Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 Review (Spoiler Free)

Before diving into my review of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 let me give you some context into my feelings on the first film. I LOVED it! For me it was a new Star Wars film before we got Star Wars back. It wasn’t a typical Marvel movie but it was a space opera and I loved seeing our team of misfits form and search for their orb/infinity stone. I loved the humor, action, charismatic actors and bright color palate. Just a great movie. 9/10 or A grade from me.

So let’s talk about this sequel. Naturally loving the first film I was very excited for the follow up but I still tried to enjoy it as its own film and not compare it too much. In the end, I feel Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is at best a mixed bag. It’s not awful but I had major problems with it.

At the outset of the movie  our team is commissioned by a leader Ayesha to guard a series of batteries. This leads to a great opening that heavily features the world’s favorite adorable creation- Baby Groot! Of course, we have seen Baby Groot all over the marketing for the movie and he did not disappoint. Soooo adorable!

This scene also features everything you like about the first film. It has witty banter from the entire team, fun action as they fight a monster and a catchy song. I thought ‘Oh boy! This is going to be awesome!”

Unfortunately just a few scenes later they make a massive mistake that had a large impact on my enjoyment of the film: They divide up the team!!! Peter meets his father and half the crew go with him while half stay behind and end up with Yondu and his crew.

This was such a terrible choice for a number of reasons:

  1. Hurts the humor- When you have a large group of characters the humor can be a mixture of all their types of comedy. So you will get one Groot joke mixed in with Drax, Peter, Rocket etc. When you have just Rocket and Groot then their type of jokes become repetitive and tired very quickly.
  2. Hurts the emotion- It’s the same with emotion. We are with a character and they have an emotional moment. Then they leave that character for a long stretch hurting their story and emotional arc.
  3. Hurts the team- Characters aren’t able to feed off each other and create that winning chemistry I loved so much in the first film. Sometime this can help you get to know characters better like in Star Trek Beyond but that was not the case here.
  4. Hurts the action- Because they are all split up the action is pretty sparse. For instance, Drax is sitting talking almost the entire movie. He’s Drax the Destroyer for goodness sake, and he doesn’t destroy anything.

I guess all of this would be fine if the story was compelling but it is not. They try to set up several different family dynamics. There is Peter and his father, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Groot and Rocket and Yandu and Peter. While I appreciated the message of family, the film became too cluttered with relationships that they weren’t as developed as they could have been.

The villain is another surprise villain. About the 10,000th one I’ve seen in recent years and I’m tired of it. It was so obvious and the plan for world domination makes no sense unless he or she wants to be completely alone in the whole galaxy. Even if he or she did, it still strains credulity to believe this insane plan (and the way it is explained is hard to follow or feel invested in).

I was also disappointed in the Nebula/Gamora storyline. I liked Nebula in the first film when most people didn’t. I thought she had a wounded quality to her that I wish had been more developed. Well, unfortunately she is seen more here but Karen Gillan overcooks it in the villainy department. Also she flips around from good girl to bad in ways that didn’t work for me or feel authentic.

So, from all that it seems like I had a miserable experience at this movie. No. I didn’t but I’d be lying if I didn’t share those major problems I had. However, there are some things I liked.

First, like I said, I liked Baby Groot and a lot of the comedy did work. It would have worked better if they hadn’t divided the group but a lot still made me laugh. Drax gets some funny lines with a new girl named Mantis. Rocket has a lot of humor including a hilarious sequence with Baby Groot getting him things for a jailbreak.

Second, Michael Rooker is great as Yondu. I didn’t think Yondu would be the most fleshed out and interesting character in the film but he was. We learn about his association with a band of ruffians called The Ravagers. He has upset them and we get to find out why through the course of the movie. We also learn about why he took Peter and his connection to Peter’s father. Yondu also has the best action scene in the movie with an arrow thing he uses to take out a fleet of men (Sorry I don’t know what the arrow thing is called).

Third, even if it could have been more focused, I still loved the overall message about family. I think Vin Diesel might have carried this over from the Fast and the Furious movies because they are all about family. I particularly appreciated the focus on alternative families- that families are not always about blood but so much more.

Fourth, it is a beautiful looking movie. James Gunn has done it again with amazing cinematography and special effects. The planet Peter’s father lives on was beautiful and lush. I loved all the bright colors and dazzling world building. The special effects on Rocket and Baby Groot are flawless. You forget they aren’t actual talking raccoons and walking baby trees.

There also is a joyous feeling to the picture which makes it pleasing to watch. While some of the jokes grow tired it never made me angry or annoyed like other fantasy films.  I mostly wasn’t bored although there were a few moments that dragged.

The soundtrack was a bit of a mixed bag. There are some great songs but a few of them felt very on-the-nose Also, I didn’t like that characters mentioned the songs so much. In the original they are this awesome background gift to enjoy (aside from Peter listening to them they don’t work into the story and he doesn’t repeat lyrics or talk about the individual songs). Here there is even one song where the lyrics are repeated verbatim and the life experience fits perfectly into the situation at hand. It makes the song choice feel uncreative and obvious when they were so great in the original. Still, there are some good songs. Cat Stevens and Electric Light Orchestra are used particularly well.

In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is a mixed bag leaning towards the negative. I have really struggled with what grade to give it and whether to make it smile or frown worthy. Other films I have given smiles to like Ghost in the Shell feel less worthy than this film but this is way more of a disappointment and downgrade from the original film. It’s really tough…

I’m torn but I think my disappointment is going to rule the day:

Overall Grade- C (It is without a doubt in my bottom 5 Marvel movies. No question)

Also  this is pretty raunchy for a Marvel movie. It definitely earns its PG-13.

You can all hate me now…

Check out my podcast with my friend Trevor from How to Love Comics where we break it all down

 

Summer 2017 Box Office Predictions

Anyone who follows this blog knows I am notoriously bad at predicting the box office, but nevertheless it is still fun to take a crack at it- especially at the beginning of the big summer season. Last year I  got 6/10 right with misses from TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Independence Day Resurgence, Pete’s Dragon and Sausage Party.

Last year I just went with my gut feelings where this year I have actually done some research. It will be interesting to see which method fairs better.

My predictions are based on domestic grosses not international because many movies are released out of the summer internationally.

So here is my predictions for 2017 Summer Box Office:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2- There is so much enthusiasm for this movie. People literally cheer in the theater when a trailer comes on. The first film did surprisingly well and this will do even better. I think it will open at 175 million similar to Beauty and the Beast and it will have legs. Baby Groot!
  2. Despicable Me 3- Summer 2014 only had 1 animated film in the top 10 and 2017 will be the same. Illumination has not had a miss at the box office yet and nearly every child I know is looking forward to DM3.
  3. Spider-Man Homecoming- The Amazing Spider-man 2 made $202 million despite it not being very good. This film is coming off of Civil War that people loved. It has Iron Man in it, Michael Keaton as the villain and a new younger Peter Parker. It will do very well
  4. Transformers 5- The last Transformers movie made $245 million domestic despite it being awful and having terrible predecessors. Last Knight has Transformers, King Arthur, Nazis and time travel so there’s no reason to think this will be any less successful.
  5. Wonder Woman- I know some are cynical about DC but despite the last 3 entries not being very good they still made a lot of money including Suicide Squad that was barely a movie. Wonder Woman has had good trailers and will hopefully appeal to both boys and girls
  6. War of the Planet of the Apes- The last Apes movie made $208 million and this looks fantastic. I can’t wait for it so I think it will do very well!
  7. The Mummy- This is a bit of a risk because Tom Cruise had a misfire with Jack Reacher 2 and Dracula Untold didn’t do well. But I’m thinking this will draw in the Mission Impossible crowd with its stunts and scope.
  8. Dunkirk- Interstellar made $188 million and this looks to be more of a traditional narrative from Christopher Nolan. He is the big draw here because it does seem like an odd release date for what should be an Oscar season movie?
  9. Baywatch- Last year the Rock did well for me with Central Intelligence so I’m betting on him again. He has so much charisma and promotes his films so much. A big factor on this film is if it is funny or not. We’ll see.
  10. Rough Night- There are 3 raunchy female-led comedies this summer, so I have to believe one of them will crack the top 10. My pick is Rough Night with Scarlet Johansson and Kate McKinnon. Bad Moms made $179 million and this will do similarly well.

Dark Horse Contenders- All Eyez on Me, Captain Underpants, Cars 3, Emoji Movie, Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde, Pirates 5, Snatched, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Alien Covenant 

Obviously it won’t make the top 10  but I am hopeful the documentary STEP does well for a documentary. They just released the trailer and it has a lot of hits for an indie doc. I just love it so much!

Movie 54: Big Hero 6

big-hero-6-poster-baymax-hi-resThis is the review you’ve been waiting for.  #54- Big Hero 6 and boy did it not disappoint.  I will do my best to keep it spoiler free and won’t tell you any more than the trailer (maybe even less because it’s kind of a spoilery trailer).

I was really excited to see this movie and that usually means I’m a little disappointed unless you are Pixar but in this case John Lasseter has worked his pixie dust and made an extremely satisfying movie.  I would be stunned if you didn’t find something to like, even love about the movie.

It is based on an obscure marvel comic much like Guardians of the Galaxy this summer Big Hero 6 creates a super hero movie of unlikely members and gives the movie just enough laughs, excitement and tears (I actually cried a lot).

Big Hero 6 is written and directed by Disney vets  Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh)  and Chris Williams (Bolt and Mulan)  with Paul Briggs (Frozen), and Joseph Mateo (Tangled).

The setting for Big Hero 6 is unique.  It is a futuristic fusion of San Francisco and Tokyo called San Fransokyo which I thought was very clever.  It is futuristic but only slightly so.  There aren’t flying cars or anything too out there.  Again kind of the way Guardians of the Galaxy felt futuristic and nostalgic at the same time .  San Fransokyo was beautifully portrayed and if you can see it in 3D do because it was so immersive and gorgeous. One of Disney’s best cityscapes ever.

sanfransokyo2 sanfransokyo

The story is about a boy named Hiro who is a genius orphan (of course. It’s Disney!) who lives with his brother and Aunt Cass.  Hiro is an instantly likable character.  Kind of like Ralph in Wreck it Ralph or Aladdin.  He’s smart and sweet and sassy.hiro2At the beginning he is just frittering away his talent at ‘bot fights’ which are illegal gambling operations kind of a like a cock fight. His brother Tadashi is also a genius but he is applying his talents at the local technical school (supposed to be Cal Poly I think) where he works with robotics.

big-hero-6-screenshot-tadashi-hamada

This is stated pretty clearly in the trailer but tragedy strikes and Tadeshi is killed but he  leaves behind a robot he has invented that is kind of like a robot nurse.  His name is Baymax and he looks like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow man.

baymaxI don’t know when I’ve seen a character I’ve taken too so immediately as Baymax.  He is warmth and love and his soul purpose is to care for Hiro.  It is kind of like the ultimate mother.

Then we get our villain who was pretty clever.  I won’t go too much into things but it surprised me.  He has layers and is not clean cut like some bad guys.

villainTo defeat the masked man Hiro reprograms Baymax to fight while still keeping his brothers code for caring.  Then the team at the school gather to support Hiro and become our rag-tag group of super heroes.  They were so much fun!

BigHero6Team Big-Hero-Six-Previews I loved there were different races and sexes and that Hiro is 13.  It’s so rare in a Disney movie that the protagonist is a child or young teenager.  Most are young adults.

The voice cast is excellent and mostly unknowns but all excellent.  Ryan Potter voices Hiro Hamada, Scott Adsit is Baymax and Daniel Henney is Tadashi and they are all great.  The only famous voices are TJ Miller as Fred (one of the college guys who becomes the team), Damon Wayans Jr as Wasabi (the black guy on the crew), Maya Rudolph as Aunt Cass and James Cromwell as Professor Callaghan.

The score is wonderful by Henry Jackman and includes little snippets of pop music like Eye of a Tiger but it is brief and there is a good song you’ll hear in the trailers called Immortals by Fall Out Boy.

hug

There is such heart in this movie.  It reminded me of Up in the way we bond with a character quickly and we see their importance to our protagonist and that love we feel for the deceased character lives as a palatable force throughout the movie.  Just like Ellie’s love for Carl painted every scene in Up with love so does Hiro’s interactions with Baymax remind us of the love of his brother Tadashi.

It’s hard to think of a movie about two brothers which is so well done.  How nice after Disney gave us the love of 2 sisters they give us equal heart with brothers.

But if that kind of heart isn’t your thing there is also a nifty plot and fun action adventure like any other Marvel film.  Like I said, the villains really surprised me and there’s a good twist.  If you like The Incredibles Big Hero 6 is right up there with it.  It’s got everything Incredibles has but it’s about a group of friends instead of a family . They are both wonderful so high praise!

Also the crew all have fun personalities and bring in a lot of humor.

first_look_big_hero_6_by_randommaze-d7qlfhhI think there is something in Big Hero 6 for everyone.  It’ looks gorgeous, great performances, wonderful music, fun story, great heart.  What more could you want?

Once again I admire Disney on being so bold . I can’t think of an animated movie which has such real, modern feeling characters. At least not since Oliver and Company!

I really will be shocked if you guys don’t love it.  What an amazing year for animation 2014 has been and I hope they nominate 5 films because Lego, Big Hero 6, Book of Life, Boxtrolls and How to Train Your Dragon 2 all deserve recognition.  I honestly have no idea which I like most.  They are all so different and wonderful!

Anyway, I loved Big Hero 6.  It made me cry, laugh and carried me away with the adventure.  There is a brief section in the middle with fighting that dragged a little bit but other than that I’d say it was perfect.

Overall Grade- A+  This is officially now my new #6 in my rankings!

The short before it called Feast is ADORABLE!!

Here’s my video review