Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage. 

James Gunn's sequel to the 2014 Marvel hit brings the gang back together for more. This time around, it feels less like a sequel than another yarn from the annals, as if you had pulled a forgotten comic book anthology from the shelf, blown the dust off and dove in. This new instalment proves that family dynamics are more interesting than romantic subplots and that could be the key to the MCU's longevity. 

There is, of course, one new prominent member of the Guardians supergroup this time - and he is the one that causes all the drama and makes it all worth it. Ad Ego, Kurt Russell plays the role of Living Planet/Father of Star-Lord perfectly. Russell, being the most Kurt Russell he can be, walks the line between charmer and Do We Trust Him? with ease. He holds you with the laid-back vibe of a Hollywood veteran whose tan and crinkly smile tell you that sunsets and Goldie Hawn are waiting for him back in Cali. Nonetheless, he brings an unforced looseness to the movie that is very much needed. In fact, the scenes between Russell and Pratt are the best in the film, the one occasion Gunn calms down a bit to stage meaningful exchanges. 

Every scene comes caked in rainbows, glitter and bubbles. This sense of euphoria runs through everything that is good in Vol.2. Like the first movie, this one is jammed with action-driven sequences, some wildly bloated and most of them almost cartoonish but in a good, very good way. This might be why James Gunn is so ideal for this franchise. As a protégé of Lloyd Kaufman, the notorious founder of Troma Entertainment, he understands the imagination-sparking power of the lurid and freakish, even in a $200 million franchise-tied blockbuster. 

It's tough being a hitmaker who is not weighed down by corporate expectations and Mr Gunn does a pretty good job of keeping the whole thing reasonably fizzy. Like some of the music, the movie's visual design gestures toward the past but mostly come across as a generational yearning for such memories. Perhaps like some other directors, James Gunn fondly looks back on a time when Studio filmmakers could more or less do their own thing cinematically. 

These introductions are fairly chaotic, which is the usual blockbuster way. The point is to telegraph the movie you are about to watch as well as to reintroduce the crew members, their skills and personal traits. Among the most appealing visuals is the animated framework that Ego uses to narrate his life, each one being a clue to his character. Though one problem I have with this film looking back is that James Gunn is still holding off on developing the romance between Gamora and Peter, that was teased in the first movie; probably because he is saving it for the next instalment, or...

I'm also convinced, after seeing Civil War and Vol.2, that the MCU had tapped into something that could keep it going strong indefinitely: an ability to convincingly create a sense of familiar bonds and use these bonds as the emotional core of its films. The thing, of course, is that an MCU movie isn't really self-contained; it is part of a vast network of sequels and tie-ins. 

Finally, Vol.2 has tapped into a reservoir of potential excitement and emotional depth. In that, this film is very similar to Civil War. They can be practically seen as proofs of the concept that families are not harmonious units, but rather anarchic states and that is what makes them so exciting to follow. This new Guardians instalment drives this point home. While fatherly betrayal and fatherly sacrifice are two of the oldest tropes in the book, managing to feature both of them in the climax of the same film involving one character and two father figures is admittedly inspired. 

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 follows a rather common pattern as far as sequels go. It has the same basic components as the first instalment, only it seeks to go bigger and bolder and it generally succeeds. Family bonds actually do greater emotional impact potential than romantic ones (Logan, anybody?). Plus, there is no reason to think that fans of the last movie and Marvel fans, in general, won't love it. The humour, the camaraderie, stunning visuals and the super-fun soundtrack are all there.

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