Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has once again returned to theaters with their 15th movie. Man, what a ride its been! It's crazy to think that next year on this very weekend, while we are all sitting in the theaters for "Avengers: Infinity War," "Iron Man" will be celebrating its 10th year anniversary. I remember going through those early phases of the Avengers initiative remembering how huge of a risk Marvel was taking by making five movies to set up for one major movie event. I also remember being in the theater for "The Avengers" for my very first time experiencing this amazingly high reward that this huge risk turned into. Certainly one of the best theatrical experiences of my life seeing this all come together. Now 14 movies from the MCU are in the books and before heading into the 15th movie, it's worth noting that Marvel has made $11.1 billion worldwide so far. By the time movie 15 has finished it's run, that dollar total will be up to $12 billion and by the end of 2017 (two more MCU movies to go), this total could be as high as $14 billion. That's a lot of money from one franchise. And what's almost more impressive is that after 15 movies, they've still got it. I keep saying that one of these days a bad MCU movie is going to come around. Well, maybe I'm wrong.

To be clear, I don't consider myself a Marvel fanboy. In my opinion, a Marvel fanboy is one who refuses to believe Marvel can do anything wrong and thus thinks they have made 15 flawless masterpieces, while usually also refusing to accept that DC can do anything right. I'm just simply a fan of superhero movies. I find them to be a lot of fun and if you force me to pick between Marvel and DC, I'd still choose DC despite their current flaws because they had more of an impact on me growing up than Marvel did. But I'm in the group that is confused as to why we can't enjoy both. I even enjoyed "Suicide Squad" and "Batman v. Superman" more than some people did. But when I say that Marvel has made no bad movie, what I mean is that even the bottom tier of movies in the MCU still have some redeeming qualities. "Thor: The Dark World" is a giant mess that is completely saved by Loki. "Iron Man 2" is a good movie for 80 percent of it before it crashes into a brick wall. "The Incredible Hulk" is a good movie that has just been made completely irrelevant with how much Mark Ruffalo has owned the role once Edward Norton left. I honestly don't consider those three bad movies even though they were the bottom three when I ranked Phase I and II on my blog a couple years back.

As pertaining to "Guardians of the Galaxy," I remember being super excited going in. It looked like an absolutely hilarious movie with a bunch of fun characters. I mean, a raccoon with a machine gun in the trailers was enough to sell me. Walking out of the theater, I was very pleased with the final result, although I felt like a bit of a Grinch when I wrote my review because it seemed like everyone and their dog were claiming that this was the best Marvel movie yet and perhaps the best superhero movie ever made. That was a bit strong for me. Yes, "Guardians of the Galaxy" was extremely hilarious with great characters, phenomenal music and a fresh take at the superhero movie with how different it was, but it wasn't without its flaws. Due to the nature of these being previously unknown characters, they had to spend a bulk of the movie introducing these characters to the world and slowly forming this team, which held it back a bit from being as truly great as it could be. The specific adventure they were one was a bit forgettable and the movie still holds claim to one of Marvel's worst villains. The rewatchability factor is extremely high, which is why I've been a bit more forgiving to these factors over time, but it still only landed in 6th place in my ranking of Phase I and Phase II of the MCU.

My big takeaway was that they've started something great here and they've now opened the door for Vol. 2 to be even better. Well, it's not. I'm just going to get that out of the way to start things off. Which is disappointing for me because I saw the potential in this movie after watching the first one. This had the potential to be "The Dark Knight" or "The Empire Strikes Back" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise. Not in terms of it being dark and depressing, but in terms of it taking advantage of a great first movie and making a phenomenal sequel that takes things to the next level and delivers a movie that will go down in the ages. Instead this kinda stumbles out of the gate and falls flat on its face. Unfortunately this is a common trend with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They don't have a great track record with their second movies. The obvious exception to this is "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" as that's my favorite MCU movie, but the other second movies include "Iron Man 2," "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Thor: The Dark World." Now we have to add "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" to that list of sub-par second movies. None of those are bad movies, but none of them live up to their predecessors.

In taking a closer look at "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," I think the best movie to compare it to is "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Everyone, myself included, was so hyped up for that sequel given how phenomenal "The Avengers" was and it was an absolute blast watching our favorite characters together again for another fun adventure. But the further you got into that movie, the more the dread comes over you that you are watching a sequel that just isn't as good as what you were wanting. You're still having fun with it, though. You also enjoy the new characters added and the increased role of the some of the supporting characters. You may have even praised it a bit higher than you should've when you walked out of the theater. But now two years later, what's the reputation that "Avengers: Age of Ultron" holds? It's seen as a disappointment. A misstep. A villain of the week movie that doesn't stand the test of time and has now become a more disliked, forgettable  movie that is easy to hate on. I have to even sometimes defend it online after reminding myself that I enjoyed it. But how often in the last two years have you sat down and had an "Avengers: Age of Ultron" movie night, outside the times where you realize one of your friends hasn't seen it? It just doesn't happen.

I honestly am predicting that, given time, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" will have a similar reputation as "Avengers: Age of Ultron." We all loved "Guardians of the Galaxy." Some more than others. And we are all hyped to see our beloved characters together on screen again. We now love Star-Lord, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Groot. We'll be excited to see Nebula and Yondu get increased roles. And we'll be happy at the new additions of Mantis and Ego to the movie. We'll laugh at the jokes. We'll cheer at the action. Some of us might be overcome with emotion at certain parts. But two years from now are we going to be turning to "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" as our go to Marvel movie night? I don't think so. I think a lot of fans are going to be overcome with excitement and joy after leaving the theaters and I think a lot of them are going to exclaim to all of their facebook friends at how awesome this movie was, but I think that this movie will eventually slip away into the abyss and be a forgotten chapter in the MCU. With so many movies in the cannon and still a ton more to come, movies like "The Avengers," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Iron Man," "The Winter Soldier," "Civil War" and maybe even "Ant-Man" and "Doctor Strange" will remain the staples.

You want specifics now? Well, that's a bit tricky. I like my side-to-side comparison with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" because it helps me draw parallels and explain my reasoning without giving any specifics for this particular movie because most of the things that I want to talk about are kind of considered spoilers. The Guardians start out fighting a random alien thing. Then they make the gold people mad. Then Ego shows up and things happen with him. Then stuff with Yondu, Sylvester Stallone and the Ravagers. Jokes happen. Cool music is played. Characters get mad. Drama happens. Yeah, those are kind of the random basics, but I don't really want to talk about specifics in this post. The big problem is that the first half of the movie was a bit of a mess. I was enjoying being with the characters. I was laughing at a lot of the jokes, even though some of them were surprising really crude and a bit raunchy. But I had no idea what direction this movie was going. A lot of the scenes were super choppy. Many of the jokes missed. Drax was especially over the top as some of his jokes were hilarious and others were Marvel trying too hard. Baby Groot was adorable. Rocket was hilarious. Ego, Star-Lord and Gamora stuff was interesting. But the movie wandered for a long time.

Had the second half of this movie gone exactly like the first, I kid you not that I would be completely tossing this movie into the trash. My grade would've been a 5 or a 6 and I would've made the claim that "Batman v. Superman" and "Suicide Squad" were better movies. Honestly for a while I thought we were headed in that direction, which scared the living crap out of me that I was about to give my first bad review to a MCU movie. But then this movie had a moment where literally everything changed and the second half of the movie became the top-tier MCU movie that we were all hoping it would be going in. And I'm not going to say one word about it, which is extremely frustrating for me because I have a ton that I want to say about how things turn out. But I want all of you to have the experience of not knowing what's going to happen and have that surprise and shock once you realize what direction they're actually taking. If I were to give a specific grade to the second half of the movie, I would say a 9 or 9.5. But when all is said and done, the second half doesn't completely save the whole movie because that first half did happen and there's still a lot of villain of the week elements in the second half. Thus my final grade for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" is an 8/10.

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