There are movie franchises that I care a great deal about, likeAlienandStar Trek, and others that I really don’t that are still enormously popular, like theFast and FuriousandFriday the 13th. There are venerable film series that have been trundling along for decades with various degrees of success likeJames Bond. And then there’sMarvel’s Cinematic Universe, an ongoing series of films that have not failed to be excellent in nearly every way — even when I didn’t think they possibly could be.
The latest entry in the MCU,Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, adds yet another achievement to this series of films that already includes Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, Captain America, Doctor Strange, and a host of supporting heroes — and villains — in it’s ever expanding roster. A film critic once describedThe Lord of the Ringsas having more characters than the Bible. The MCU embodies this sentiment like no other film franchise since.
BEWARE: There may be minor spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep such things to a minimum.
So, I took my best friend toGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2at the local Imax and saw the film in 3D. I didn’t think I would be disappointed and I wasn’t, but I was surprised by a few things. The film was very endearing for it’s heart. AfterVol. 1established all of the characters and their relationships, there was still a lot of territory left unexplored andVol. 2does an excellent job of starting to flesh out the characters. While Peter Quill aka Star-Lord was already pretty fully realized inVol. 1, Rocket and Yondu get their moments as do Gamora and Nebula, and Drax and new character Mantis. While not so drawn out as to become maudlin, the deepening of these characters and the establishing of their interconnectedness works very well and is handled in fun and surprising ways.
Visually, the movie is stunning, but given the extremely high production values for these movies, it comes as no surprise. But the visual effects support the story by and large and are seldom gratuitous, albeit they often extend the hilarity of many of the action sequences. But some of the locations — particularly Ego’s planet — are both sumptuous and fresh with a depth of detail that is nothing short of breathtaking. Short story long,Vol. 2was beautiful to look at.
While I will not run short of praise for this movie — it’s just that good really — it did have the feeling of being a “middle film,” a bridge between the beginning of a story and it’s eventual climax. This isn’t a new thing in the MCU:The Avengers: Age of Ultronalso had the same general air of being a “middle film.” This isn’t necessarily a problem, however. In both cases a superior story was punctuated by more character details we the audience wanted to know. InUltronit was exciting to find that Hawkeye has a family, for example, and that characters who begin as villains can be transformed before our eyes into heroes.Vol. 2has much of the same quality to it. Nebula’s hatred for Gamora has unexpected and yet wholly logical roots in the context of siblings raised under horrible circumstances. Yondu’s history and Rocket’s turn out to be almost mirror images of each other, though at different points in life. Peter’s quest for his father ends in surprising places, unpredictably and with unexpected turns of events.
I would be loathe not to mention the movie’s soundtrack. The song choices from Peter’s “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” bind the film together just as successfully as inVol. 1. From the opening strains of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” (a lifelong favorite of mine) in a truly inventive opening sequence to the final notes of Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” at the end of the film, the music serves as the heart of the film, Quill’s mother’s touch on the proceedings.
Vol. 1turned out to be one of my favorite films of all time andVol. 2will certainly be cemented right there with it. I will probably be seeing it again before it leaves the theater, something I never do. You can bet I’ll be getting my copy when it comes to home video too.