Tag Archives: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Redeem Star Trek V? MINOR Spoilers Here.


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GotG2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a runaway hit having grossed over $800 million dollars world wide in its first month of release. It is being hailed as one of the best of the Marvel Studios films and seems more delightful each time it is seen.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was not a big hit when it was released in 1989. It is often mentioned as one of the worst of the almost 15 Star Trek films and does not hold up on repeated viewings.

At all.

There would seem to be little that the two movies have in common but I have a sneaking suspicion that Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn saw Star Trek V when it was released when he was a young man and has seen it on more than one occasion since. I believe, consciously or unconsciously, he wrote the conclusion of his film as a love note to Star Trek V.

Star Trek V minimalStar Trek V was famously (infamously?) co-written and directed by William Shatner. Leonard Nimoy had helmed Treks III and IV and, as it turns out, he and Shatner had had a long standing “equal nations” clause in their contracts: whatever benefit one received, the other was accorded the same consideration. Following the box office success of The Voyage Home, Shatner said “it’s my turn” and the rest is Star Trek history. 

He wrote a movie about the crew of the Enterprise encountering, well, God or, at least, something very like God and conceived a story that would ask big questions about the nature of existence and religion – one that would take on many topics Trek had avoided.

As the movie changed and evolved, the conclusion of the film was drafted and it contained an epic battle between Captain Kirk and the god-like creature who was one with the planet on which he was imprisoned. In the best/worst line of the movie, Kirk asks the villain “what does God need with a starship?” The unspoken answer: the starship will carry his essence across the galaxy. The god-being, whose eyes crackle with electricity, would be realized as a bearded old man and would attack Kirk and crew with rock formations and rock creatures before an unlikely rescue by Spock is effected and the god-being is defeated.

The battle was supposed to be epic. Kirk vs. God (as only Shatner could write it). Explosions. Rock monsters. Stirring score. Epic. However, Paramount Pictures, perhaps correctly sensing disaster, continually cut the budget for the movie. Out went rock monsters. Goodbye to stunning explosions. Farewell harrowing conclusion. Hello, poorly received movie.

Flash forward 28 years (and minor spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follow here). A fun and exciting movie (so… different than Star Trek V) concludes in a showdown with… a god-being who is realized as a bearded old man. He is one with the planet on which he lives (um, he is the planet). During his battle with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the villain throws rock formations at the team. His eyes crackle with electricity. He wants his essence carried across the galaxy. He is defeated in an unlikely manner as the adorable Baby Groot is able to activate an explosive device that ends him.

The battle is epic. Star Lord vs. Ego. Explosions. Rock Formations. Very cool rock and roll score. Marvel Studios, knowing it had a hit on its hands, poured money into the movie and the conclusion shows it was money well spent. Hello well received movie.

Here’s the question: is the conclusion of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 James Gunn’s homage to Star Trek V? Does he redeem that movie by staging a conclusion that William Shatner must have loved?

I don’t actually know, but I like the theory!

god trek v

The god-being of Star Trek V.

 

ego guardians

The god-being of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – A Movie Review


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GotG2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not perfect.

But it is damn close.

Marvel Studios continues its run of fun, thrilling and engaging movies with this sequel to the surprise hit of the late summer of 2014. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel took a risk and put B and C List characters with little to no name recognition front-and-center in a film and it worked better than anyone could have anticipated.

Could lightening strike twice with this second volume?

It is a very near miss. The original film has almost no missteps. The sequel has but one.

There is a little too much going on. It is not that the movie is impossible to follow or that there are so many characters, the audience does not care about them. It is not that more means less. It is simply that Vol. 2 feels like too much of a good thing, like it is about to burst its seams.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels a bit bloated but, to be clear, it is bloated with more good things so is that really a bad thing? This is a minor quibble, to be sure, but the movie perhaps could have been edited a little tighter.

Thought I do not know what I would recommend cutting out.

The whole engaging gang from the first installment is back and it is terrific to spend another couple hours with Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bausita (Drax) and the voices of Vin Diesel (Baby Groot) and Bradley Cooper (Rocket), not to mention the always worth watching Michael Rooker (Yondu) and the savagely fun Karen Gillen (Nebula). Much like the creators of last summer’s Star Trek Beyond, writer/director James Gunn makes a decision that serves his movie very, very well: he splits up the team.

Peter, Gamora and Drax go off on their own A story adventure (connecting with new character Mantis played by Pom Clementieff and with Kurt Russell – more below) leaving Rocket and Groot on their own to hook up with Yondu on a B story of their own.

It does not matter that much if you know all the characters by name. By the end of the film, you’ll know them as family. That is the key here: the Guardians function as a family and this movie brings that theme home.

Gamora’s sister Nebula is back. A new character (played with gusto by welcome addition Kurt Russell who seems to be having as much fun as anyone) who may or may not be Peter’s father is introduced. Rocket learns he wants to be a part of something (like a family) and Baby Groot begins to grow up. Could Gamora and Peter even acknowledge what has gone unacknowledged between them?

There is tremendous fun to be had in all of this and a surprising amount of character development for a summer action movie. That might be the greatest trick that Gunn pulls off. Though Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sometimes plays like a television show in terms of its plot structure, the proceedings supremely bananas but in the most pleasant way imaginable.

Chris Pratt was born to play this role and he steals focus in every scene – well, almost every scene. Kurt Russell gives Star Lord a run for his money. But it is Pratt’s movie and he carries it very, very well. He has said he would play this character for 10 more movies and I say “more power to him.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not afraid to break new ground and, while it cannot possibly hope to match the shock that was the original film, it does at least one thing better than most Marvel movies: it gives the audience a concluding battle to care about and an antagonist who is out for something more than destruction for destruction’s sake. It also manages to give audiences the most aptly named protagonist, perhaps of all time.

The soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy was spectacular and an integral part of that film. It was so influential that Vol. 2 is a play on the title of the mixtape Peter received at the end of the first movie. Therefore, the soundtrack of the second installment was hotly anticipated. Rest assured, it does not disappoint. From Fleetwood Mac to Cat Stevens to The Electric Light Orchestra, this one works. Track-for-track, Gunn turns the volume up to 11 on the tunes and on the emotions of the audience.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is terrific fun. It is the perfect summer movie and an almost perfect sequel. That it is bigger than its predecessor is obvious. That is it better is debatable.

But it is very damn good.

Be sure to stay in your seats for the FIVE beginning, mid and post credit sequences!

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 receives FOUR AND A HALF MIXTAPES out of a possible FIVE.

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Link’n’Blogs – 5.5.17 – What You Need to Know for GotG Vol. 2


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Are you ready for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? You should get there if you are not! The film (which many are, of course, calling “the best Marvel movie yet!” opens today. Click the banner below! NO SPOILERS HERE!

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Ant-Man A Movie Review

Ant-Man


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For the duration of this review, I am going to try to resist making any kind of size pun. We’ll see how successful I am.

Last summer, Marvel Studios seemed to learn with the late summer blockbuster success of Guardians of the Galaxy which followed the blockbuster success late spring of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that releasing a smaller movie following a big one might be a very good way to continue to build the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Next summer they will try it again with Captain America: Civil War in May and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in August. Will they strike the same kind of gold this summer with Ant-Man? Maybe not as much gold as they minted with GotG, but surely enough.

Ant-Man is the second Marvel Studios release this summer following the blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron. As such, it has existed in the shadow of that extravaganza and that has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s been a blessing in that expectations for Ant-Man are nothing like the expectations for Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s been a curse in that people seeing Marvel Studios’ movies have come to expect a grandiose, intricately connected film that references Captain America and the Avengers and Tony Stark and plays into the tapestry of that universe.

Ant-Man doesn’t set up that way. With a sharp focus on two primary characters, Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, Ant-Man is more a passing-of-the-torch legacy story than anything else. The trick here is that, before the movie, there was no torch to pass. That Douglas’ Hank Pym was hero-ing around in the Ant-Man suit in the 1970s and 1980s was a revelation. Before this movie began, one might have thought Bruce Banner’s Hulk or Tony Stark’s Iron Man were the “first” superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not so fast. As it turns out, SHIELD had been associated with at least two heroes prior to Banner’s experiments and Stark’s suit, prior to Nick Fury becoming the Director. Those two heroes are Ant-Man and… well, no spoilers here.

Michael Douglas is wonderful as Hank Pym, an aging scientist desperate to see his creation – the Pym Particle – not used for evil. Douglas balances the right amount of gravitas with a certain sprinkling of twinkle in his eye to make Pym far more than a secondary character and a simple plot device. Douglas shines in his scenes with Paul Rudd and also has great chemistry with the underused Evangeline Lilly, who plays Hope Van Dyne, his somewhat estranged daughter. Much like Robert Redford who was in last year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Douglas plays the entire movie straight with no knowing winks to the audience or no air of superiority over the material. This is a credit to Douglas as he spends a lot of time shoveling exposition and talking about things like communicating with ants. He’s a great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The opening sequence of the film is, in-and-of-itself, proof of that.

Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne isn’t served nearly as well. Though she is very good in the movie, Ant-Man continues a somewhat troubling trend for Marvel Studios’ films, namely that they don’t know what to do with a strong female character. Much has been written about this and I won’t delve too deeply into it here. Suffice it to say that, while Lilly is a welcome addition to the movie, has great rapport with Rudd and is a nice addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she is all but superfluous to the goings on here. One can easily envision a version of this movie without her character appearing at all from strictly a plot perspective, and that’s a shame, Marvel Studios has to do better with its women.

What Marvel Studios has done with its casting is truly remarkable. They have found almost perfect actors to inhabit their lead roles. Ant-Man is no exception. Paul Rudd makes a fine superhero, at least a fine superhero of the Ant-Man variety. The characterization written here (and Rudd did a polish on the script) is completely in the actor’s wheelhouse. Witty, intelligent and down-on-his-luck, Rudd’s Scott Lang is a modern-day Robin Hood trying to listen to the angels of his better nature to work his way back into his daughter’s life. Rudd makes the scenes with his daughter work. The audience never questions the relationship. He also displays the appropriate amount of “WTF?” as he learns about the Ant-Man suit, about the ability to communicate with insects and about Hank Pym’s plan.

His plan, simply, is a heist and Ant-Man is very much a well executed heist movie. It hits all the heist-movie plot points, including pulling together a rag-tag band of professionals to assist in the final gambit. Of these, Michael Pena’s Luis really stands out and has the most heroic moment of the film – if not of any Marvel film. Watch for it near the end of the movie. Give me more Pena, please. Find a way, Marvel. You’re smart folks.

Ant-Man is at its best when it plays as an action-comedy. Rudd is, primarily, a comedic actor and seeing Douglas run through some of the same paces reminded me of his Romancing the Stone and War of the Roses days. There are laugh-out-loud moments to be found here and the action, especially the sometimes jaw-dropping “micro-world” action, is very much up-to-snuff.

As I wind down the review, I note that I’ve not mentioned Ant-Man’s antagonist in the movie one time. The reliable Corey Stoll plays Darren Cross, a former protegee of Hank Pym’s, who is ready to unleash terror on the world… yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. White guy, corporate power broker wants to make some money in despicable ways. We’ve seen this before and, while the two-dimensional Cross, who eventually puts on a “Yellow-Jacket” suit with very similar powers to the Ant-Man suit, is fine as a villain, he is absolutely no more than that. Hey, Marvel, while you’re fixing your problem with women in your movies, take a look at your villains, too. Giving Stoll some interesting character ticks doesn’t make him a fully developed character.

Peyton Reed directs the film and he had the unenviable task of replacing genre fan guru Edgar Wright, who had developed the movie over a number of years. Wright has a unique voice. Marvel Studios is obviously looking for a more “house” voice and Wright apparently chafed against those constraints. Reed stepped in with little prep time and with a lot of Wright’s material at his disposal. He manages to be true to Wright – there is some really crazy stuff happening here and some moments and lines that are so bizarre they must be left over from Wright’s development – while slotting Ant-Man nicely into the pantheon of Marvel Studios’ films. That’s something of an impressive high-wire act.

Though there is A LOT at stake in the movie (Hank Pym reminds Lang and the audience of that any number of times), director Reed keeps the audience centered on what’s really going on: Scott Lang taking a shot at redemption and trying to become a better parent. That these very themes also spill over to Hank Pym’s character arc is very nice symmetry, indeed.

ANT-MAN receives FOUR AND A HALF SUGAR CUBES out of a possible five.

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