Three years ago Marvel proved that they could turn even their more obscure properties into smash hits and launch the career of any actor named Chris into the stratosphere with the highly entertaining Guardians of the Galaxy. Now Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax and Gamora are household names and the galactic band of misfits is back with a dazzling display of fireworks (quite literally) to kick off the summer blockbuster season and make Chris Pine rue his lowly DC gig even more.
My Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 adventure kicked off with a shocking twist when the fine folks at Palace Amusement decided to stick the Guardians in the small cinema at Cineplex, despite it being their opening week, presumably favouring the Fate of the Furious to draw in a bigger crowd. There are about 7 rows in this miniature theatre and, unless you pay extra for a reserved box seat, regular ones offering acceptable viewing are at a premium, especially on 2-for-1 special days. Get stuck anywhere lower than the 4th row and you’re practically under the screen and being forced into the tough decision of choosing which half of the movie you want to see. And I don’t mean choosing between the 1st and 2nd hour, I mean choosing between the left and the right sides of the display. I was lucky enough to grab a “good seat”, 5th and central, that is if I discount the incredibly annoying woman beside me who insisted on drawling, “wowwwwwww,” every 30 seconds.
It’s a shame really because Guardians is truly a treat for the eyes and the neck-craners in rows 1-3 could not possibly have experienced it properly. In the past few years I can only think of The Force Awakens or perhaps The Jungle Book coming close as a visual spectacle. The far-flung universe that cinematographer Henry Braham and director James Gunn have realised is nothing short of breathtaking. From the vibrant array of imaginary planets to the night sky of the planet Berhert populated with 4 giant moons to the neon lit nightclubs on the ice world of Contraxia, the phrase “transported to another world” has never rung truer.
One of the most visually stunning movies I’ve ever seen is Prometheus but even that is marred by this shockingly bad instance of old man makeup:
Yet, Guardians 2, a movie that obviously relies heavily on CGI and green screen, has no noticeable flaws in the effects department. There is nothing that looks cartoony except perhaps Rocket and Yondu’s faces being distorted and their eyes popping out of their skulls as they space jump all over the universe but that was clearly intentional. The de-aging effect used to create a young Kurt Russell is so good it’s hard to imagine he didn’t Escape from New York in 1981 in a time machine landing him right here in the present. And, from what I understand, that was actually mostly a practical effect meaning the 66 year old Russell clearly has ties to Satan.
You will hardly ever catch me touting 3D. It’s usually a scam. Nevertheless, were we actually given the choice of seeing movies in 2D or 3D here in dictatorial Jamaica I’d definitely be recommending you see Guardians in the latter format even if it’s just to see Yondu’s whistle-controlled arrow zooming into your eyeball. A common complaint with 3D is that it adds an unnecessary layer of darkness but Guardians is so bright and colourful that it’s not even an issue.
The beauty of the film is enough by itself to make Guardians a worthwhile watch but what if you’re looking for a bit more than just visual escapism for 2 hours?
The action in Guardians 2 is your standard space battle fare. It’s still fun and looks good but it’s not much different from anything you’d find in Star Wars or Star Trek. Obviously the comedic aspect of Guardians Vol. 1 was a huge factor in the film’s overall success with Drax’s completely literal one liners and Rocket Raccoon’s shenanigans responsible for the chuckles. The sequel undoubtedly has its funny moments, Drax again the standout character in that respect, but the writers seemed to be trying too hard this time around. Drax and Rocket’s belly laughing is a running joke in itself, one that gets old pretty fast.
Guardians 2 may not exceed its predecessor in the aforementioned areas but it does have more heart than Vol. 1. To be fair, 70% of that is down to the mere presence of Baby Groot. At its core, Guardians of the Galaxy is about family and various interactions, often between characters you might not expect, and some slight retconning of one character’s story from the original succeed in servicing this underlying message. Guardians is certainly not the empty explosion fest you’re likely to see in a couple months when Michael Bay’s 5th Transformers movie bursts onto the scene.
If you happen to be one of those crazies who would opt for the eighth movie in the far inferior Fast and the Furious franchise over Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 well I can assure you the Marvel offering is well worth the price of admission or at least half the price if you’re unfortunate enough to sit in the front row of cinema 2 at Cineplex.
Be sure to hang around for a whopping five post credit scenes. I swear, cinema workers, particularly the ones that have to wait to clean up after you popcorn guzzling animals, must hate Marvel movies for this very reason.