Saturday, 6 May 2017

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' (2017) Review: Character First

'Big Screen Watch': A risk taking superhero movie that pays off.
In many ways ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is much like its predecessor. It follows a band of self-centred ne’er do wells, in the unexpected position of having to care about something other than themselves. Complete with yet another soundtrack chock full of 70s and 80s pop hits, and an even cuter talking tree, this bombastic sequel might seem like more of the same, but is a much different animal in its own right.

Like a cat.
Fear not. This still remains a series that gleefully includes a talking racoon with a violent penchant for destruction. The difference lies in Volume 2’s structure. The first film featured colourful characters that shined through a played and conventional storyline. This time around the story is left even more by the wayside, as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’, spends more time with the characters you originally fell in love with.

Immediately the movie immerses you with that loveable gang, with an opening sequence that hurt my face from the constant grin I was sporting. It was as if the Guardians never left. You're put in the centre of what seems to be all in a day's work for the group, as they make quick work of a no named alien monster, while 'Mr. Blue Sky' plays diegetically. There's not much context, but then again there doesn't really need to be.

Just bought my ticket for a second viewing.
There is a story to be told. Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt, finally is reunited with his long-lost father and finds himself at a crossroads as he must choose between the family he never knew, and the family he chose. Even the basic conflict of the film, usually separated from the characters themselves, is extremely character driven.

Character work is where the film shines. The main story belongs to Star-Lord, but the rest of the cast gets a good amount of material to flesh out their personal problems. Not just the Guardians themselves, but side characters also, like Michael Rooker's Yondu and Karen Gillan's Nebula are given a fair share of development. Unfortunately, Dave Bautista's Drax gets the short shrift and is relegated to little more than comic relief. That doesn't amount to much for a movie that spends as much time being dour as a cat does in the water.

That is to say, not much.
The characters are engaging, and make an unconventional structure such as this work. Still, the film can feel uneven at times, as without a central motivating plot,  many moments are left lacking momentum. ‘Guardians of The Galaxy, Vol 2.’ has multiple scenes of characters exploring what makes them tick, but without much reason as to why they’re doing it.

I'd describe 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2' as emotionally chaotic. It's by no means tonally dissonant. The sardonic humour blends well with how guarded the characters are, masking their deeper turmoil. Rather the movie presents so much of what the characters are feeling, sometimes with nought but exposition, and loosely ties it with the rest of the film. I was very nearly lost by this approach.

Usually something I'm quite fine with. 
The second act particularly feels like snippets of a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' television show, that gave each of its characters an episode to flesh out their identity. For my own sake, I decided to take a wait and see approach. The movie had much more to go, and I'd seen films come back from worse. Thankfully, the film delivered, with a third act that reconciled all my qualms with the scenes prior. Every element that seemed out of place was now positioned perfectly. Methinks a second viewing would be all the more enjoyable.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2’ is a refreshing superhero movie. It takes the spotlight and aims it squarely at its characters. While some shine a little brighter than others, the ensemble captivates still. Its humour is constant, and its strong character work makes the movies more emotional beats hit strong. It definitely deserves being seen on the big screen.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

P.S: Something that I feel gets overlooked in 'Guardians of the Galaxy', is the score by Tyler Bates. Since the soundtrack took the world by storm, the tones and pieces he put together on the first film don't get the attention they deserve. I was happy to hear he would return for the sequel since a familiar theme serves as a good way of connecting a franchise. His work here is just as good as it was the first time around. Here's hoping he comes back for Vol. 3.

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