quite beautiful – this was some of the worst exposition since Doc Brown stopped “Back to the Future 2”, got a blackboard and chalk and explained – with diagrams – time travel paradoxes. Well, he is called Ego, I suppose. He was bound to talk about himself a lot, but there are limits.
The scene where he’s playing ball with Peter . . . while it made real Peters earlier comments about wanting a Dad to play ball with, it was uncomfortably mawkish. For me, it needed to be a lot sillier or more extreme, just to take the edge of the sugariness. To me, it didn’t feel like a Guardians of the Galaxy moment, but it sure as hell felt like a Disney/Hallmark moment.
In fact, while I’m at it, the lack of subtly in the theme and SUBTEXT – the idea of family being where you find it – was irritating, repetitious and rammed into your face with a mallet at every opportunity. Enough already! We get it! Reinforcing an idea or theme is a good thing, but nearly every scene had some trite comment about family. I really got to ludicrous extremes. Script polishers needed for the next one, I think.
But all these things aside, it’s great fun. Ego is particularly well realised – he was always a favourite villain. The Sovereign Race were wonderfully pompous and the scene with the red carpet (well…blue) genuinely made me guffaw. Ego’s diabolical plan, seeded (geddit!) in the opening scenes with Peter’s Mum was a nice touch and the revelation that she was just one in a long line of lovers to facilitate his dreams of conquering the universe was quite devastating. I never quite believed Ego when he said she was different. There’s nothing that says ‘I love you’ more than whacking a brain tumour in someones head, is there?
Elsewhere, Mantis enchanted. I really liked her naivete, her frondy bits and her relationship with Drax (who has famously large turds and whose constant hilarity is a getting a bit over played). His final “You’re beautiful . . . on the inside” was surprisingly touching and I hope her character is expanded on in the next movie. Again, Mantis was one of *my* characters when I was growing up. What we have in the movie is a version of her that is . . . well, she’s missing a lot of her skills. I’m hoping they turn up in the Infinity War. Also . . . wasn’t she green?
A couple of moments that brought a lump to the throat (and not). If you read or remember my review of the first movie, you’ll know that I was annoyed because none of the Guardians I knew were in it. I have wanted to see Nikki, Charlie-27, Starhawk/Aleta and Martinex in a movie since I first read about them back in, I dunno… ’77? ’78? Somewhere round there. I lived and breathed the Guardians and their adventures, and Warlock and all of those weird cosmic tales. To not see them in what should have been their movie was deeply disappointing. That said, the first movie was so engaging, their non-appearance turned out to be not such an issue.
But guess who turned up very, very briefly in the one? Well. I didn’t see Nikki, but the rest made cameo appearances. I’m hoping the get to do some much more in either the Infinity War, Guardians 3 or both. However, Starhawk was odd. The thing with the comic version was that Starhawk and Aleta were two aspects of the same being, Stakar Ogord. Here, the svelte androgyny and single entity has been replaced by two separate characters, one of whom is Sylvester Stallone (who has never been svelte or androgynous), the other Michelle Yeoh. This wouldn’t be the first character to have been played about with. I mean Yondu, the ‘noble savage’ of the comics is absolutely NOT that in the movies. He was a full member of the Guardians from the outset, not a vicious space pirate.
And speaking of Yondu it was fantastic to see him with his mohican/headpiece at last, but his story arc was genuinely upsetting and, dare I admit, a tear fell when the ravagers came to say their goodbyes and Father and Son played. Having the ravagers, seemingly led by Stallone, turning their backs on him was entirely just and how he gains favour again is as tragic and it is wonderful.
Gamora and Nebula come to some sort of resolution and their backstories and the reason for their animosity is explored in what could easily have been every bit as overwritten as the Ego monologue, but mercifully wasn’t…
The fight sequences are as audacious and enjoyable as they are stupid and the plummet through Ego’s guts is just marvellous. The Sovereign fleet’s attack on Quill’s ship being played as a video game was inspired and their post-credit scene where the Priestess reveals her new ‘weapon’ made me squee. A lot. it’s an interesting move bearing in mind she calls him ‘Adam’. We have already seen what looked like Adam Warlocks cocoon – complete and split open – in two separate scenes in the Collector’s gaff, so was that the bluff? Or is this?
Despite being enormous fun, despite amazing effects, despite the growth of all characters (literally in the case of teen-Groot), I can’t help but feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 isn’t all it should have been. Some of the writing was pretty ham-fisted ,which will obviously hamstring a movie, and I got the impression that it was trying way too hard to be all things to everyone, playing to the peanut gallery. I’d be happier if it was – like the first – 100% itself.
Oh. Howard the Duck. 🙂