Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – Review

It’s time for another addition to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, thankfully, we get served a film that still feels fresh when the monotony of the rest of the market pounds relentlessly forward. This is highlighted from the start, with – probably – the best opening credits sequence ever seen in any film. Ever.

The Guardians are well established now, and fighting a massive pink beast fishy thing. But that’s all going on in the background while Baby Groot is dancing away to ELO. It’s immediate relief that the humour from the first film remains, it’s just the scope that is getting upscaled.

The main cast all return, even Vin Diesel to “voice” Groot. This time they actually feel like a better fit. We see them on the run after Rocket (the Racoon Bradley Cooper) steals from the Sovereign race moments after receiving applaud for completing a mission.

These folks feel at first, like a novelty cameo before the real story starts. Just a planet of gold skinned and haired, genetically engineered perfectionists. As it happens, they are involved throughout as they seek to avenge the stolen batteries and make an example of the Guardians.

As with all films of this nature, we have subplots on the go. Rocket’s is how he pushes people away when he feels them getting too close. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have the “unspoken thing” going on. Best described by Quill (Star-Lord) as Sam and Diane in Cheers. Gamora reminds Peter, she doesn’t know what Cheers is.

Gamora also has sisterly love going on with Nebula (Karen Gillan, not ginger, now shaved and blue). She was the prize from the Sovereign race and prisoner-turn-accomplice.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. See, the Guardians do the classic team-up movie trick of running separate missions. After badly crash landing on a planet, where Drax (Dave Bautista) is dragged behind the ship like a water-skier gone wrong, hitting every tree in sight at speed, resembling Wile E. Coyote (suspend that disbelief or the film ends at this point), the group are visited by Ego.

No, no, no, not Kanye West, but Kurt Russell, a god claiming to be Quill’s dad. So, leaving Rocket behind with a tied-up Nebula and Baby Groot in order to carry out repairs, Drax, Gamora and Quill head to Ego’s home planet.

As they dash off, Yondu’s Ravagers arrive to capture Rocket. They’ve been hired by the Soveriegn to find the Guardians. But that all goes bad when the Ravagers rebel and Yondu himself loses his men and his freedom. Seems some thought he always protected Peter back when he worked with them, and still gets favouritism.

On Ego’s world, his empath helper, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), shares a closeness with Drax and starts to drop the hints that Ego might not be an entirely good god.

This is where the generic, overly simplistic plot is showed up for what it is. Kurt Russell as Ego is great at playing the larger-than-life, slightly untrustworthy father figure Peter craves. His explanation of how he started as a consciousness millions of years ago and created a world before deciding to walk as a man is grand without being grotesque.

The problem is, it all starts to feel very two-dimensional. The movie only holds together at this point because of Zoe Saldana’s performance. She gives the picture its heart and direction. Without her, it would have been a bland mess. And with a film with so much neon, that would have been a neat trick.

Gamora Vol 2

The values of family, companionship, are the main drive. It should also be noted, that Marvel deserve some credit for allowing this part of the MCU to remain largely untouched by the main series. The Guardians still feel special and protected from the oversaturation of the superhero market.

Weak plot aside, by the movie’s end – and long closing credits with multiple scenes – just as you can’t deny Baby Groot is cute, you can’t help but feel a warmth inside. It’s a feel-good factor movie, that shouldn’t be able to trade with so little substance – but does. Maybe we’re all suckers for classic songs, 80s references, and cameos of digitally restored David Hasselhoffs?

7/10

Baby Groot

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Star Trek Beyond – Review

To boldly go where the Kelvin Universe (Geek-speak for the JJ rebooted universe) has never gone before . . . back to the old feel of Star Trek’s Original Series. That was the mission statement following Trekkies dislike of Star Trek Into Darkness. Were they right to moan? Has the movie pulled it off?

Well, they were a little out of order slating JJ Abrams for paying too much homage to the source material (ring any bells, Star Wars fans?). But to be fair, no film should tamper with The Wrath of Khan. Into Darkness doesn’t deserve the bad press, mind. With the latest movie, Simon Pegg stated they had heard the complaints, loud and clear, and had addressed them.

That can’t be argued with. Star Trek Beyond moves past any pretentiousness (not that I personally had a problem with any aspect of the rebooted universe) and feels very much like an updated episode of the Original Series. Even the bad guy, Krall (Idris Elba under a ton of prosthetics) has a base that could have been lifted from the sixties show.

That’s not to say it looked dated or old fashioned – it was nostalgic, in all the right ways. It understands the styling of the day, the attitudes, the simple approach to honest sci-fi.

It isn’t soft, either. In the opening battle scene, you realise the Enterprise crew are in serious peril. And you can’t see a way for them, their fear is felt in the cinema seat. It’s just the bright costumes, buddy-buddy atmosphere, and one-dimensional villains, are all so swinging sixties.

Teaming the crew off in mini-groups once they are abandoned, allows them to finally get the screen time required for character exploration.

The standout performers are Karl Urban as Bones and Zachary Quinto as Spock. The former has the voice of DeForest Kelley’s McCoy down to a tee. His grislily demeanour that is hiding a good heart comes through. Thankfully, this extended appearance should put to bed talk of him wanting to leave due to being under-utilised.

The new Spock receives word that Prime Spock, our beloved Leonard Nimoy, has passed away. Both on and off screen, it is a call to take on the mantle now. Honour the name and respect the man that came before.

Chris Pine plays James T. Kirk with a better mix of Shatner and his own take than he managed previous. There are signs he will fill the big shoes and do the role justice. Whereas Zoe Saldana, will go on to expand the part of Uhura in ways denied to the original actress, Nichelle Nichols.

Sofia Boutella, made a strong impression in a supporting role as a lonely survivor on the planet that aides the crew. It is possible she could return in future instalments. That would be a welcome addition to this version of Star Trek.

Ultimately, the last action scene aside, it relies on the crew rather than special effects to make its impact. Okay, Justin Lin does repeat that absurd, diving through the air, grab hands act, lifted straight from the saving Letty scene in Fast & Furious 6, but he shows there is more to him than cars. He is a Trekkie.

With that, we get classic Star Trek. Which means, while the curse of the odd-numbered films is avoided once again, it is wholesome fun but fails to leave a lasting impression.

It will be one of the best films of this summer . . . but you won’t remember it ten years from now.

7/10