With Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, This Marvel Train Shows No Sign Of Slowing Down
By Jeff Feuerhaken
It’s hard to believe it’s almost been 10 years since the inception of what has come to be known as the Marvel cinematic universe. It was all the way back in 2008 when Robert Downey Jr. first stepped into the metal suit to become Iron Man. I’m sure that Jon Favreau, that film’s director, had no idea how massive this comic book franchise iteration would become over the next nine-plus years, but here we are. Of course, Marvel Studios is now owned by Disney, whose track record of box office successes has been spectacular, especially in recent years. But as the years have gone by and the successes have piled up, many have wondered if this is a bubble headed for a burst. How long can it last? Is superhero fatigue inevitable?
One thing that’s for sure is that the latest Marvel film to hit theaters, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, will definitely not be the first to buck the trend. Director James Gunn’s follow up to the original shares that film’s DNA, but it also pushes forward many of the elements that made the first one so successful. Like the original film, this one’s secret to success is in its originality. One of the main reasons that superhero fatigue has yet to rear its head is because Marvel has found a way to produce different types of comic book movies, rather than just repetitions of the formula, but with different characters. The world of Guardians Of The Galaxy is bizarre. The aesthetic is cosmic and colorful, and there is just as much emphasis on humor as there is on action. The characters themselves are straight out of an acid trip gone wrong: a green chick, a blue, tattooed dude, a talking raccoon…Oh, and how about a talking baby tree with a three-word self-referential vocabulary, who has somehow grown into existence out of the ashes of itself. Ummm, what? If that sounds weird, it is, but the movie itself is surprisingly accessible, especially given its setting and characters.
It seems forever ago that Chris Pratt was that guy from Parks & Rec. Now dude has become one of the biggest bona fide movie stars on the planet. It was the first GOTG film that launched him into starring roles in films like Jurassic World, and watching Vol. 2, it’s easy to see why. He was born to play this role. His Peter Quill character is the perfect blend of physical, funny, and charming, which is an ideal match for Pratt’s charisma. He alone would be enough to carry this film, but here he’s also helped by Bradley Cooper’s sociopathic Rocket Raccoon, Dave Bautista’s hulking yet socially inept Drax, Kurt Russell’s roguishly charming and mysterious Ego, Zoe Saldana’s beautiful but inaccessible Gamora, and Michael Rooker’s thug with a heart of gold, Yondu. All of these characters are multidimensional, in that there are conflicting emotions and motivations driving them through the story. In this respect, props are due to Gunn for both writing such an usually deep script for this kind of genre, and for bringing the emotional cadences out of the actors.
Guardians 2 is of course, a VFX-heavy film, and for the most part the visual effects deliver. I can imagine that the compositors must have faced some heavy challenges incorporating all the actors into the virtual environments, because the end result has that “green screeny” look where not all of the visual elements in frame appear to exist harmoniously. However, as in Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man, the effects department does a stellar de-aging number on one of the actors. This time, it’s Kurt Russell that is brought back to the 80’s version of himself, and the result is scary convincing. Those VFX guys are making some amazing stuff happen. Also, as in the first film, much emphasis is placed on the film’s music, the soundtrack in particular. All of the film’s songs, throwbacks to the late 70’s era of light rock, remind the viewer that throughout all the craziness, this is still Quill’s story, which is a very human and relatable story, above all.
What sets Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 apart from your standard sci-fi action fare are the little moments. For instance, in perhaps one of the most unique and fun title sequences of all time, there is a long, bloody, and violent battle with an enormous space creature taking place for the entire duration of the credits roll, but we only get glimpses of it in the background. Instead, our focus is on Baby Groot dancing up a storm, oblivious to the chaos all around him. In a way, this scene is a representation of the approach to the film. Sure, there’s a ton of action and adventure happening, but the focus of the movie is on the silly and the fun elements. It’s a formula that works, and for that I’m looking forward not only to the inevitable Guardians Of The Galaxy 3, but also for more Marvel films in general. Guess that superhero fatigue won’t be setting in for quite a while.